Why We Created the Product Field

If there is a single insight that triggered the work that resulted in the Product Field, it is this:

There is no silver bullet to product innovation.

All the prescriptive practices and processes for product innovation we’ve worked with over the years were ultimately defeated by innovation’s inherent complexity. But if there were no simple solutions, what was an adequate understanding of product innovation? What kinds of tools would be able to effectively augment and enhance our product thinking and persistently improve our collaboration?

To answer these questions, we started to regard product innovation as a complex system of interacting agents and dynamic forces. And we soon realized: Tools for managing such a system require a whole new approach that goes way beyond prescriptive practices and processes.

Tools that help us deal with complexity have to be tools that help us make sense of it: tools that help us build common vocabularies and useful models to enable collaborative thinking; that help us create shared understanding and thus foster alignment; that help us analyze and evaluate complex interactions and system dynamics; that help us explore and discover the true potential of our endeavors.

Such tools are called sense-making frameworks. With the Product Field, we created a sense-making framework for teams and organizations that build products.

The Product Field is a sense-making framework for teams and organizations that build products. Share this

What this guide is about

The Product Field Reference Guide is the distillation of our work on and with the Product Field and our attempt to share a tool that helps us think on a daily basis. It is regularly updated to reflect how the Product Field evolves.

The Guide is meant as a reference for the framework, describing its architecture, detailing the methods it provides, and explaining their use, be it in workshops or as a personal tool.

It is not a workbook or a field guide; nor does it provide illuminating case studies or inspiring success stories. All of this is reserved for later publications; before turning our attention to these, we first had to lay some foundations. Doing that was our sole aim when writing the Reference Guide. We hope our readers will profit as much from this focus as we did ourselves.

Who this guide is for

The Reference Guide is for product people working in complex environments, be it as CEOs or product managers, founders or consultants. It is for people working in product management, UX, marketing, and engineering who know that communication across disciplines is often hindered by a lack of a common vocabulary and shared understanding. For people facilitating teams or groups, it offers some hands-on advice on how to implement the framework and its methods.

The Reference Guide is not for people looking for silver bullets or the next buzzword to monetize, nor is it for people unwilling to engage with the topic of product innovation intellectually. If you‘re into that kind of stuff, look elsewhere – there are enough alternatives on the market.

How to read this guide

We recommend reading the Reference Guide from front to back at least once. Our approach and the framework we‘ve developed are introduced and explained in a systematic and linear manner, so reading all the chapters in order should provide you with a growing understanding of them. If some stuff might seem a little abstract at first, please bear with us and focus on the illustrations – the definitions and abstractions we provide in the beginning will pay off later on.

Chapters 01 through 04 describe not only the architecture and details of the Product Field, but also the four-step process to work with it. The chapters are provided in the sequence of these steps.

Once you‘ve mastered your initial journey through the book, though, the Guide is meant to double as a handy reference for specific aspects of the Product Field you can come back to in your day-to-day work. In addition, for every step of using the Product Field, we provide some insights and tips from our practice to inform your work with it.

For the curious among you, we‘ve included a list of suggested further reading – books and articles that inspired us and that provided the basis for our own work.

So without further ado: Enjoy your journey – and let us know where your work with the Product Field took you!

Wolfgang, Michael
and Klaus-Peter

The Product Field Reference Guide · CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · K.P. Frahm, M. Schieben, W. Wopperer-Beholz ·

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Valuable advice for ambitious product people.

beautiful designed book · 132 pages · includes The Product Field “Safety Bike” poster · made with love and printed locally · white silkscreen print cover · saddle stitch binding