Friday, January 9, 2015

The Scene

Obviously, from posts like this and this, I'm a great proponent of scenarios, as in persona, problem, and payoff. I probably point people to Goodwin's Storytelling by Design more often than any other slideset, even if her title gets it backwards.

But scenarios are hard to get right. It takes many iterations before students get the hang of them. Yesterday I reviewed the following example from a student team in Northwestern's NUvention Web course:
Ann, an 80 year old grandmother, wants to live independently. However, her family are worried about her safety and don't feel comfortable with her living on her own. Ann is able to share her vital signs with her family. They are all recorded and kept for her automatically in her Vital Patch web page. There is also a fall monitoring detection, which automatically sends an alert to her family and/or 911 when a fall is detected.
What's wrong? There's a persona here, a problem, a payoff.

Or is there? What's the payoff? Ann can post data? The family can see that data? So what? This is just potential payoff. There's something missing here. In my critique, I suggested finishing the scenario with this:
Ann's daughter Susan, who lives 300 miles away, sees that her mom’s blood pressure has been increasing over the past 3 months. Susan calls her mom and works out a plan to have a friend near Ann drive her to a doctor's visit.

Now there's a real payoff. Something good just happened.

Then I realized that what I had now was The Scene. The Scene is a visualization of an event that motivates the creation of your product. Novelists and  movie directors often talk about how some work of theirs began with just one powerful one image. They often weren't sure what it meant but they needed to find the story to make the scene happen.

The Scene needs no prologue with persona and problem. I see Susan at home, at her terminal, studying the screen. She frowns. She picks up the phone and dials a number. "Mom? Hi, um, I was just looking at your VitalPatch, and I noticed ...."A conversation starts that may prove crucial to her mom's health. As I think about what would make The Scene work dramatically, I get a clearer picture of who Susan and Ann are, what she sees on that web site, and other core scenario components.

Find The Scene. It's the real starting point of your journey to a Minimum Viable Product. In the words of Winston Churchill, The Scene is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning.

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