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Blast your way to success with the Product Spaceship

Nathan Hornby
Nathan Hornby
Product Design Lead 17 Mar 20207 minutes read

Product Design Lead, Nathan Hornby, shares his tried and tested Product Spaceship workshop activity that will help you and your team to improve decision making, keep you aligned and de-risk investment throughout your project.

A spaceship navigating uneven terrain

The Product Spaceship is a fun, visual metaphor used to explore, surmise and define a product and its key components to help teams better understand what it is that they're creating, in a fast and effective way. I first discovered the Product Spaceship during a facilitation training course with Daniel Stillman. A fellow participant, Bartosz Rakowski, shared a version of this activity that I latched onto and subsequently evolved over the last year, and I'd like to share it with you today.

When to use it

If you’re developing an MVP then you might consider having multiple spaceships. For example your MK1 Spaceship might be the initial release and your MK2 Spaceship a feature-complete product. Like real spaceships most of the product will remain the same throughout the delivery cycle, so treat the constituent parts as modular.

What you’ll need

Ideally your spaceship will be created somewhere where it can live-on throughout the project and be seen by those involved. If this isn’t possible then make sure to capture it via an alternative method.

Remote teams might want to consider using a platform like Mural to run the workshop.

The activity

Design your spaceship (optional)

Duration: 10 minutes

This makes for a great warm-up or icebreaker exercise. This isn’t only a fun way to get to get to know one another but also a way to start giving your product a personality. Small teams might want to nominate someone to draw while the others direct — larger teams can work on components individually or in small groups.

For the spaceship itself you’ll need:

To help round-out the product you’ll also need:

If you’d rather skip this step just draw out a rocket with clearly defined sections ready to populate with post-its. The data we collect is more important than the metaphor used to collect it!

Target

Duration: 5 minutes

What are the ambitions of this project and how will they be measured? What does success look like? Measurable targets are the most actionable, so consider things like KPI’s, OKR’s, NPS’s and CSAT’s.

Examples:

Payload

Duration: 5 minutes

What is it that we’re delivering? How do you want a user to describe your project to a friend or colleague? Think of this as your elevator pitch.

Examples:

Crew

Duration: 5 minutes

Who are the people on the ground that are taking us on this journey? Project Managers, Engineers, Designers — define the team and their roles and expectations from the project.

Examples:

Entertainment deck

Duration: 5 minutes

What are the specific features the product will have? Focus on USP’s and core functionality and extend outward where appropriate or necessary.

Examples:

Engine room

Duration: 5 minutes

What is motivating us to create this product and make it a success? Who's problem are we solving, and what is the cost of failure?

Examples:

Passengers

Duration: 5 minutes

Who are the people that will be using our product? User personas, case studies, or even user stories can go here.

Examples:

Mission control

Duration: 5 minutes

Who are the project stakeholders? These should be the people that own the product and that are responsible for its success. What are their roles and expectations?

Examples:

Risk Nebula

Duration: 15 minutes

What risks might block the path to our goal? Are there any assumptions that we need to validate?

Examples:

So you’ve got a product spaceship, what next?

Your spaceship is a way to communicate your project. What it is, who it’s for and why it exists. It works best if you can display it somewhere that’s obvious, but at the very least clearly signpost it in your documentation and ensure that any new comers to the project are taken through it in detail.


Interested in what we do at Etch Products? Our mission is to partner with leaders and innovators who want to activate their people, untangle process and bring ideas to life. Etch Products drives behaviour change, positive business outcomes and delivers radical impact. Getting you further faster. To find out more about our offering or any subjects discussed, drop an email to Jamie, Head of Etch Products.


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