What Luke Skywalker and Your Customer Have in Common: Thoughts on Emotional Needs

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

Benito Vergara
9 min readFeb 19, 2021


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 death by cooking meth
  • Steal from three casinos at the same time
  • Break the cycle of waking up on the same day, with Sonny and Cher playing on the clock radio

Of course, this was a fairly reductive way of going about a protagonist’s “functional” need, but they got the idea. (What a character wants to do necessarily changes throughout the course of a movie, but just like with your OKRs, there’s always one main objective.)

Then I asked them to dig deeper and think about what the protagonist needed in terms of an emotional dimension. This is where Luke comes in.

Functional: A young man needs to blow up the Death Star and save the galaxy from the Evil Empire.

Emotional: Luke wants a larger purpose in the galaxy and longs to be a Jedi like his father.

This was a little more difficult — especially if the chosen protagonist is pretty flat, like James Bond or Jack Reacher — but the workshop participants figured that out too. (One way of thinking about it is asking, What’s the protagonist’s motivation?, which typically connotes that emotional aspect.)



Benito Vergara

Senior product manager, fiction writer, former anthropologist. I study culture, tell stories, and herd cats. More: https://about.me/benito.vergara.