The Importance of Passionate Stories to Product Design "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 7 June 2017 True Product Culture, Product Design, Product Management Role, Skills, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 580 Product Management 2.32
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The Importance of Passionate Stories to Product Design

There’s tight focus on finding and addressing customer pain points in product development. I believe there needs to be similar focus on their passion points.

By passion points, I mean moments of profound or unexpected emotion: the joy that ensues results not simply from having a problem solved, but from a visceral, passionate reaction to engagement with a product.

Years ago, my friend Betty woke me at 1:30am – the first night she had a new MacBook Pro. “It’s breathing! It’s breathing!,” she exclaimed. Betty had just put the computer to sleep for the first time, and the pulsating snooze indicator had her feeling that she not only had a new computer, but also a new friend.

Your customer’s challenges, obstacles, and conflicts are important. But the emotions elicited by problems are jarringly different from the emotions elicited by solutions. Most likely there are other companies addressing the problems you are addressing. Your company and your products exist because of your solution. And you are not simply creating the thing of the solution, but the emotional experience of engaging with it.

Finding passion points

Passion always matters. Think of that breathing, resting Mac. That detail – Betty exclaiming, “It breathes!” – is a small and critically emotional moment, completely absent of conflict.

When telling a story, we often ratchet up details when instead we should be heightening emotion. We’re often hesitant to display emotion (especially at work, and even if the emotion belongs to characters in our stories). So, we pile on miscellaneous details, hoping the complexity of the data will mimic the complexity of emotions inherent to our story.

The same mistake often applies in product development: requirements get added and added, when the focus should be on recognising, adding, and respecting the emotional interplay between customers and products. In product development, we should supplement features complexity with emotional complexity.

Sarah Bernard, an accomplished leader in product development, recently reflected on her time as VP of Worldwide Product at Snapfish:

There was actually a sound to people looking at their photos. When we would show people their photos on the internet, they would almost always let out a little, audible, “oooh”. Their eyes would light up. If we had that emotion in our story map, it would have been minimum viable.

How do we find passion points? Close observation. Bernard often shares her story to show how important it is that all functions of a team – designer, engineer, and product manager – need to be observing customers to gain such insight. “It’s one thing for us product folk to say it’s minimum viable, but if our engineering partner believe it too, then all the better,” she adds.

Short of observation, we can ask about experiences: ask customers about moments when they felt delight and surprise. Ask people about moments when they have felt connected or touched. Ask about when small things made a big difference. Retire your assumptions that your customer’s emotions revolve solely around problems.

Last Saturday night, I went to a restaurant and asked the server about a pasta dish. She said it was her favourite item on the menu, going so far as to tell me: “I have a picture of it on my phone.” That’s passion! I ordered the dish.

Product managers and designers articulate and map challenges, obstacles, joys, and turning points. What if we also paid close attention to passion points? After all, passion is an unlimited resource.

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