Storytelling as software product management skill

Telling stories as a product manager

I was reading “A whole new mind” by Daniel Pink on my flight to Boston this week and it reminded me to write about storytelling. As a new product manager I never appreciated the power of Storytelling. I always felt that it was unnecessary and that my slide decks should present the facts and the numbers and everything else will just follow.

Working on Adobe Story and Adobe Collage changed all that. What kept Story alive and got Adobe Collage to get approved was the stories they were enabling. It was not the TAM, see it was not customers but early on, recipe for any new idea to work, you have to tell a story. A story that:

  1. Establishes the problem
  2. Explains why current solutions fall short
  3. Describe, in a limited way, how your solution fits
  4. Show how the world is better for the user post your solution
  5. Brownie points if you are able to also talk about how your solutions solves a larger problem

Perhaps, storytelling is the most important skill you’ll need to develop as a product manager. Stories make your product ideas far more sellable than just a fact based slide deck.

There are great books or sites that explain how to structure a story. But, simplistically, you are trying to fill in the following blanks (excerpt from: http://improvencyclopedia.org/games/Story_Spine.html

  1. Once upon a time… (context)
  2. Every day… (state the problem)
  3. But, one day…(your solution)
  4. Because of that…
  5. Because of that…
  6. Until, finally…
  7. And, ever since then…

Always tell the story from your software user’s perspective. Include lots of photos to humanize your deck. Be clear on the persona so that executives can relate to the problem and care for your user.

Also read, Tell to win by Peter Gruber