Lessons from Bernadette Jiwa’s ‘Meaningful: The Story of Ideas That Fly’

Though specifically not a book about scrum or agile software development, Bernadette Jiwa’s ‘Meaningful’ describes well the central idea behind user stories and how powerful they can be when used properly.

Some favorite lines from the book:

  • Making things is an art. Making things meaningful is an art and a science. When we understand what doesn’t work, we can fix it. When we know what people want, we can give it to them. When we realise what people care about, we can create more meaningful experiences. When we make things people love, we don’t have to make people love our things. When our values align with the worldviews of our customers, we succeed. When business exists to create meaning, not just money, we all win.
  • Early on in the process, we are so focused on ideation and creation that we forget to think about the story we will ask the customer to believe when the product launches, and so we miss an opportunity to make the product or service better.
  • Better is not defined by you; it’s defined by your customers. And just because they saw your Facebook ad, sponsored update or promoted tweet doesn’t mean they cared about it. Just because you reached them doesn’t mean you have affected them. Just because they heard you doesn’t mean they’re listening.
  • ‘Love’ is not a word we are comfortable with using in business circles. Business by definition is transactional, not emotional. But this is the one thing we need to hear (and live) most in business and not just in life. When you genuinely care about and empathise with the people you make things for, those things can’t help but become meaningful. It turns out that the best way to create a solution is to name someone’s problem or aspiration. Meaningful solutions are those that are created for actual people with problems, limitations, frustrations, wants, needs, hopes, dreams and desires that we then have a chance of fulfilling. These solutions are born from investing time in hearing what people say, watching what they do (or don’t do, but want to) and caring about them enough to want to solve that problem or create that solution that takes them to where they want to go.
  • We have less chance of engaging with our audience if we don’t fully understand the context in which they will use our product, no matter how good that product is.
  • Innovation is a by-product of empathy. Winning ideas are a by-product of taking risks. Excellence is the by-product of empowered cultures. Profits are the by-product of happy customers. Success is a by-product of mattering.
  • It’s seeing the invisible problem, not just the obvious problem, that’s important, not just for product design, but for everything we do. You see, there are invisible problems all around us, ones we can solve. But first we need to see them, to feel them.
  • Every one of us, from a software designer to a cab driver, is in the meaning business. Without meaning, products and services are just commodities.
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