The Product Field—an accelerator accelerator

November 22nd, 2017

Starting a company, bringing an idea to the market, developing a product: Hard, complex stuff. Programs like Elevator Startups help you get there faster. The Product Field, a model, and toolbox for product innovation helps accelerators help you.

Three years ago, after an aggregate 40 years of leading product innovation and development projects, my co-authors Michael and Klaus-Peter and I wanted to create something that we missed in our lives as founders, entrepreneurs and product people: A framework that helped us deal with the complexity and change inherent in developing new products. A tool that kept us alert and honest, helped us communicate and align out teams, showed us strengths and weaknesses of our work, and got us more quickly and accurately where every product person is headed: doing the rights things, in the right way.

This tool became the Product Field. To achieve our goals, the Product Field

    • gives teams a shared vocabulary and mental model for their work, 
    • helps them create a shared big picture of their product, their current situation, and their concrete challenges
    • provides context and criteria to pick the right tools and methods to work on these challenges.

Since then, we used the Product Field with a lot of startups and established companies, but first and foremost with startup accelerators. For them, the Product Field is an essential tool to align their expectations and support with the founders’ needs and potential. We use it to onboard and orient new batches as soon as they arrive. The startup teams use it throughout their time in the accelerator to stay aligned and track their progress. And the accelerator team and the mentors use it to better understand and evaluate what the startups are up to and where they need help.

Fine, you say, but how do that look and feel? Here are some hints:

You can see a lot of Product Fields around the office of Hamburg’s next media accelerator, the first accelerator we’ve worked with: https://www.instagram.com/nma_vc/ (Look for the templates with the yellow sticky notes in them.) We’ve supported all of their batches with workshops and coaching, and for the accelerator as for the startups the Product Field has become indispensable.

 A workshop with the Product Field is intense and takes anywhere from half a day to two days—but the time investment pays off with a boost in focus, alignment, and thus speed.

There’s an introductory video to the Product Field—it’s not completely up-to-date, but it gives you a good first impression of what it’s all about: https://vimeo.com/134739467

You can find a talk about the Product Field and Product Thinking we gave at the SXSW here:

https://speakerdeck.com/wowo101/product-thinking-with-the-product-field-sxsw-edition

And finally, you can read the Product Field Reference Guide online (and for free!) here: http://read.productfield.com/

But the best way to learn about is to be at the next batch of Elevator Startups—we are happy to see you in the kick-off workshop and help you (and the program team) get from idea to market as fast as possible!

Wolfgang Wopperer-Beholz (@wowo101)

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