Narrative-Based Innovation, Part 1: What is narrative-based innovation?

Justin Daab

Our proprietary, narrative-driven approach to design thinking

Stories are the fundamental way we learn and connect emotionally, as people. In our narrative-based innovation process, Magnani applies detailed storytelling to traditional design-thinking in order to create a deeper understanding and empathy with customers, create and communicate a more compelling vision of how to solve their challenges, and deliver more engaging user experiences.

In this first in a series of posts about this approach, we’ll cover how and why we’ve taken an already powerful concept—design thinking—and integrated it more deeply with storytelling.

The specific steps in our process are fairly standard

But we designed our process and deliverables to quite literally tell a more compelling story



Embracing our customers as heroes

This immersive, curiosity-fueled step allows us to understand and document the first chapter in the story. We introduce our heroes with detailed, dimensional personas.

Brought to life with stories that reveal who they are, we unveil what rational and emotional motivations affect their behaviors. We weigh the resources and constraints that affect their decisions. And we pore over the joys, frustrations and hardships they experience as they travel on their daily journeys through the world.



Expressing our heroes’ needs

We define the challenge we will solve for our heroes, not by listing technical or functional requirements, per se, but by declaring as our goal the emotional requirements—the way we wish our heroes to feel about themselves and their world after engaging with our solution.

In our narrative framework, that means we present that challenge in our heroes’ voices. That could be a call for help, an emotional need, a want or need of a desired outcome, or all of the above.



Imagining a new world

To generate the greatest number of viable solutions to the challenges our heroes face today and into the future, we leverage the collective intelligence of futurists, trend experts, industry experts, internal and external strategists, and key stakeholders to brainstorm solutions at scale.

Through a guided process, we move from the unhindered expression of hundreds of concepts to the prioritization and deep development of the most viable solutions in a very short time. The best solutions are demonstrated and tested through, and documented within, idealized stories of our heroes’ encounters and engagements with our solutions, and the resulting outcomes.



Forging the solution

We prototype and iterate, early and often. This is trial by fire. We bring the best ideas to life through low-, medium-, and high-fidelity prototypes and test them in the hands of people.  It is the only way to truly craft and refine real-world solutions that evoke emotional connections and outcomes equal to those documented in our idealized narratives.



Measuring success

Finally, we bring innovations and prototypes to life, launching the story throughout the organization and experiences to our real-world heroes—customers. Every concept, every experience, active and measurable.

Whether we’re launching an internal vision communications piece, a live market beta test, or a communications campaign, we know the story is successful when stakeholders and customers become not simply participants, but evangelists.

It’s never a technology problem

Real innovation doesn’t incrementally improve an existing behavior, it presents new opportunities entirely. If we can first envision and map out a more satisfying emotional experience, ultimately technology finds a way. And our narrative-driven approach to design thinking ensures that emotion is addressed and prioritized at every step.

Check out the rest of our narrative-based innovation series


Part 2: Why storytelling matters

Part 3: Elements of a compelling innovation story

Part 4: Three Compelling Uses for Narrative Based Innovation


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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