We use stories as a powerful framework to fuel successful innovation because they are central to human experiences and serve as a powerful connector between people. Here are five lessons that stories can give us to help us innovate:

1. Stories Connect with the Head and the Heart. Data, facts and models do not.

When we look for stories around our innovation instead of settling for data, we ask different questions that will ultimately give us more ways to engage at a human level. We connect to stories and remember them in a way that we do not with facts.

2. Never forget who the hero is (hint, it’s not your product)

Your product is not your hero, your consumer is. A good innovation story will bring to life the connection that your hero makes with your product, and how their life changes as a result.

3. Every good story needs adversity and challenge. And often the hero doesn’t know what that challenge will be.

We strive to find tensions in our consumer insights, or limitations with existing products and we all think of innovation as creating products that solve problems for our consumers. But when looking for new innovation ideas, sometimes our heroes don’t know or can’t express what problems they will have, or what they want next. That’s why sometimes we can’t “solve the equation” (need + product = solution). We can use ‘story framework’ with projection and metaphor research techniques to seek out the new experiences that they desire, and then understand how a new innovation can enable this to happen.

4. Story crafting is a skill and it takes effort.

Too often we try to dive straight into telling all the information we have in our heads about our consumers or our product, and we end up with confused, multi-benefit ideas that lack a strong connection with our target. You need to build it up in pieces, hone it and refine it as you go. Careful use of a story framework can help piece together the stories we could tell and keep them focused, simple and engaging.

5. The best stories are ones you can immerse in – as if you’re “living” them

The most memorable stories that we grow to love are the ones we almost feel that we’ve lived or experienced ourselves. This reminds us that story is not just a great tool for communication design – we can use it to inspire great product design. If you design the story into the product, the consumer (your hero) gets to live the experience every time they use it.

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