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Storytelling in Product Management

Slides Dave Skrobela recently used in his discussion w/ mentees of The Product Mentor.

Synopsis: Storytelling can be a powerful tool for a PM. We’ll take a look at some examples of effective techniques to ensure you’re telling the story you want to tell, whether that is directly in the user experience or supporting the ongoing management of the product.

The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Mentors and Mentees from around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.

Throughout the program, each mentor leads a conversation in an area of their expertise that is live streamed and available to both mentee and the broader product community.


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Storytelling in Product Management

  1. 1. Storytelling in Product Management Summer 2016 David Skrobela Founder, Context First
  2. 2. About Me I started my career in product-related work as a consultant, building and implementing web content management systems and supporting infrastructure for clients across multiple industries (Consumers Union, Standard & Poor’s, Creative Artist Agency). For the past 13 years, I’ve been focused on education technology, managing the launch of digital products at The College Board, Teach For America, and Centris Group. I am currently running a consulting shop, Context First, that helps organizations with early-stage product concept validation and business case development.
  3. 3. First, a Moment of Levity "Storytelling is one of the dumbest new media words of the decade - it sounds fancy and means nothing yet gets thrown around constantly.” - @BillSimmons, twitter, May 3, 2016
  4. 4. OK, then does it really mean anything?  We’ve been telling and sharing stories since the dawn of time  Consistent research supports the power of stories to inspire, motivate, persuade, inform  From a very early age (2-3 yrs old) we use stories to start to make sense of the world …..the short answer is YES
  5. 5. So how do we cut through the jargon?  It’s clear that storytelling has become, in 2016, a bit of a media and marketing darling.  But that’s because it’s an incredibly powerful–and timeless–way to connect, communicate and drive change. It’s trending because brands, businesses and marketers have discovered that this powerhouse is also good strategy.  “In an era when any one of us can create, publish and share anything we choose, great storytelling has become the differentiator.”1 Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton famously compared storytelling to joke telling. “It’s knowing your punchline, your ending, knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal.”1 1 - http://www.echostories.com/ (Fundamentals of a Great Business Story)
  6. 6. Putting this in the context of business  Storytelling continues to grow in business because it’s an established and effective method of communication  When using storytelling in business, the most common goals are to persuade, influence, and motivate your audience Stories are accounts of real or imaginary events that engage the audience in a purposefully direct and interactive manner
  7. 7. The Power of Storytelling
  8. 8. So what makes up a good story?  Hero  Setting  Challenge or Conflict  Solution KEY ELEMENTS  Why should we care?  What should we do?  How will we get it done? QUESTIONS YOUR STORY SHOULD ADDRESS The CAR Framework Context Action Result
  9. 9. What formats can we use to tell our story?  Storyboards / Customer Journey Maps  Prototypes  Presentations  Blogs  Whitepapers  Videos  Data Visualizations
  10. 10. This all feels so right-brain..  While it’s true that storytelling typically taps into to certain creative, social, and emotional areas of the brain, there is plenty of opportunity to integrate both the analytical and inspirational  This is becoming especially true in the emerging field of Storytelling with Data image source – © Miriam Gilbert | Storytelling with Numbers After a presentation, 63% of attendees remember stories. Only 5% remembered statistics. Source: Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath (2007)
  11. 11. Data-driven storytelling  A complete, robust story can be told with a single (or a few) visualizations  Product managers increasingly are being asked to become data journalists Source – Flowing Data, Nathan Yau
  12. 12. Basic Structure of Data Stories Source – Miriam Gilbert, Storytelling with Numbers  Beginning (context) – Start with a background and point(s) of reference  Middle (discovery) – Explain challenges, proposals for change, and insights that lead to confirm new solutions  End (conclusion) – Include concluding statements, recommendations, or suggested next steps
  13. 13. Bringing it back to product work Source – Sarah Doody | Knowing your users & their stories  Stories can help to clearly define the Why. Since it’s always critical to start here, stories are one of the most natural ways to start the conversation  As we move our teams through the What and How, we can continuously refer to our stories to help ensure alignment
  14. 14. Who is our story for or about? Customers Investors / Executives Colleagues / Team Members Allows us to explore the spaces our customers and users inhabit Creates deeper connection to the addressable problem and market Helps them to understand and truly support the work
  15. 15. Using Stories To Promote The Product Stories can be an important tool when we are pitching our product (or a new idea for a product feature) to investors, executives, colleagues, even customers
  16. 16. Using Stories IN Our Product Here we use an individual’s story to describe his experience going to college It helps to firm up the value proposition of the product (college search tool) and engages a specific audience (veterans considering college) Stories also important to create engagement in the product
  17. 17. Using Stories IN Our Product Here we see an example of how stories are deeply embedded in the product experience…in fact, they are the primary means of communicating to the intended audience Why is this so effective? Visitors to the site are the ones sharing stories with other visitors to the site. They have shared experience(s) and backgrounds. It is their stories that most effectively build trust in the overarching content and messaging of the site. Reference – youcango.collegeboard.org
  18. 18. Using Stories FOR Our Product Team  Motivating Current Team Members and Colleagues  Build a story into your vision statement; get people to “buy in” via the story you tell  Use your own story or a customer story to help reinforce the “Why” behind a new feature or release  Recruiting New Team Members and Building the Brand  Stories can be a powerful tool to build your team and the reputation of your product
  19. 19. Where can I learn more?  TEDtalks https://www.ted.com/topics/storytelling  Center for Digital Storytelling http://www.storycenter.org  Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2014/03/the-irresistible-power-of-storytelling-as-a-strategic-business-tool/  Lead With a Story http://leadwithastory.com/  Storytelling with Data http://www.storytellingwithdata.com/  Storytelling with Numbers http://www.storytellingwithnumbers.com/
  20. 20. And because there’s a periodic table for almost everything…. Source – designtaxi.com
  21. 21. THANK YOU! https://www.linkedin.com/in/skrobela @daveskrobela