A product innovation is successful if it maximizes positive overall stakeholder impact; it can only be effectively steered towards this goal through self-organization based on aligned interests and shared mental models.
Thus, all stakeholders have to understand and agree on the innovation’s strengths and weaknesses, i.e., the positive and negative contributions to stakeholder impact, and the dynamics resulting from their combination.
The Product Field helps analyze the specific profile of product innovations on three levels:
EVALUATION – Every fact about a product innovation can be individually judged as making a positive, neutral or negative contribution to stakeholder impact.
FORCE FIELD – From the individual assessments, a visualization can be generated that shows the forces that push, pull or hold back the product to and from introduction. This visualization reduces complexity to make clear which challenges are central to the success of a product innovation.
CHARACTER – The individual judgements can also be aggregated on the level of an element. This reveals the relative contribution of each element to the overall success of a product innovation. The contributions of all four elements describe the *character* of the innovation.
Knowing an innovation’s strengths and weaknesses is key to steering it effectively. Share This
The agents, strategies, artifacts, and conditions represented by the Product Field’s context determine a product innovation’s capabilities and are thus responsible for its success or failure. Hence, evaluation focuses on the context of an innovation to enable improvements in the system’s overall impact.
Evaluation starts with assigning positive and negative votes to individual facts, expressing judgements about the facts’ contribution to the innovation’s success. The sum of these votes can be any positive or negative number, marking either a strength or a weakness. When a group votes and thus identifies strengths and weaknesses collaboratively, this sum represents the group’s collective assessment of the fact carrying the votes.
Identifying the strengths of a product innovation helps focus on available advantages. Strengths can be as diverse as clear goals, specific assets to leverage, experience and competence to draw on, or easy access to certain users and market segments.
Determining the weaknesses of a product innovation helps mitigate risks and avoid pitfalls. Weaknesses can be components that are missing, deficient, or not interacting well with others,as identified by checking the innovation using the formal grammar. Examples are weak drivers, competing goals, lack of know-how, or blocked distribution channels.
Once strengths and weaknesses of a product innovation are determined, the Product Field can generate a visualization of the forces exerted by their combination. The forces work along the introduction dimension, because this dimension represents actual work on the product, its creation and introduction, while the realization dimension supervenes on it.
Forces can either push and pull the product from the inside to the outside, fail to do so due to gaps, or hold it back by interfering with the product’s introduction trajectory.
Such patterns of counterproductive forces mark the points with the highest risk of failure. Hence, steering product innovation should focus on alleviating these risks. At the same time, leveraging existing strengths can help amplify positive forces and overcome the negative ones.
An advanced state of innovation with a high probability of success is represented by a steady flow from left to right.
Character and Types
The character of a product innovation is defined by the particular contribution of each of its four elements.
In order to assess an innovation’s character, the numerical values of the individual strengths and weaknesses are summed for each element.
The resulting numbers are a measure of the relative contribution of each element to the overall success of a product innovation. Taken together, the four contribution scores describe an innovation’s character.
The character is visually represented in a star chart with four diagonal spokes representing idea, market, value and resources. The data length of each spoke is proportional to each particular score relative to the maximum score. A line is drawn connecting the data values for each spoke. The resulting star-like plot shows the specific contribution profile of the innovation and thus visually represents its character.
If the contribution scores in the different dimensions can be clearly ranked, a product innovation exemplifies one of four types of innovation. Their respective star plots show recognizable patterns, each spiking for the innovation’s strongest element.
If it has the highest contribution score for the idea element, the innovation is characterized by using, creating and aligning strong drivers, clear and ambitious goals and a distinctive uniqueness. This enables a push force from idea to users and customers.
Idea-push innovations need a strong
driver with power over enablers and
a clear purpose for the product. Share This
If it has the highest contribution score for the resources element, the innovation focuses on leveraging enabling assets, organizing production and building a solution. This enables a push force from resources to users and customers.
In resources-push innovations, strong enablers empower idea generation and implementation on the market. Share This
If it has the highest contribution score for the market element, the innovation is strongest in finding and reaching customers, scaling distribution and outcompeting alternatives. This enables a pull force to market adoption of the product.
Market-pull innovations implement massive distribution to satisfy customer demand. Share This
If it has the highest performance score in the value dimension, the innovation is especially good in understanding and addressing users, motivations and needs. This enables a pull force towards usage of the product.
Value-pull innovations have their purpose in turning satisfied users into paying customers. Share This
When working with a physical canvas, start with *dot voting* to assign positive and negative votes to the facts in the context of your product innovation.
For this, let your team put little colored dots on the consolidated sticky notes – green ones to represent positive aspects, red ones to represent negative ones. We have found that the following rules works best:
- Use 8 green dots for voting on the strengths of the context: 3 dots for the most important strength, 2 x 2 for the two second-most important strengths and 1 for the third-most important one.
- Use 6 red dots for voting on the weaknesses of the context: 3 dots for the most important weakness, 2 for the second-most important weakness and 1 for the third-most important one.
Force fields can be generated with the Product Field app, star charts can be calculated and drawn by hand. Use both to identify the most important strengths to exploit and weaknesses to remedy. For each one of these, write down *concrete questions and action step*s, including responsibilities and success criteria.
To work on the issues you identified, you can use a host of tools and methods from areas like Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile Development.