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Product Storyteller – Essential for Product Development

18 Oct

There’s an interesting question on Quora right now:

If you had to pick between an amazing product designer or an amazing engineer to build a new company around, which would you pick and why?

During any product development, the essence should always be targetted at ‘WHY’ than being or ‘How or What’.

If your execution focuses on the how and what of a product whereas in a world where consumers are inundated with choices, products that want to be noticed and adopted must be rooted in the why, in this case you are bound to face issues like scope creep, missed deadlines, overspent budgets, frustrated teams and, ultimately, confused users.

A product is more than an idea, it’s more than a website, and it’s more than a transaction or list of functionalities. A product should provide an experience or service that adds value to someone’s life through fulfilling a need or satisfying a desire. But who defines these values?

Let’s face this: The executive and the stakeholders would eventually define or identifies the idea…but after that who would be there in the organization to actually deliver the value to the customer? May be a Product Manager, Marketer, Technologist, or designer? Or perhaps…well…The Product Story Teller?

Who are the product storytellers? A bit of all these: matchmaker, marketer, technologist, and artist, the product storytellers ask questions, find answers, and figure out how to distill a vision or idea into a product story. They develop a plot, identify the people, and shape the product around the specific values it should offer consumers.

How critical a Product story teller can be?

The product storyteller facilitates collaboration and co-creation. Today, many companies have their product and marketing groups disconnected from each other.

Marketing decisions are often made at the executive level—much higher than where product decisions are made.

The result is that marketing tells one story, and the product tells a different story. In the end, consumers are left to put together the conflicting messages and try to determine why they should engage with the product.

A product storyteller should be positioned in the company to help break down the walls between all groups, facilitate the development of a single story, foster collaboration between groups, and ensure that every interaction a consumer has with a product or brand maps back to that story.

Share and evangelize: A common understanding of the product story allows a team to incubate a shared vision. This vision turns into passion, and people with both passion and vision are more likely to produce products that others want to use. Without a firm understanding of the why, the team risks becoming task focused, losing sight of the big picture, and deflating any sense of empowerment or excitement that once existed. When this happens, consumers and the team feel the effects.

In his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future, Daniel Pink explains that we’re in the “Conceptual Age” and that skills that were revered in the Industrial Age and Information Age are not as integral to where we are as a society today. Pink writes:

We’ve progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we’re progressing yet again—to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers. We’ve moved from an economy built on people’s backs to an economy built on people’s left-brains to what is emerging today: an economy and society built more and more on people’s right-brains.

The challenge today is that we face a shortage of storytellers because our current organizational structures and cultures are not optimized for the activities involved in storytelling, reason being : Ownership of product value,  communication disconnects, vision not in line with the original vision…

Marty Cagan, a product management and product strategy expert, addresses this issue in his book Inspired: How To Create Products That Customers Love. Cagan notes that there are two key responsibilities of the product manager: “assess product opportunities, and define the product to be built.”

The product storyteller should synthesize rather than analyzes, should see the big picture rather than becoming stuck in the details, and ensure that all product interactions and touchpoints form a cohesive and value-based consumer experience.

So whether you are at a small start up or a large organization, whether you are a founder, executive, technologist, designer, manager, or marketer, ask yourself this: do you know your product’s story? And perhaps more importantly, who creates your product story?

Courtesy : UXMagzaine

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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Product Management

 

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