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The importance of story telling in product management

The importance of story telling in product management

When I was a kid I spent my head locked away in a book anytime I could get. Reading was a way of discovering lives far beyond the fertile plains of Wagga Wagga in southern NSW. It was a way of learning about how the world was different, how people were different, and how I could be different, and that it was OK. My first lessons in deceit, murder, adventure, sex, love, hate. and joy were all experienced through books and stories.

As humans we love stories, we thrive on them, change the world because we were inspired by a great story. We tell ourselves stories about how great we are, how shit we are, how in love we are, how we would love to do something, to not do something. Stories are ow we make meaning, learn lessons, impart wisdom, educate, and inspire.

The art of story telling is central to being a good product manager.

Product managers need to be able to be great communicators. They need to know when to use data in an useful way, to use emotion to tell a story that appeals to biases, beliefs, and smashes down barriers to persuade people to part with their money, their time, or they blessing. A product manager has to communicate a vision to the business, to customers, and to investors, and a key skill is their ability to tell a story that draws people in and makes a course of action irresistible.

Just as an author delves into their lived imagination to create a fictional world, the product manager needs to delve into their understanding  of market segments and customers to create a believable set of problems for which their product is the right solution matched by a compelling and unique value proposition.

At Amazon new products and product features are started by the product manager writing an internal press release that announces the finished product to the products customers. This makes the product manager focus on the customer problem in a succinct, believable, and compelling way.

This requires some story telling nous.

Seth Godin is arguably one of the most successful product managers in the world today – at least one of the most well known. One key reason he is successful is that he is a brilliant story teller. He is engaging, believable, trust worthy, and brilliant. Everything a great product manager should be.

If you need to know how to tell better stories, sit down everyday before you go to bed and spend 15 minutes writing about your day, then spend 15 minutes about how you wish your day went, what happened. Pretend you’re telling Oprah. You will quickly become great at telling a story.

What story are you going to tell today?


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