Helping teams build products with ethics

The Product Ethics Canvas is a workshop tool that helps product teams to explore the ethical dimensions of their product. Taking the team through 8 steps, each framed with a key question, the outcome is an overview of the ethics of the product and clearly identified steps to increase its integrity.

The Product Ethics Canvas links ethics to product strategy

Ethics is increasingly on the agenda of product teams. Yet most product teams lack the frameworks and tools to meaningfully consider ethics within their product strategy.

The Product Ethics Canvas is aimed at helping product teams make tangible steps towards more ethical products. It takes your team through a structured process to describe the ethics that matter for your product, your team and stakeholders, and in turn identify what that means for your product’s strategy.

The Product Ethics Canvas helps product teams:

  • Take a bird’s eye view on the ethics of their product
  • Give structure to research and strategic analysis of product ethics
  • Prioritise features and strategic interventions based on ethics
  • Have inclusive and productive workshops about ethics
  • Consider and prepare for ethical risks and emergency situations

The canvas is flexible and can be used for all kinds of products

The Product Ethics Canvas is a framework designed to be used for all kinds of product, be that digital or physical, consumer or enterprise. It can also be used for services. Rather than focus on specific ethical issues (e.g. digital ethics, sustainability), it is aimed at giving a big picture, strategic view – setting the stage to zoom in to these important areas.

The canvas is for PMs, extended product teams and ethics specialists

  • Product Managers. The canvas can help you bring ethics into your product strategy thinking by giving you a framework for analysing ethics and for discussing ethics with your team.
  • Strategists, User Researchers and Designers. The canvas can help you describe important ethical features of your product. If you are researching the ethics of your product, the canvas can help you structure the research.
  • Ethics Specialists. The canvas can help you frame key ethical concepts for your clients and be a tool for initial workshops before going deeper into specific ethical problems.

Use the canvas in a workshop, dialogue or for solo deep work

The idea of the canvas is to prompt a constructive conversation about ethics. You can use the workshop in a workshop setting, in a dialogue with a go-to colleague, or even alone as a deep work session – at least, as a first pass.

Ethics is a complex topic. No matter what format you choose to use the canvas, it is important you take your time, bringing a reflective stance, and ready to challenge your assumptions by getting other views.

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About the Author
About the Author

James Lynden is an innovation strategist, facilitator and user researcher. He has 10 years’ experience in product teams at O2 and Bang & Olufsen, and in consultancy. With an academic background in philosophy, James brings systemic, ethical and humanistic lenses into his work. These days he can be found at IXDS, newly part of PwC.