World Book Day – 5 Lessons for Innovation
March 6th is World Book Day, when hundreds of children celebrate authors, reading and stories. Many venture to school dressed as their favourite story character with improvised costumes and props. Reading and story-craft workshops take place instead of normal lessons.
This reminds us of how central stories are to human experiences, and how powerful they are in connecting with people. So, even if you don’t want to dress up, here are 5 lessons that stories can give us to help us innovate:
1) Stories Connect with the Head and the Heart. Data, facts and models do not
There are some fantastic, beautifully-illustrated factual books for children that they can pore over and learn from. But no child on World Book Day is going to come to school dressed 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. After all, we don’t see many children dressing up as Harry Potter’s wand or Luke Skywalker’s Light Sabre. They project into the hero character. 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
Through World Book Day, children are encouraged to learn from expert authors about the 7 steps of crafting a story. You can’t just dive in and start – you need to build it up in pieces, hone it and refine it as you go. It’s the same with innovation stories – 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.