At NMA it is important to us to quickly understand what the core of our teams’ businesses is and what we need to do to accelerate them as good as even possible. So it was an early decision to do a workshop on that early in the program.
All of us are used to work with the Lean Canvas or Business Model Canvas. I always felt they were pretty useful to different projects, but they often disappointed me in their limitations when you don’t have a business model yet. Since our teams are all early stage and have a lot of different ideas about their own business model we needed something else. Lucky for us we know some really great people who put a lot of their brains into an all new canvas.
So we invited Wolfgang and Tim to help us with the Product Field – and they nailed it! The Product Field forces you to focus and shows you with the help of a little beamer magic your power field (the word reminded me deeply of Fight Club).
We asked Wolfgang and Tim about their idea and work with the Product Field.
What are the advantages of the Product Field compared to other canvases? Are the Business Model Canvas and Lean Canvases not enough?
There are never enough canvases, just as there are never enough books.
But seriously: When working on innovative products, the existing canvases don’t capture all important aspects and, even more important, the logic and dynamics of what you’re doing. They either focus on a certain stage of product development, ignore the context and resources you’re working with, or they simply miss the structure and complexity of product innovation. They help you in a lot of areas from capturing your business model to communicating the state of your product validation, but when it comes to understanding how and why your product development works (or doesn’t!), they leave you in the dark.
In contrast, the Product Field focuses exclusively on product development, and it provides you with a concise and complete picture of all the aspects and dynamics responsible for the success or failure of your innovation. It helps you not only identify and describe your product’s core attributes, guiding you to hone your product and its value proposition, but also map and evaluate the context of your product, providing actionable insights into how to enhance your capabilities and development process. And finally you can use it to determine and understand the character of your innovation and visualize the forces that push and pull it towards success.
Why did you develop the Product Field?
Our work with clients is all about getting product development right. This got us thinking about a better way to capture and understand the strengths and weaknesses, risks and opportunities of our collaborative development efforts. We soon joined forces with Klaus-Peter Frahm and Michael Schieben for the project, and after a couple of iterations the Product Field emerged as the tool we were missing before. It helps us and our clients collaborate on their products and development processes in an explicit and systematic manner.
Another need the Product Field satisfies is having a common framework for all the empathy- or empiricism-based methods we are using in product development, from Design Thinking to Lean Startup. It gives you a very clear understanding of what tools you can and should use at what stage when envisioning, ideating, validating and executing your product innovation.
When working with Product Field, you get a very clear picture of the most important factors driving or hindering your product development. How does this help the teams?
In our experience, it helps teams in two different ways: They either get a better grip on how they have to structure and enhance the setting they are working in to best support the development of their product – or they get a deeper understanding of what kind of product or innovation is suitable to be developed in their given (personal, financial, organizational) setting in the first place.
Either way, the Product Field helps them reach what call Core/Context Fit – having the right development context for the product innovation they are working on or vice versa.
You have already worked with Spectrm and Spotgun. What do you think are their strengths?
Both teams have great potential, and both are very focused and committed to making the best use of their time at the NMA. Working with them was productive, insightful – and fun.
Spectrm combines an ambitious, value-oriented vision with a thoroughly validated user need – they’re doing what we call “value-pull” product innovation, and seem to be right on track for that kind of project. Their main challenges will be delivering on their promise of algorithmically determined top-notch relevance (and they have top-notch tech talent for doing that), and convincing their supply side, i.e. media companies, to partner with them on a large scale (which is where the NMA will hopefully provide great value).
Spotgun has a profound understanding of game mechanics and a powerful asset in the form of their image matching machine intelligence. Their model of innovation is somewhere between “idea-push” and “resources-push”, meaning that the main challenge will be finding the right value proposition and business model to match their product’s inherent potential and to make it scalable. The team is putting a lot of energy in iterating on these topics, and the NMA can help this process greatly with input, feedback and opportunities for validation.
Wolfgang Wopperer Beholz is one of our literally closest mentors. He founded betahaus Hamburg, product development studio mindmatters and co-created the Product Field. He helps our teams to figure out the core of their ideas.