The Art of Story telling in Product Management

We all love a good story. A good story sucks one into a magical world of possibility and hope. For a few moments, we forget our real world and dissolve into the theatrics. We become one with the actors; we share their despair and celebrate their achievements as our own. A good story always invokes empathy amongst the subscribers.   

A good story begins by laying down the objectives, adopts the means of achieving the goal, overcomes bottlenecks, fights all odds and finally achieves while uplifting all parties involved.   

A good software product is something similar - a story that is user-centric and driven by emotions - a story well told. People buy stories and not products. Best brands always tell stories; they do not sell products; they sell stories. They do not sell solutions; they sell comfort.   

Empathy Driven Product Management

As a kid, '36 Chambers of Shaolin - a movie from 1978 starring Gordan Liu, fascinated me. It told me a story of a young lad, heartbroken with tragedy, who decides to get trained as a Shaolin monk, powers through 35 chambers of Shaolin and finally defeats the evil warlord. I remember picking up two small buckets of water and trying to walk up the stairs. (Of course, I could not go past the buckets! And my home did not have a water pit to jump through - so, yea! that was it). To my nine-year-old eyes, The protagonist became an inspiration, a symbol of never-say-die. When I look back and dissect why the movie invoked such strong emotions in my nine-year-old self, I sense a strong empathy for Liu - the protagonist.   

Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people are going through, see things through their eyes, and put yourself in their shoes.

A product manager is responsible for characterisation. By being Empathetic, a product manager as the screenwriter sees the world through the eyes of the user. He champions the cause of different sections of users who will use the application and derives value by being empathetic. The product manager achieves this by conducting user research and building user personas. This activity ensures that the product manager remains user-centric and keeps the user's emotional needs in mind while conceptualising the product.   


Art of Story Telling

The art of storytelling is a crucial skill for a product manager. Like a skilled screenwriter, a product manager must explore the unexplored, think outside of their personality, envision character traits alien to them, expect potholes and dangers that may befall, build course correction and pivot positions and finally, steer the product towards the logical conclusion.   

A product manager engages the cross-functioning development team by being a good storyteller. A product manager can inspire the team to deliver consistent value by creating empathy through his user stories. Attractive, articulate user stories ensure that the team understands the requirement, acceptance criteria, and value proposition.   

And this goes beyond the internal stakeholders. By envisioning the story canvas, the product manager sets the tone for the product and drives the product through its life cycle. Better the story, Better the connection.   

It can't be a one-time gimmick to develop an emotional connection with the user base. Storytelling is a form of long-term brand communication. Having an authentic, empathy-driven story is necessary to connect with all the stakeholders. Each stakeholder might have a different point of view, but a good story connects with everyone. It is not about stitching a story to elicit an emotional response from the users; by presenting a true story, a product manager delivers two critical messages - 1. Who are you, 2. Who they can become by associating with you.