Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels

In an earlier piece on elements of storytelling and product management, I wrote about how we product managers can act as guides to ensure customer success. And by “guides” (or “mentors”), I had in mind a more archetypal role: a Guide with a capital G.

And who is that Guide? It’s that Wise Old Person character from folk tales, the one who gives the heroes the tools they need to succeed. The Guide is also exemplified by contemporary characters such as Dumbledore and Obi-Wan Kenobi, supporting heroes in their quests. In the spirit of making our customers the heroes, we…

And what product managers can do to clear the path for the customer.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels

Sometime ago, a new customer of our division (I’ll call her Sue) pinged me and asked if I had time for a quick chat. I said, “Sure,” and she sent me a calendar invitation with the rather damning subject line “Confused.”

Sue and I didn’t work together directly, but I knew her in a different capacity, and I figured this was going to be a friendly chat (it was). But I felt a mixture of both eagerness to help and, well, a smidgen of defensiveness. Even as a tiny cog in a big wheel, I still represented IT, and our…

On the storytelling framework and the customer journey

I’ve written about stories as frameworks for customer engagement and their specific applications to product management. I also dig deeper into different parts of the story framework; the first is about the heroes and their needs.

In this post I focus on three of those elements from the Hero’s Journey:

  • the Call to Adventure,
  • the Refusal of the Call, and
  • Crossing the Threshold

and map them onto the customer journey. (I will deal with them out of sequence, because I’ll be writing more about the Refusal of the Call in a future post.)

The Hero’s Journey, from Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey

The Call to Adventure

It’s a necessary milestone in just about…

Using stories to pitch to the customer, frame customer engagement, and get the product team on the same page

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

In an earlier entry, I wrote about the inherent qualities that made stories the magic things that they are. Stories are shared forms of human creativity and expression. Stories create empathy on the part of the listener, whether a potential customer or product team member; stories are far more persuasive and memorable than statistics. They open doors to worlds; they create wonder.

So how can you use stories in product management? The word “use” is deliberate: stories can also be seen as tools that serve a purpose. While that sentiment may sound terribly utilitarian and anti-poetic — I mean, I…

Just in case you product managers need some convincing.

Storytelling is at the heart of product management. Whether referring to assembling the nuts and bolts of product delivery, crafting a product strategy, or selling a product vision, stories are key to both successful product development and customer engagement as a whole. I’d even argue that stories — and no, I’m not just talking about user stories — are also integral to the execution of projects. A story — that simplest of frameworks — serves as a musical counterpoint, if you will, to the formal project management phases.

Consider below some general reasons for using stories (and prepare yourselves for…

They’re heroes of the story, with needs and motivations.

Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay

Sometime last year I was conducting a storytelling and product management workshop at work. I had instructed the participants, who were Information Technology managers and officers, to come prepared by thinking of fictional characters. (For an icebreaker, create an anonymous poll and ask, “Which fictional character do you (secretly) identify with?” Then watch the team have fun guessing who wrote what.)

I asked them the question: what was the principal thing the protagonist(s) had to accomplish?

I gave them some examples:

  • Throw a ring into the fiery depths of a volcano
  • Provide a financial cushion for his family after his…

Some sources, and much food for thought, on a short workshop I taught on design thinking and storytelling for product managers.

(A small disclaimer: a lot of thinking out loud is about to follow, with the caveat that I may revise and update this later for something slightly more polished. Sometimes I write more crafted entries (as with my movie / book / game posts on my personal blog), but it feels like a burden to have to deliver than just messily laying my thoughts out on the screen. So consider this a living document.)

The other week I told my colleagues they needed to be more like Yoda. It was part of a two-hour Design Thinking and Storytelling class I…

How a product manager and fiction writer connected the dots.

So this radioactive spider accidentally got loose in a lab and — ahh, who am I kidding. But my interests in the intersection of storytelling and product management do have an origin story of sorts.

Most people keep the different spheres of their life completely separate: there’s the day job, and there’s the stuff they do for fun. By day I’m a senior product manager, working with development teams to build software applications for internal customers at the Federal Reserve.

At night — or on weekends, or early in the morning, or on the bus back when I used to…

Benito Vergara

Senior product manager, fiction writer, former anthropologist. I study culture, tell stories, and herd cats. More:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store