Our love of storytelling starts at an early age, and stories are at least partly responsible for how we understand ideas and concepts.
Thus it should be no surprise that storytelling too plays an important role in design thinking.
Design thinkers use stories to make a product more relatable to customers. To develop a good story, a design thinker must consider how a product came into being and how a customer will use it over time.
Importantly, the storyline must involve the customer at every step, reaching as far back as the very beginning of the product’s life.
For outdoor wear company Icebreaker, this meant attaching a code to each of its garments, with which a customer could track, for example, the wool in a jacket to its source in New Zealand, even to the exact farm where the Merino sheep are cared for.
The ways in which a customer uses a product over its lifespan should also be considered when developing a story.
To sell a project that was essentially a predecessor of a modern GPS system, IDEO designers told a story about a sailor navigating from one port to the next. Each “chapter” in the story described another important problem the sailor encountered along his journey, and each solution was a feature that was to be developed for the system.
But the most meaningful stories are those which customers can write themselves. By engaging customers as active participants in a product’s story, they will be more inclined to use the product or service.
The American Red Cross used this to its advantage when it invited people to share stories and motivations for donating blood – a mother’s life was saved thanks to a blood transfusion, for example – thus reinforcing the goal of getting donors to return.
These stories remind donors of the good that they do, and motivate new donors to contribute as well to this “common commitment.”