D as Diagramming: The Dialectic Room and Value Engagement
Unfold the Strategic Value Proposition diagram…
This post is part of the D as Diagramming project which aims to explore the power of diagrams and diagramming. What I really want to know is about the value of diagrams for turning tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge.
This post is based on my tacit knowledge of business strategy, marketing, and communication. I have over twenty years of work experience which can be divided into three stages: creative stage, strategic stage, and innovative stage.
At the creative stage, I worked for the advertising and media industry as a creative copywriter and designer. At the strategic state, I worked for pre-IPO stage enterprises as a business strategist and fundraising consultant. At the innovative stage, I worked on making brand-new digital tools and platforms as a researcher and designer. You can find more details from a previous article Personal Innovation as Concept-fit.
Can we consider this post as explicit knowledge? In a previous article titled Knowledge Building and Academic Creativity, I made a distinction between personal explicit knowledge and public explicit knowledge. This post only presents an early rough idea. I think it is personal explicit knowledge. I need to improve it and respond to feedback from you and others. This is the way of turning personal explicit knowledge into public explicit knowledge.
On July 12, 2021, I published a post titled D as Diagramming: Strategic Value Proposition and shared a diagram that was inspired by Michael Porter’s ideas on Value Proposition.
Porter defines the value proposition as the answer to three fundamental questions:
1. Which customers are you going to serve?
2. Which needs are you going to meet?
3. What relative price will provide acceptable value for customers and acceptable profitability for the company?
I expanded the framework with the Tripartness meta-diagram and named the outcome Strategic Value Proposition.
Tripartness is one of a set of meta-diagrams I designed in past years. The Tripartness meta-diagram can be expanded to a Diagram Network. Or, we can say that it is an outcome of a process of Diagram Blending.
The above picture shows the process of diagram blending. The Tripartness diagram has two pairs of concepts:
- Corner and Zone
- Center and Context
In order to understand these concepts, we can use the following three diagrams:
- Corner: The Dialectic Room
- Zone: The Interactive Zone
- Center and Context: The Hierarchical Loops
These diagrams are meta-diagrams too. You can find more details about these meta-diagrams from a previous article: D as Diagramming: Tripartness and Diagram Blending.
This post aims to unfold the Strategic Value Proposition diagram and discuss some topics about value engagement.
The Interest Corner
For the Tripartness Diagram, each corner can be expanded to a dialectic room. For example, the picture below highlights a Corner of the Strategic Value Proposition diagram.
There are three words in this corner:
- Interest: the core of the corner
- Form and Brand: two themes
The Interest Corner refers to the perceiving process of value. In the beginning, a potential customer doesn’t own or use a product, so he only can perceive information about the product from his surrounding world. There are only two types of information about the product:
- Form: visual information which presents the look, structure, dynamics, size, color, etc. It offers clues for perceiving a product’s functions. In other words, what does it look like?
- Brand: narrative information which presents the emotions, cultural values, stories, rhetorical messages, ranking, word of mouth, etc. This type of information offers clues for evaluating a product’s reputation. In other words, can I trust it?
If a firm can offer the above two types of information to potential customers, then they could successfully attract people’s attention and stimulate their interest in buying.
Now, let’s adopt the Dialectic Room diagram to make a new diagram for understanding the Interest corner deeply. The diagram below can be understood as a room with two windows and one door.
A room is a container that separates inside space and outside space. There are some actions people can do within a room. I pay attention to one special type of action: connecting to the outside space from the inside space. Let’s call it “Process”. The two windows are interfaces that refer to two “Tendencies”, Window1 refers to “Tendency 1” while Window 2 refers to “Tendency 2”. Each window has its own view of the outside space. Finally, there is a door that allows people to actually go out of the room. The door refers to “Orientation” which represents a direction of a real action of going out of the inside space. Once you get into the outside space, you can consider the new space as a new room and repeat the diagram.
This is a special type of spatial logic. The terms such as “Process”, “Tendency” and “Orientation” are placeholders of texts for describing the spatial logic. From the perspective of my diagram theory, the pure meta-diagram doesn’t need text. For instance, the Yin-yang symbol or Taijitu is a meta-diagram, can you find one text from it? However, we can add some texts as placeholders to a pure meta-diagram in order to better describe it.
For the Interest Corner, I highlight the following several concepts:
- Self and Other
- Similarities and Differences
The diagram can be applied to discuss Customers and Competitors. I will talk about Customers, readers can apply the same method to think about Competitors.
For Customers, the room is their present life which is full of similarities. Self refers to a potential customer while Other refers to people from the customer’s surrounding environment. Self only can receive the above two types of information from Others, either the firm or other people. If the information is similar to the customer’s present life, then he won’t be interested in the product. The firm has to make a difference in order to bring the customer from his present life to a new life world. The strategy of storytelling could focus on Form, Brand, or Both. If the firm can’t offer a different form, then it could offer a different brand with a different cultural value or others.
The Chobani Flip is an example of the first strategy: Making a difference in Form. They just design a new type of container of yogurt and ask consumers to flip the smaller part in order to pour the topping into the yogurt.
The Make Love Not War shirt is an example of the second strategy: Making a difference in the Brand with a cultural value. Consumers buy this T-shirt because they embrace the value behind the text message.
The Exchange Corner
The Exchange Corner refers to the acquiring process of value. The previous interest leads to an action that orientates to an object: buying a product. This action is a special type of action because there is an exchange of ownership of a product between a firm and a customer. This is the foundation of the market activity.
