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Inspiration: describe the market problem on an emotional level

When I decide just exactly who the song is a-going to help out, I can really scribble 'er down in a hurry.—Woody Guthrie, folk singer

A difficulty for many agile teams is the granular nature of user stories. Some are written about the problem to be solved and some are written about the feature to be built and some are actually individual tasks for the developers.

That’s why many product owners find writing user stories quite a chore. Determining the appropriate level of precision without specifying a solution is indeed a challenge.

Product-level stories (in whatever format) usually don’t inspire. Consider this list:

  • Organize with group circles
  • Group chat and private messaging
  • Geofencing up to 500 feet
  • Alerts via Android or iPhone apps
  • Synchronize via Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Hightail (Yousendit) coming soon
  • IFTTT channel integration

All of these are important stories (or maybe they’re epics or features) but they don’t rally the troops; they don’t motivate.

Lately I’ve been talking to people about “market stories.” Combined with personas, market stories describe the market problem on an emotional level, before you break it down into product stories and user stories and tasks. They inspire our internal teams to want to help customers as people, not just as buyers.

“My father wandered away from home and we can’t find him.”

By using the SafetyNet™ service, LoJack can find and rescue people at risk, eliminating traditional searches that often take countless man-hours.  And, caregivers gain peace of mind knowing that when a loved one wanders off, there’s a way to bring them back safe and sound. Learn more at

“Has my ex-husband picked up our daughter at school?”

No more endless texts and calls wondering, did Jenny make it home? Has Dad left the office? When will Mom arrive to pick me up? Using your iphone and a technique called “geofencing”, Life360 can notify you when your family members enter or exit an area such as home, work, or school. Learn more at

As product managers, we help the team understand the people who buy and use our products. Yes, we need to give them concrete technical details but don’t forget to humanize your customers. Inspire your team with market stories, a key part of your product playbook.

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