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Getting Clarity with Story Design

Blair wrote this on 02 Jul

clarity, alignment and action

When you think about the work that you do it will almost always involve some sort of change. A change in business results, in customer sign ups, in sales, productivity, in technology or org structure.

Change cannot happen effectively unless you have all of the following factors taken care of:

  • getting clarity about a problem and possible solutions
  • aligning stakeholders (deciders as well as doers) so they have a shared view of the problem and chosen solution
  • enabling action by those stakeholders

Change design is about using design to maximise each of these factors (maximum clarity, maximum alignment and maximum action).

Design isn't just making things look nice. Nice logos, nice fonts, nice colours are all nice but that's not really the type of design that you can use to create change. Design isn't just want something looks like, it's the thinking that designers use to solve problems.

There are five types of design that can be applied to any project so you can maximise clarity, alignment and action:

  • story design
  • visual design
  • game design
  • digital design
  • design thinking

Let's take a look at story design.

Story design

Stories add context to information. This means that they make it meaningful and memorable. To create change you need to take information about your stakeholders and be able to tell the story of what they are trying to accomplish, what pains they currently experience and what gains they attain. This increases empathy which is a key to designing some thing people actually want and need.

If stakeholders' pains and gains are addressed by a solution then you need to be able to tell the story of how the future could be in terms of a new product, a new use of technology, a new way of working, etc. You can then test the viability, desirability and feasibility of a solution with stakeholders without having to build something. You can simply tell them a story featuring them, their problem and one possible solution.

Here's an example of a special type of story you can design to get clarity when you're trying to create change. It's called a problem-solution story. (It's one of the three types of stories we can use in business.)

Reginald's computer

A problem-solution story contrasts the problems with doing things the current way and the benefits of doing them a new way.

broken computer

"Reginald is a professor here at the Brookings Institute. Late one night he was busy entering all the results of his students final exams into the computer in his classroom. Unfortunately, the computer crashed and Reginald lost all his work. This made Reginald’s boss and his students very upset.

"Reginald and his fellow professors need more reliable computer systems for working with important data like exam results.

new computer

“The Bookings Institute has decided to upgrade all it’s computers so they are faster and almost never crash. The Institute is also using cloud technology to store their data. This means when Reginald enters exam results they are always saved automatically. No more lost data. Best of all, Reginald can access his files in the cloud from his home computer or his mobile device.

Even if Reginald needs to work a bit later than usual, he can do so from the comfort of his home office. Plus get lots of work done on the train ride home.”

Breakdown

Here are the elements of this problem-solution story:

  • Reginald (a person who your audience can relate to and probably wants to accomplish the same thing they do)
  • Reginald’s computer crashing (big problem)
  • Reginald’s boss and students getting upset (results of problem)
  • Faster, crash-resistant computers (proposed solution)
  • Auto-save and working remotely and on the train (benefits of changing things)

How can you normally get clarity at the start of a project? What is normally painful about this approach? What does this approach help you to gain?

About Blair Rorani

Blair helps business teams use design to create change.
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