Story mapping is a facilitated group activity that empowers teams to think empathically and uncover opportunities to create valued products or services. It is visual, it is active and it is meant to inform the development of a testable hypothesis that can further drive innovative ways of thinking and better solutions to opportunities that may have, at first, been hidden.
Originally developed by Jeff Patton for Agile software development I saw the possibility to apply the technique to brands – and startups. I try to plot a variant of a customer journey from awareness to advocacy as the spine of the story and have the session participants write stories – or tasks – that a person would need to complete in order to achieve a goal. A goal might be the purchase of an airline ticket or the social sharing of geolocated content via a mobile app.
I’ve done this for a number of clients over the course of my career. It is a very useful way to develop consensus amongst stakeholders and create a shared “understanding”, as Jeff Patton says, of tasks that a person might encounter along their path to completing a goal. More importantly however – it is a fantastic method to help facilitate creativity. Once tasks are identified solutions to those tasks become the jumping off points for ideation and creative problem solving. Acknowledging that everyone in the room wants to make a better product or service and identifying those opportunity points can be a very powerful force for building a better product or service and drive organizational creativity.
There are plenty of techniques to use to help facilitate and encourage participation. No single session that I’ve lead is exactly the same. Each is different and each is filled – large group or small – with individuals who may themselves, have different goals. My objective as the facilitator is to see each in the group and draw them in to collaborate and solve what sometimes might be very complicated goals.
The most successful sessions have been those where, at the end of a productive day, I can step back and point out to the group larger themes that emerge that help simplify the prioritization of tasks and help identify the solutions to those tasks that might be useful to develop as a prototype.