How to find your product value statement

Running an effective ‘Value Discovery Workshop’

“Trust is maintained when values and beliefs are actively managed.”

Simon Sinek

Very few product design journeys start off with a well-defined purpose, cause or belief. Some find their purpose along the way. But most products never end up finding it. Lacking this crucial factor, your design process will lack clarity and it will be a lot more difficult to find success.

Which is why in the ‘Value Centered Design’ approach, the first step is to define this purpose or as I call it, the ‘Value Statement’. Once the value statement is defined, it guides the entire process, resulting in more meaningful designs.

What does a value statement look like?

 A typical product value statement looks like this:

Empower/Allow     [User]    To    [Verb or Action]    so that      [Result]    .

It has three parts:

  1. Who are you building the product for
  2. How does this product enable them to do
  3. What is the resulting meaning that the product provides them with

When you look at the above statement you might see some similarities to a ‘Hypothesis Strategy’ or ‘Job Flow’ or even JTBD, but there is a fundamental difference here. In this case we are not just looking for tasks but rather its combination with the resulting emotion. There is a precedence to this format and props have to be given to Simon Sinek. In fact, the “Value Statement” format is derived from the “Why Statement” that Simon Sinek expounds in the book “Start with Why”.

Let’s look at some real world examples of possible value statements

For a company like Google, the value statement might take the following form:

Allow     curious seekers    to   discover people, places, things and ideas    so that   they can use it to fulfil needs, wants and desires in a meaningful way    .

How does Google do this? They organize the world’s content and information into silos like Ideas, Maps, Books, People, Entertainment & Products which can be searched quickly and intuitively.

For this purpose, they have built a search engine, a mapping application and even a phone.

When you come to think of it, Google is a company that has been living value centered design from the beginning. Even when it never felt like a ‘Design led company’ they have been taking decisions that were closely aligned to their values. This has helped them easily scale their design to the multitude of products that they have within their portfolio.

How to discover a value statement for your own product? 

Running a value discovery workshop is the first step in the Value Centered Design process. Some of the earlier articles in this series, explain why one should consider ‘values’ to be an important part of the design process. If you have not read that before, I would recommend you read some of my earlier articles.

This workshop is at the core of the value centered design process and helps your articulate a hidden or tacit ‘Why’ or ‘Purpose’ behind the work you are doing on the project.

  • • Why are you building this product? 
  • • Why not something else? And 
  • • Why do you think the results you achieve will matter?  

These are some of the questions that will be answered in the value discovery phase of the process.

When should you engage in value discovery?

Your team needs to engage in the value discovery at the beginning of the project or before any major redesign. This is always the starting point for the value discovery process. You can skip this discovery step only if:

  1. You have already completed a value discovery process for the product and your team still buys into the same values
  2. You organization already has a clear set of values defined which will be adopted by your product/project

In all other cases, do run a value discovery workshop

Who will be involved in the process?

Whether you are conducting value discovery for your own team or for a client, chances are they might be reluctant to get in real users and customers into a workshop. Co-creation is a wonderful process but it does take a fair amount of maturity for anyone to actually co-create products.

If you work in a mature organization, get some users. If not, have people who are closest to real world users participate in the workshop. You need to have a good mix of people from product, engineer, design, operations and customer support. You can have anywhere from 6-25 participants be part of the workshop. 

Someone who is not participating in the workshop but who you can trust needs to play the role of facilitator. This article is largely written from the point of view of helping the person facilitating the workshop.

Starting the process of value discovery

The value discovery process is usually a half day workshop. That has five steps

  1. Setting the context
  2. Conversation 1 – Badass moments
  3. Conversation 2 – Finding the verbs
  4. Conversation 3 – Impact and results
  5. Drafting the value statement

In order to set the context you need to explain why one needs to use a value centered approach. You can use any of these articles to set the context:

For more information on conducting the workshop refer to conducting Tribe wide workshops from “Find your Why”

Start by helping  people understand what a typical value statement looks like. You can use the Google example to explain this.

Next divide the team into pairs and have them think about the stories that they would be sharing later during the workshop. Use the following prompt to start the conversation

“What inspired your users the most to keep coming back”

At this point you could share one or two inspiring stories. Do not share all the stories. Also the story will not be shared by the person who penned it down. Instead have the partner of the author share the story with the rest of the team.

Once the context has been set, we move on to the three conversations.

Conversation 1 – Badass moments

A badass moment is when a user has felt most pride about what s/he has achieved with the product. It should be a real moment and not a fictional moment.

  • Start with a phrase or sentence that reminds you of the story
  • Write down as many stories as you can think of
  • The story has to be specific. For example, it can’t be “The user searched for a product and found what she want”. It has to be more like “Rachel had been looking at articles for her paper on creativity and educational when she discovered the exact TED talk that she was looking for on her YouTube feed.”
  • Describe the outcome in detail.
  • The story has to cause an emotional response in the person re-telling the story

Once the stories have been written out, ask the teams to share their top three stories. While they are sharing the stories, the facilitator should looking at following:

  • Who are the people these stories are about. 
  • Are there any patterns in the type of situations the people are in
  • Are there any patterns in needs
  • Are there any patterns in emotions

This first conversation will give a good idea into the users that the stories pertain to. As a facilitator you should ask more questions where the stories are unclear or vague. Ask a lot of ‘Who’ and ‘What’ related questions. E.g. Who was Rachel, what was her role etc. These will give you more insight into the user. 

Conversation 2 – What did the specific way that the product helped

In the second part of the conversation, find out the verbs in the above stories that were. These verbs need to be non-aspirational (in that it should not be wishful) and again it should specifically address ways in which the product helped the users.

As you go about this exercise, you will find a number of verbs emerging. Note down all the verbs on a flipchart and as soon as there is a repeat, put an asterisk against the verb mentioned earlier. Do not go for the actual word, but all synonyms should be combined, so that the verb is actually just capturing the action.

When you have a conflict, where a part of the team thinks it is a new verb while some think it means something that was mentioned before, ask the teams to explain their position and try and reach a consensus.

Verbs with the most asterisk are one ones to take note of.

Conversation 3 – Impact and Results

The final conversation is to discuss the contribution the product has had in the story and the impact and result it has left on the users in the story. What impact did it have on other people. Did it bring a change to the world.

Discuss these impacts and results in detail as mentioned before

Drafting the value statement

Based on the above three conversations you will be in a position to draft your value statement. 

Remember though this is a draft statement and you will still need to refine it.

This is how you start with finding out your product value statement. In the next part of the series, we will discuss how these statements can be used.


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    December 21, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    […] How to find your product value statement […]

  • 8 steps to design an inspired MVP. – Navneet Nair Designs

    December 21, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    […] Here’s the process I use to uncover product values. Use the process to come up with a succinct statement in the following format: Empower/Allow      [User]      To        [Verb or Action]      so that        [Result] . […]

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