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A short uide to creatin inspirational stories of real people

Persona development has become an important strate ic tool within innovative or anizations.
Our point of view on personas and their relevance to inspirin innovation will be useful to decision makers who are considerin usin personas as a way of drivin innovation and cultivatin empathy for your tar et audience.

Stories of real people inspire innovation.

Eective storytellin inspires innovation throu h cultivation of empathy for the life and ima ination of real people.

Stories lend meanin to strate y.

A participatory approach to persona development reveals character traits, themes, and scenarios that help us understand aspects of peoples lives and their dreams that lend meanin to their everyday experiences.

Stories have a structure.

A story requires:
One or more characters, Who must make a decision(s) or take/ refrain from action(s), Which has/have consequences, foreseeable or otherwise, Appropriate to and limited by his/her/ their environment, That resolve(s) or reveal(s) an underlyin theme.

Storytellin is an art.

Great leaders are eective storytellers. Throu h storytellin , they provide direction and vision to their teams, who are typically used to workin in silos. Stories revolve around characters.

Storytellin requires tools.

A participatory process of usin persona caricatures to inspire innovation requires tools for:
Enablin your tar et audience to tell their stories; Synthesizin the stories; Inspirin the innovation team; Socializin insi hts and ideas within your or anization and amon st your other stakeholders outside of the or anization to et a buy-in for the ideas.

Tools for enablin your tar et audience to tell their stories.

People share stories of their everyday experiences and the meanin those moments hold for them throu h:
Their collections Journals, scrapbooks, and blo s Art Colla es Co nitive maps Gossip Casual conversations with best friends Photos and videos Role playin Buildin blocks Day-in-my-life storyboards.

Tools for synthesizin stories.

Understandin the commonalities, dierences, con ruencies, and paradoxes in peoples stories helps develop deep understandin of the diversity of mindsets and cultures we need to tar et. Understandin how people of distinct orientations behave and aspire helps us desi n experiences for people who are not like us. Collatin stories from vast amounts of text, photos, videos, and artifacts requires tools for or anizin and makin sense of that information. Multi-relational databases; clusterin of Post-it notes; and codin and comparin visual and text-based records allows for reco nizin traits of archetypal personas.

Tools for inspirin innovation.

Eective portrayal of personas throu h immersive, inspirin , and insi htful storytellin tools helps innovation teams uide their creativity with sensitivity to their audiences social, cultural, and psycholo ical framework.

Tools for viral marketin of ideas.

Ideas dont take root unless they are in circulation, constantly present in discussions and continually made sense of. Insi hts should be made widely accessible, and easily shared. Or anizin co-creation workshops, visually inspirin information displays in the corridors, puttin video clips of the voice of the customer, and buildin easily accessible online documentation of the insi hts help virally market the concepts within the stakeholder roup.

Personas build stories and provide visual artifacts to allow or anizations to immerse themselves in the lives of these se ments so they can deeply relate to them as they develop products, services, and marketin strate ies. A persona is the qualitative prole of these se ments, which makes them real and brin s them to life.

Se ments serve to help understand the size of the roup of people and the measures of their demo raphics, attitudes, and behaviors, and to help identify and prioritize the market opportunity around them. We dene se ments as a quantiably measured roup of people.

Industry practices

Two paths
For years the debate about personas, se ments, user types, and archetypes has been one of contention between researchers, with a bias towards either quantitative or qualitative methods for identifyin and measurin dierent roups of people.

Qualitative research
Goal is description and understandin of people and their diversity. Dozens of in-depth interviews and/or observation sessions. Rich narratives describin attitudes, oals, behaviors, preferences, and pet peeves. Ima es, audio, and video of the users environments and the artifacts they use. Thousands of data points describin relationships and behaviors.

Quantitative research
Goal is eneralizability and prediction across markets and populations. Thousands of statistically valid data samples. An understandin of the context-of-use occasions and how they impact experiences and expectations. Behavioral, psycho raphic, and demo raphic data derived from surveys. User behavior derived from use history.

Persona development
How and why they use the product and make decisions. The context for their decision-makin process, like advice from friends or data from third-parties. Unmet needs and aspirations. A deep level of understandin needed as input to a quantitative phase of se mentation.

Two paths
Statistically valid data to uide decisions. Value of a customer to the business. Where, how, and why to reach them.

