John Ellison

Day 46: Public Value Proposition Research & Design

5 min read

On the morning of Day 46 I arrived to the office expecting to have a full workday ahead with Andy Parker where we could finish off our value proposition and finalize it before the end of the week.

Unfortunately Andy P had an unforeseen workload change and so we had to recalibrate.

Andy P tasked me with researching our public value proposition. He wanted me to find as many examples of training, courses, workshops, seminars, conferences and schools that had similar propositions.

We had shifted our theme from UX Design culture to Design Thinking in general because it seemed to provide more value to a wider audience and would allow us to have a more diverse audience for the proposition.

Andy wanted me to have 100 examples that we could compare at 2pm and then use them as evidence to boil down our proposition into something final.

Researching Like A Mad Man

I hadn't been given a small definitive task like this with a definitive deadline in my whole time at Clearleft so I jumped straight in and started researching and reading about everything I could find. I filled my Evernote 'Training' notebook with over 139 notes and highlighted over 28 articles.

While it seemed odd to have such a drastic shift in our project focus, it actually proved to be the perfect task for me to do loads of research before re-approaching the value proposition.

Making Sense of The Research

As I perfomed my research and read through loads of content, I started working back towards the Project Canvas that we started at the beginning of the project. I needed a place to pigeonhole my ideas and notecards proved to be the perfect medium.

project canvas on the fly

Everything started coming together and making sense. I felt like I was seeing validation, contrast, and hierarchy in all of my reserach. My gut was telling me things like "This isn't quite right." and "This isn't our same audience, but it is similar. The diference is...". It was as if my subconscious was acting as a guide for my conscious mind to digest information and make quick decisions about the importance and relevance of my findings.


This concept of metadesign kept popping into my head during the research so I decided to take a moment and think about "What are the elements of metadesign?". It helped me stash away a train of thought that my subconscious seemed to think important. So I decided to snap a picture of it and share it and leave it for now. We'll see what role metadesign plays in this proposition if any at all...

elements of metadesign

Meeting With Ben

Something came up with a client project and Andy P wasn't able to meet with me at 2pm, so Ben Sauer kindly offered to help me think through the value proposition more clearly.

I debriefed Ben on what had happened since the workshop and told him the concept that Andy P and I had been working on. He quickly moved towards a template that would allow us to flesh out the value proposition. It was different from the template James Box had made for Hack Farm one year, and actually I think for this specific instance it worked better to help me convey the value proposition in the manner I needed to.

Ben's proposition template

At first it was a bit difficult for me to articulate, but Ben helped facilitate movement. He must have loads of experience working with people to define value propositions because it seemed second nature to him. He had an sense about what worked and what didn't and he was guiding me along the journey the whole time.

By the end of it we had the beginnings of a decent proposition and Ben finally understood my idea. We had a shared 'Aha!' moment and the energy in the room lifted greatly. It felt really good to be understood and I think Ben appreciated the role that he played as well. He was kind enough to say "It is so hard to work this stuff out on your own man, trust me. If you were to ask me half of the things that I do it would be so difficult for me to put into words like this."

I guess that's the power of collaboration, isn't it?

our initial proposition

UX Club

Soon after we had an initial proposition up on the wall, we had UX Club in the same room. I did my best to jot down my ideas and give myself anchors to move forward after UX Club.

At UX Club, we discussed Leah Buley's talk on The Modern Design Organization from UX Week 2015. I've embedded it below in case any of you are interested in watching:

Working on The Value Proposition

After UX Club I decided to break the value proposition into components so that I could pick and choose combinations of components and decide what would be the best outcome.

value proposition components

But soon the note structure of my computer reminded me of John Willshire's Popular Thing for Broken Thing workshop that we did on Day 43. So I decided to break the components into sticky notes on my desk:

sticky noting the value proposition components

I was so close to finishing the value proposition before the end of the week, but I don't have a key yet to Clearleft offices so I had to leave with the last employee. Bummer. Monday will hopefully be the last day!

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