What if we could see all the invisible forces at play in the things we do, and the decisions we make, and the things customers do? With these 3 sketches, I reckon we can!
What drives you to do the work you do? What attracts people to some products more than others?
At the risk of sounding like Obi Wan Kenobi: these forces are all around us! From the tiny forces that make covalent bonds in molecules, to the vast gravitational forces that move tides and planets around, to the mysterious forces of politics, relationships and stock markets, we live in a swirling maelstrom of forces.
These forces hold such sway over us, our lives, and our decisions… yet they’re all invisible. Wouldn’t it be great to actually see those forces once in a while? When we see better, we understand better, and then we can solve problems better and come up with better solutions.
Well guess what? Sketching can help us ‘see’ and understand what various forces are doing in any given situation, and how we might work with them, even master them.
Let’s take a look at 3 visual patterns we can use:
- Visualising forces of business competition
- Visualising and quantifying pros and cons for decision-making
- Visualising the forces for attracting customers to products
Visualising forces of business competition
Do you want to understand more about how competitive forces affect your business? Porter’s Five Forces framework* is a handy way of thinking about and mapping out the various factors that will make a new or existing business, product or service attractive and profitable or not. It looks like this:
Porter’s Five Forces sketch
There are three ‘horizontal’ forces at play: the threat of substitute products or behaviours, the threat of established rivals, and the threat of new entrants. There are also the forces of bargaining power of suppliers (those you depend on to provide components of your product) above and buyers below.
The forces around a business change all the time, and this pattern helps you to structure your thinking and take action in the face of those forces. Try this on a whiteboard whenever your team needs to talk about competition.
Visualising and quantifying pros and cons for decision-making
Are you currently stuck on trying to make a decision of some sort? Whether it’s changing your job, or changing your company’s ERP systems, weighing up pros and cons can be hard. Sketching out a map of those pros and cons can help you pull each pro and con apart, quantify them a bit, and guide you and your team to a decision.
Here’s a fairly simple example:
Opposing Forces sketch – think about your pros and cons as opposing forces
Here’s an example showing how you can bring in more information to help make the decision:
Opposing forces sketch, with each pro and con scored out of 5
Visualising the forces for attracting customers to products
There are two major attractors that a new product has on us when we think about buying that product. It’s making a promise to help us do something better (or solve a problem), and to make us into a better version of ourselves.
Consumer Dynamics sketch
But there are also two inhibiting forces that hold us back from buying that new product. The first is simply habit (our behaviour patterns, and thinking that those behaviour patterns are OK), and the second is anxiety of change (that inner monologue that says things like “can I afford this?”, “what will people think of me?”, and so on).
You can sketch these forces out using the Consumer Dynamics sketch (above). Mapping these forces out for your product, service or anything that you want others to adopt can be really clarifying. In sketching this out, you ask yourself questions like:
- What are the things about my product that will make people think they’ll be a better version of themselves if they have it?
- How might my product help people to break existing habits?
- How might I give evaluators information not assuage various anxieties they might have about using my product instead of another?
You can also play with the size of the arrows, to indicate what forces are greater than others, or what forces you know you need to focus on. This can also expose some blind spots that you might not have thought about.
So, how might you and your team use these three visualisation patterns to help you better understand and master the forces at work in your product or service?
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