What it reveals

How behaviors motivations, and needs map to populations.

Research basis

Qualitative research
Doin qualitative research rst helps enter se mentation en a ements with a number of hypotheses about what could dierentiate the market and how we explore several strate ies. Initial qualitative research provides the insi hts to develop a stron quantitative measurement tool. Without it, the quantitative tool will not include critical variables, thus bein left with poorly dened se ments.

Quantitative research
The best quantitative se mentation results have been derived when we consider a number of potential bases for the se ments. The results of quantitative se mentation en a ements are more valuable when one enters it with a number of hypotheses about what could dierentiate the market. This process allows for exploration of several strate ies.

What comes rst

The process of developin stories is sequential and iterative. New insi hts can easily be incorporated; frameworks and explanations are exible and evolve quickly. Dili ent collaboration with clients throu hout the analytical eort is important. A series of interim work sessions with key stakeholders as the analysis unfolds helps create ownership.

Limited upfront exploration. Companies start with a sin le hypothesis based on tribal knowled e (i.e., psycho raphics or needs, etc.). Limited theoretical exibility. Se mentations are sometimes best served by blendin components of a product experience (i.e., activities and benets). Limited analytical exibility One technique does not t all. Alternative analyses of the same data set can yield solutions that dier widely in applicability.

The process for developin truly useful personas is an iterative approach which alternates between qualitative and quantitative methods. A ood persona-development initiative should start with a qualitative phase to broadly understand a relevant population and the experiences surroundin them. Too often we see clients be in a personadevelopment initiative with a quantitative se mentation study, without the insi hts of an in-depth understandin of all the behavioral, attitudinal, emotional, and experiential variables which truly dene the dierences between roups of people. Often this initial phase focuses on ut assumptions about the se ments, which inaccurately measure the audience because the wron variables were identied and measured.

The ideal process

Qualitative research to identify key variables for identifyin se ments (typically focus roups, one-on-ones, and some ethno raphic methods). Quantitative research to identify and prioritize the dierent clusters of people (on-line and telephone surveys). Qualitative research to brin these se ments to life (typically ethno raphic research with both in-home and shadowin methods).


On the followin pa es we have provided examples of some of the persona projects we have conducted at SonicRim. For the purpose of preservin the condentiality of the projects, the details have been blurred.

Qualitative research!


SonicRim has extensive experience craftin personas; almost every project we do contains some component of user proles, and one in four projects are based around personas. Given our extensive experience helpin our customers identify opportunities, we know how to connect personas to ideation and desi n frameworks. When multiple forms of collateral at a hi hdesi n delity are required, we partner with a creative a ency to deliver professionally desi ned outputs.

Framin story

Key usa e scenarios

Representative / Inspirin visuals


Personas can be thou ht of in terms of user-types, such that they are dened in terms of scenarios and experiences instead of demo raphics. The followin three slides illustrate one example of doin this.

Behaviors relevant to the experience domain

Behaviors specic to this persona called out with explanation

Comparison of personas across behaviors


Comparin personas accordin to relevant variables e. . behavioral, work & life conditions, etc.

Axes of variation

Correlations & dependencies (explanation of impact on persona behavior)


Description of the role

Primary opportunity

Comparison of personas across roles and types of or anizations


Snapshot of behaviors, and summary of persona


Timeline of relevant behaviors

Comparative framework for key behaviors


Inspira(onal stories of real people are best narrated through c(onal characteriza(on of Personas. Personas evoke empathy. Personas invite ac(on, Personas give decision makers and designers a sense of purpose in direc(ng their crea(vity in making a dierence to someones life, Persona help global organiza(ons develop sensi(vity for regional dierences.

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Inspirational stories of real people are best narrated throu h ctional characterization of personas. Personas evoke empathy. Personas invite action. Personas ive decision makers and desi ners a sense of purpose in directin their creativity in makin a dierence in someones life. Personas help lobal or anizations develop sensitivity for re ional dierences.

Our sincere thanks to

Our partners in quantitative research

Our partners in visual storytellin

Prepared by

846 S. Hi h Street Columbus, OH 43206 USA 877-298-6844 toll free 614-298-6844 phone 614-298-6858 fax 665 Third Street, Suite 410 San Francisco, CA 94107 USA 800-298-6844 toll free 415-565-0680 phone 415-565-0685 fax


Global Desi n Research

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