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product management

Design Thinking and Storytelling: A Short Reading List in Progress

(A small disclaimer: a lot of thinking out loud is about to follow, with the caveat that I may revise and update this later for something slightly more polished. Sometimes I write more crafted entries (as with my movie / book / game posts), but it feels like a burden to have to deliver than just messily laying my thoughts out on the screen. So consider it a living document.)

The other week I told my colleagues they needed to be more like Yoda. It was part of a two-hour Design Thinking and Storytelling class I taught at work—yes, at work, and the truth is, this is fun stuff. It has been a blast to contribute to the work of an amazing team creating an online curriculum on implementing Product Management at the Fed, and I’m grateful to have been tapped for the effort.

What follows further below is a ramblingly annotated list of references, all of which were extremely helpful as I wrote up my seminar, which I sent, minus most of the commentary, to the participants after class.

Here’s what I do for this introductory class:

  • take elements of cinema and some of my own experience in writing fiction
  • combine it with my day job as a product manager
  • advocate for deeper and longer qualitative user research (I used to be an anthropologist after all)
  • wrap it up in marketing principles
  • and teach co-workers about it.
From Unsplash.

No lie; this floats my boat. In the class, I’m able to talk about why Walter White’s motivations as a character need to be established early in Breaking Bad and the importance of staying in the problem space to clarify and refine the root challenge towards designing a product. Or what Luke Skywalker has to do with customer success. Or I compare Amazon’s “Buy now with 1-Click” buttons with the famous scene in The Terminator when Kyle Reese tells Sarah Connor, “Come with me if you want to live.” (They’re both calls to action, of course.)

This month’s class was my third time to teach about storytelling and product management—I had been teaching it informally to my teammates (more later)—but my first time to be part of a formal curriculum, and my first time to include a brief overview of Design Thinking. I did send a note to the class explaining that one could take hours of classes on any one of the phases alone—or a lifetime if you’re in user research—and that what they were about to hear was simply the tip of the tip of the iceberg. This wasn’t even design theater (ouch) as Christina Wodtke has put it, but more of an amuse-bouche, I hope.