The Product Field offers a formal grammar to describe and analyze the relations between the components of specific systems, to check the consistency of the models representing them, and to validate the practicability of concrete innovations.
RELATIONS – Agents, strategies, artifacts, and conditions interact in the creation and introduction of new products. The Product Field’s grammar represents patterns of interaction between these components as relations between aspects. A model's relations hold if the interactions they represent are successful.
VALIDATION – These relations can be used to form sentence templates that connect related aspects and are completed with descriptions of the corresponding components. For these, empirical evidence confirming the resulting statement can be collected.
Thus, one can validate and improve upon ...:
- the consistency and completeness of an innovation’s model: When relations that lack empirical evidence are identified, more evidence can be gathered, the mapping can be extended, and the model can be complemented. This enhances self-awareness, understanding and thus the system‘s capacity for self-organization and aligned action.
- the coherence and thus practicability of the innovation itself: When empirically empty relations, i.e. unsuccessful interactions, transitions or connections, are identified, the causes can be analyzed, missing components can be added to the system, and gaps can be closed. This enhances the innovation itself.
In particular, a product innovation’s core/context fit can be validated and improved upon.
Relations Between Context Apects
Relations between context aspects represent either interactions or transitions:
On the one hand, agents, strategies, artifacts, and conditions interact with each other, generating feedback loops, complex interaction patterns, and nonlinear system behavior.
On the other hand, as can been seen in the Product Field’s canvas, the distinctions between goals and motivations, users and customers, production and distribution, drivers and enablers are somewhat blurry: components corresponding to these aspects can sometimes be classified as belonging to either or both of them, or they can de facto transition between them, adding to the dynamics of the system.
Relations Between Context and Core Apects
Relations between context and core aspects represent either direct or indirect interactions
On the one hand, causally effective agents, strategies, artifacts and conditions act directly on the components of the value proposition of a product, e.g. shape, build or replace them.
On the other hand, abstract entities and product attributes become causally effective only through agents, strategies, artifacts or conditions that mediate, pursue or embody them, e.g. when they guide, require or influence other entities.
Relations Between Core and Center Apects
The core aspects represent the value proposition embodied by a product, which is itself represented by the Product Field’s center. Hence, the relations between core and center aspects explicate the embodiment of the value proposition in a product.
The embodiment of abstract entities and attributes in a product explains how they gain (indirect) causal efficacy.
A product innovation is successful if its means and objectives support the realization of the value proposition in a concrete product and if the product is successfully introduced to users and customers. In other words, a successful product innovation has a fit between core and context.
This fit is usually captured in three qualities of successful innovation: desirability (human value), viability (business value), and feasibility (technological practicability). Since Product Thinking treats users and customers as possibly different stakeholders, the Product Field differentiates between desirability for users and marketability to customers.
The resulting four qualities correspond to the four elements of product innovation described in the Product Field’s model.
The core/context fit is validated using the Product Field’s grammar: From the relations described in the model, four sentence templates are constructed that each connect four aspects and capture one quality or element. Then these templates are completed with descriptions of agents, strategies, artifacts or conditions corresponding to the aspects.
If the resulting statements make sense, the description of the innovation is consistent. If the statements can be confirmed empirically, the innovation itself is coherent: It has (partial) core/context fit.
A product innovation is viable if it expresses a practical business idea: if the product and the uniqueness it exhibits meet the goals the organization’s drivers pursue.
A product innovation is feasible if it can be realized given the available resources: if the organization’s enablers allow production forces to build the solution realized in the actual product.
A product innovation is marketable if there is a sufficiently large and addressable market for the product: if the organization’s distribution is able to reach enough customers willing to replace an existing alternative with the new product.
A product innovation is desirable if it creates real user value: if the product solves a problem that hinders users in pursuing their motivation.
To check your model, use the sentence templates and replace the aspect names with facts from your canvas. Keep one fact fixed at a time and look for other facts to complete the statement.
You should get at least one meaningful statement for each fact you are checking, and the statements should at least be loosely related. If not, several things might have happened:
- You might might have missed important facts about your product. Go back to the relevant areas and see what you can add to complete the picture.
- Your value proposition or its context might be incoherent. Examine all aspects and relations for gaps or mismatches to be addressed in product development.
- You might have convoluted two or more unrelated value propositions into one product. Untangle them by setting up separate Product Fields for them.
For working both on the description of your product and on the product itself, you can use a range of collaborative and empirical methods to gather data, generate ideas, validate assumptions, facilitate collaboration, and support decision-making. Some examples are Challenge Mapping, Customer Journeys, Jobs-to-be-done, and User Interviews.