We have to notice that the goal of customers is acquiring value. I use “Product” to refer to any container of value. It can be a physical product, a digital product, or a service. We also have to consider a distinction between Ownership of Product and Ownership of Value. Sometimes, if a consumer can acquire the ownership of value, he doesn’t need to acquire the ownership of a product.
The above picture shows three books about William James. Last year I borrowed them from Houston Public Library. If we only talk about “reading” as a value, then I have the ownership of “reading”. I could read these books in my house even though I didn’t have ownership of these books.
However, I didn’t have the ownership of “highlighting” these books because these books were borrowed from a public library. If I want to highlight these books, I have to buy them from bookstores in order to acquire ownership of these books.
The distinction between Ownership of Product and Ownership of Value emphasizes that the essence of a product is the Container of Values. This is the reason that we can design several types of business models for a product.
Now, let’s adopt the Dialectical Room diagram to discuss the process of buying. For the Exchange Corner, I consider the following concepts:
- Decision and Context
- Emotion and Reason
Decision refers to what a consumer decides to do while Context refers to the consumer’s life situation.
After deciding to buy a product, the consumer should decide on more details such as:
- When: buy it today, buy it next weekend, or three months later…
- Where: buy it from a particular local store, or buy it from a particular online store…
- Who: buy it alone, buy it with friends, or buy it with a group of others…
- How many: buy one, buy a particular one, or buy an amount of the product…
In fact, the above details are related to Context which is the life situation of the consumer.
In the past twenty years, the rise of behavioral economics offers various scientific research about human decisions for business managers and product designers who want to understand consumer behaviors. It is clear that the buying decision is both emotional and rational.
While fast-moving consumer goods are driven by emotional decisions, others rely on rational negotiations. The process of purchasing is also a process of negotiation, especially for durable consumption goods and high-value products.
The Benefit Corner
The Benefit Corner refers to the actualizing process of value. Customers can use a product in their own ways due to their life situations. Some ways of using a product might go beyond the original design of the product. It really doesn’t matter because people tend to solve problems for themselves, not for the product.
There are two types of benefits: positive benefits and negative benefits.
- Positive benefits: the product offers values that help the consumer achieve his life goals.
- Negative benefits: the product can’t work well.
It is clear that the firm wants to create positive benefits for the consumer and expects the consumer could share his positive experience with his friends or his social media followers. The firm definitely wants to avoid negative benefits because the consumer could share his negative experience too.
Now, let’s adopt the Dialectical Room diagram to discuss the process of using it. For the Benefit Corner, I’d like to share some ideas from the Ecological Practice approach which is my own theoretical study:
- Designed and Found
- Affordance and Supportance
First, we have to consider the life world of a consumer as the center of the process of using. A product should be considered as a member of the consumer’s “personal ecology”.
The above diagram is adopted from some HCI (human-computer interaction) scholars’ discussions about “digital ecology.” According to Raptis et al, “According to Jung et al. each of the users, we are designing for experience their own personal ecology comprised from all the digital artifacts they interact with. These artifacts might belong to them, to the company they work for, might be public, etc. Thus, we can characterize a personal ecology as a network where the nodes are comprised by all the digital artifacts a user may interact with, including the user himself.”
I’d like to go further and suggest that a consumer’s life world is supported by a Network of Owned Product and Owned Value.
Now we can talk about Artifacts and Affordance. In a previous article Hammer, Hammering, and Affordance, I discussed topics about tool-use actions, artifacts, and objects at the micro-level.
Anthropologist Tim Ingold (1993) argued a distinction between tools and artifacts: “A tool, in the most general sense, is an object that extends the capacity of an agent to operate within a given environment; an artefact is an object shaped to some pre-existent conception of form” (p.433) Ingold’s view focused on “non-designed” or “designed”.
Ecological psychologist Harry Heft (2001) suggested that it’s better to use “Found Tools” to refer to “non-designed” tools. He gave many examples, “…found tools, are identified and selected because of the suitability of their affordance properties in support of some action. Long grasses or stripped branches employed as probes in feeding at insect nests; broad, rigid leaves used to shovel insects into the mouth; stones used as hammers for cracking hard shells of nuts are examples. ” (p.341)
Why can stones be used as hammers for cracking hard shells of nuts?
Because the affordance properties of stones are relative to hammering. Stones are graspable, liftable, and resilient. Heft pointed out, “In short, animals that use materials for a range of purposes, from building materials to sponging liquid, are typically exploiting the affordance properties of these materials (Reed, 1993). These affordances have functional significance in a particular niche, and found tools are one source of meaningful information in the environment for an animal.” (p.341)
The concept of Affordance is only one side of the coin of Value, the other side is Supportance. The concept of Supportance offers a new perspective on social support and other social phenomena. Supportance refers to the potential social support offered by social environments. For the present discussion, I only want to emphasize the relationship between Affordance and Supportance. Sometimes, the actualizing process of affordances is decided by social support.
Can a consumer really own his life world?
A product’s function is designed by a firm. However, consumers don’t buy the product in order to buy its function. I’d like to emphasize that consumers tend to buy values that are offered by a product’s function in order to achieve their life goals and own their life world.
Can a consumer really own his life world?
Let’s summarize the above discussion.
- A consumer’s life world is supported by a network of owned products and owned values.
- The consumer can buy some values offered by-products without buying these products. In this matter, he owns these values.
- The consumer’s actions are supported by his owned values.
- The consumer can create emergent values by curating fragmented values as a meaningful whole.
- The consumer can support others by selling or sharing emergent values.
Finally, the consumer becomes a creator and his life transforms into a creative life.
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