Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reading :: Value Proposition Design

Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want
By Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Greg Bernarda, and Alan Smith

I just reviewed Osterwalder and Pigneur's Business Model Generation, which I thought was terrific, although so simply presented that the style may be offputting to some readers. Its sequel, Value Proposition Design, takes things to a new level—on both fronts.

This book introduces a new heuristic, the Value Proposition Canvas (VPC), which is composed of the Value Map and the Customer Profile. These components draw on a number of other tools and frameworks with which readers may be familiar, such as Design Thinking and Jobs to be Done. And the book leads readers through the basic steps: Canvas, Design, Test, and Evolve. The authors do a good job of discussing how to develop a value proposition, what its components are, and how to evolve it in response to feedback.

But the authors also take things to a new level in their illustrations, which (to my eye) resemble Fisher-Price's Little People:

I'm not gonna lie: I had a hard time taking this book seriously because of the disturbing illustrations, which are never more than one page away. These illustrations are (I suppose) meant to make the subject matter more accessible. But I had a hard time getting past them. Not only do they make the book seem childish, they also seem bizarrely sinister. Customers are often represented as disembodied heads (top photo), as anatomically correct human hearts ripped from the bodies of living customers (bottom photo), as disembodied heads in a large beaker (cover), as victims menaced by furry monsters (p.118), and as marionettes animated by other stakeholders (p.50). After pages of these Peanuts-Lovecraft hybrids, I began to feel a little paranoid.

Is the book useful? Sure: I think the VPC and the integration with Design Thinking and JtbD are helpful. Will I skim it again? Sure, after the nightmares stop. Would I use it in a class? No. I just don't think the students would be able to take it seriously. However, I might find a way to introduce the VPC when I teach students about the Business Model Canvas. 

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