Designing to Add Value

Business thrives on added value, but often value add is reviewed as purely monetary gain; the difference between return and investment. The model below aims  to make sense out of this, and aims to give guidance to translate value add into products/service qualities that link the needs of users to the opportunities offered by a product.


User ‘value add’ has to appeal to the user’s needs, such as for example  an emotional connection between the user and product (Schifferstein & Zwartkruis-Pelgrim, 2008). Mugge (2007) identified four main product meanings as determinants affecting user-product attachment: Self-expression, Group affiliation, Memories and Pleasure (or enjoyment). To take widen this idea in two ways, I like to think that, firstly, a product, for it to be accepted and adopted, it has to appeal to basic needs of the user. A classification of basic needs and their dependencies have first been proposed by Maslov (1943) and afterwards further been investigated and refined by an army of researchers. Secondly, I doubt we need to aim to create an emotional attachment with a product, but an emotional connection with the manner in which the product allows users to achieve their aims, objectives and/or fulfil their needs. For example, I enjoy drawing and for a long time have avoided drawing on a computer. However, Autodesks’ Sketchbook pro offers such an elegant way of drawing that I now frequently draw on the computer. When I do, this is my tool of choice. But I am not using Sketchbook for the sake of using Sketchbook, my emotional binding is with ‘drawing’ and not with the tool. But whenever I like to draw, it is one of the tools (amongst pens and pencils) that I consider.

Business ‘value add’ divides into the following aspects (nicely lining up with the left side of the business model canvas)

  • Time – able to make new or better use of time.
  • Resources- able to make new or better use of resources.
  • Skills – able to make new or better use of skills.
  • Network – able to make new or better use of network.

On the last aspect; “Network”, I must admit I have a bit of a fifth postulate moment as to me it seems that Network is a consequence time, resource and skills. It is something that is produced. It comes over time, with the people (resources) you hire and through the visibility of the skills you possess. On the other hand, Network is a – frequently overlooked – fundamental building block that allows you to make better use of time, resource and skills. Partnerships are network enablers. For example, Citroën (automobiles) famously started collaborating with Michelin (tyres) as means of achieving a distribution network. Nowadays, with social networks, the creation of a network (for a business) or the participation in a network (f0r users and/or a business) adds value, also when it has no impact on either time, resource or skills usage/spendings. By starting a partnership there is no impact on Time, Resources nor Skills although it does extend your network. Therefore I added it as separate aspect to those responsible for creating ‘value add’.

The purpose of this overview is to help you evaluate your business idea. Where is your focus? What do you ignore? How do you address the basic user and business needs? Let me know if it works.

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