What is the Product Tree?
The Product Tree is a fun, visual, and useful tool that gamifies product management. It helps product managers (PMs) organize, prioritize, and tame the barrage of product feature inputs from customers and internal stakeholders. Product Managers will “prune the product tree.”
This innovation game represents a product roadmap as a simple tree complete with trunk, branches, roots, and leaves. The tree metaphor invites participants to think about how to grow (and shape) a product or service.
Branches represent the primary product or system functionalities, roots represent the technical requirements or infrastructure necessary to support feature branches, and leaves represent new feature ideas. Variations of the game include using apples (to represent ROI) or seed baskets (to express views that don’t make it onto the tree). The process is entirely flexible and customizable to any environment.
How do you play Prune the Product Tree?
Look no further than your workspace to find the simple supplies you’ll need to play the game. To start, head over to the nearest whiteboard and sketch a basic tree with branches and roots or print the image below. You can also check out this online version.
Next, grab some Post-Its and Sharpies. With supplies in hand, gather your people. Invite them to write down their feature ideas on Post-It notes, or leaves, and then place them on the tree. Once set, leaves can be moved from one location to another or removed altogether (i.e., pruned). Leaves closer to the trunk are near-term, while leaves nearer the tree canopy indicate long-term growth.
The shape the tree takes should generate valuable insights as well. Invite participants to comment on what they notice. For example, does the growth seem balanced, or is it heavily clustered along a single branch? Is the root system, which represents infrastructure, able to support the surface growth?
Benefits of innovation games for product teams
The Product Tree exercise elicits a variety of benefits, including:
- Prioritization of feature requests
- Identification of previously unknown requirements
- Management of inputs from stakeholders and customers
- Rich insight from a variety of sources
- Enabling customers to help shape the future of a product or service
- Helping an organization to achieve product excellence
Other innovation games, like 20/20 Vision, Me and My Shadow, Product Box, Remember the Future, and Give Them a Hot Tub, also help PMs and product teams gather valuable feedback from customers and stakeholders and enable communication within an internal organization, among many other benefits.