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product management

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

The other week I was conducting a storytelling and product management workshop—more on this in a future blog entry—and walking people through an exercise on customer needs. I had instructed the participants, who were IT managers and officers, to write down fictional characters and their needs, and then analyze the latter in terms of a functional dimension, and an emotional dimension:

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.1

Then I asked the participants to think of the following:

  • actual customers and their needs,
  • the functional dimension, and
  • the emotional dimension

Simple, I thought: Functional needs were easy. We worked in IT, so we saw functional requirements all day. But the emotional dimension? A couple of participants expressed difficulty with this part of the exercise, and in the moment I, too, was stumped, because I was so used to baking in the qualitative outcome in my storytelling framework, and couldn’t properly describe to the participants what seemed to be a bit of a mental leap.

How do I work backwards, and contextualize how one gathers this “emotional requirement,” as it were? Some thoughts follow.