Outcomes vs User Stories

In our previous book recommendation, What Customers Want by Anthony W. Ulwick, we tied the idea of task analysis to the “jobs” Mr. Ulwick describes. There’s another task analysis element in his book specific to the outcomes he describes. That is the user story. UX practitioners do in fact discover user stories to understand the specific outcomes the user is looking for. It just looks a little different.

In our previous post we gave an example of a job and an outcome. Here is the example again so that we can continue the concept.

Let’s say the job we’re targeting, prepare my child’s lunch daily, is within one of the areas we want to innovate. And within that job the outcome, decrease the time it takes to prepare my child’s lunch daily, is our focus.

The user story we, in UX, would apply might look like this. As a parent (assuming that’s the research participant) I need to [task] so that I can take less time preparing my child’s lunch daily.

The “task” here could be anything from organize my refrigerator to buy lunch foods on Sundays. The issue with user stories in innovation is that it cuts innovation opportunities short for the company doing the research because customers have only their perspective to go by. Whereas the outcome-driven innovation model brings the outcome as the item to innovate against. Hence:

  • Job – prepare my child’s lunch daily.
  • Outcome – decrease the time it takes to prepare my child’s lunch daily.
  • Innovation – your company’s ideas on how to solve this outcome based on your circumstance.

It’s important to note that Mr. Ulwick recommends a survey to be sent out to understand the measure at which the outcome is important and whether or not it is currently served. So you wouldn’t take one person’s understanding of an outcome but a subset of a population’s understanding of the outcome to innovate against.

At the end of the day, both the understanding of customer outcomes and user stories are necessary for innovation. It’s just that user stories help you innovate when describing the product that you’ve identified as a possible solution. So start with outcomes before you get to user stories.

Send @getelementalux your favorite books that help discover customer outcomes and user stories. We’ll add them here.

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