Magical Stories: 5 Lessons for Innovation

Girls in STEM Mentor jan Choudhury

by | 9 Sep, 2021 | Untapped Thinking

We love how stories are so central to human experiences and how powerful they are in connecting with people. As we all head back to work, school and reality after the summer holiday season, we give you five lessons on why stories help us innovate:  

1. Stories Connect with the Head and the Heart.  Data, facts and models do not.

Let’s take the joy of reading with little ones as an example. There are some fantastic, beautifully-illustrated factual books for children that they can pore over and learn from, especially if they have an exciting lead character. But no child, when it comes to World Book Day for example, is going to dress up as a fact from an encyclopedia.  Stories touch the heart as well as the head, and we connect to and remember them in a way that we never do with facts.  Likewise, when we look for stories around our innovation instead of settling for data, we ask different questions that will ultimately give us more ways to engage at a human level.

2. Never forget who the hero is (hint, it’s not your product)

Too often when people hear “story” in the context of innovation, they start on a long list of what their breakthrough product can do.  This is certainly important, but your product is not the hero – your consumer is.  A good innovation story will bring to life the connection that your hero makes with your product, and how their life changes as a result.  

3. Every good story needs adversity and challenge.  And often the hero doesn’t know what that challenge will be.

We all think of innovation as creating products that solve problems for our consumers.  That is why we strive to find tensions in our consumer insights, or limitations with existing products.  But when looking for new innovation ideas, sometimes our heroes don’t know or can’t express what problems they will have, or what they want next.  That’s why sometimes we can’t “solve the equation” (need + product = solution). 

All great stories set up challenges and adventure for the heroes.  We can use Story framework with projection and metaphor research techniques to seek out the new experiences that they desire, and then understand how a new innovation can enable this to happen.  

4. Story crafting is a skill and it takes effort.

You can’t just dive in and start – you need to build an innovation story up in pieces, hone it and refine it as you go.  All too often we try to dive straight into telling all the information we have in our heads about our consumers or our product, and we end up with confused, multi-benefit ideas that lack a strong connection with our target.  Careful use of a story framework can help piece together the stories we could tell and keep them focused, simple and engaging.

5. The best stories are ones you can immerse in – as if you’re “living” them

The most memorable stories that we grow to love are the ones we almost feel that we’ve lived or experienced ourselves.  This reminds us that story is not just a great tool for communication design – we can use it to inspire great product design.  If you design the story into the product, the consumer (your hero) gets to live the experience every time they use it.

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