Storytelling for Product Management and Innovation

Vintage Photograph Of Two Business People Exchanging Information Down The Line Of A Tin Can Telephone In A Retro Communication Conceptual

Who doesn’t love a good story? Apparently, most of us do as they are the heart of any effective marketing message. A good example is the iPhone television commercial featuring the camera’s “portrait” mode. The ad tells a story of capturing great people in pictures, not just taking pictures. The story element makes the “portrait” capability more appealing than a simple review of features and benefits.

Using story is not just for external marketing. Product managers and innovators can and should use story as a tool to encourage others to join their vision and support their plans.

To learn more about the value of storytelling and using it to share ideas and persuade others to join you, I spoke with Michael Margolis. He is the CEO and founder of Get Storied, which serves leaders, innovators, and trailblazers who have a world-changing agenda. He helps those who are inventing the future and need to get their story straight because ideas don’t sell themselves. His work has been featured in Fast Company, TIME, and Wired.

In our discussion, product managers will learn about the three principles of effective storytelling:

  1. context
  2. emotion
  3. evidence

Below is a summary of questions discussed followed by a link to the interview.

What is storytelling about?

It’s narrative strategy. It’s the process of how you take anything that is an idea — a product, a service, any business transformation — and get others to see what you see. Storytelling is how you convey that idea in a way they can identify with it, that they can relate to it, and they want to be a part of it. It’s in many ways the holy grail of what every innovator and human-centered designer is trying to solve.


What are the principles to influencing others?

The principles are Context, Emotion, and Evidence. Each is presented below.


What is Context?

This is a really important principle as it relates to idea adoption. Most of us lead with data. If you start your story with the data, the story is dead on arrival because you haven’t provided any context. You might get people nodding their heads, but they’re not really on board. They’re not leaning in. They’re not accepting your story as their story. Context is when you start a story you start with the where. What I mean by that is, where am I? When you start a story, what your audience is trying to figure out is where the story takes place. What world are you asking them to step into? What’s that ecosystem, universe, or more simply, context? Paint that picture for them and then quickly capture their imagination. If you can’t get them curious and leaning in, you’re going to have a hard time carrying that attention through the rest of your presentation.


What about Emotion?

This is where you need to show and get people to feel how much you care about who’s at the heart of this story. Who’s at the heart of the story is usually a customer or a key internal stakeholder. You’re telling a story in a way that shows that you get what they’re going through. You’re showing the emotional impact this has on people’s lives.


How does Evidence fit in?

This is where you bring in the data. You demonstrate that you have a right to tell the story and that this story is real. The evidence is the proof. A caution is to not answer all the questions your audience would have. You want to let the story continue.


Listen to the interviewheadphones-2 with Michael on the Everyday Innovator Podcast.



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Chad McAllisterChad McAllister, Ph.D. is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow @ChadMcAllister

Chad McAllister




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