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This Chainsaw Cannot Fly

The power of storytelling to shape and drive product roadmaps

a book by Modernist Studio*

Storytelling is the secret to innovation.

It’s how you can find latent customer needs, explore new ways of thinking, and shape and sell a north-star vision.

Watch real people, doing real things—and completely change the way your company thinks about your market.

see example

Imagine you’re the Director of Product at an enterprise ed-tech company focused on student outcomes.

You’re sitting in Ryan’s dorm room, and he’s showing you how he keeps track of his assignments and grades.


He hands you a piece of paper, ripped and torn with stains of coffee and beer.

He explains that this piece of paper is how he makes sure he gets all of his work done on time.

You’re having a hard time squaring the circle:


Ryan’s a mess, but he’s making straight-As in finance at a top-tier school.

We assumed that, by improving the way students manage their work, we can improve graduation rates.

Now, we’re sure that, by improving the way students manage their work, we can improve graduation rates.

Tell stories to your team—and watch them gain understanding and empathy with your customers.

see example

Imagine you’re the campaign manager for a presidential candidate.

You’re walking through the streets of Jackson, Mississippi with Raymond, a convicted-murderer-turned-drug-dealer-turned-worker-advocate.


He’s talking about gentrification, and over a 9:00am beer—as he walks you first, by a drug house and then, a Whole Foods—he outlines some simple government policies that could transform a generation of his peers, providing them the ability to gain employment that they want and desperately need.

We had a vision: to improve the way society supports felons during re-entry.

Now, our vision is to help Raymond—and all his friends—take back control of their lives.

Tie your roadmap to stories and watch your north star energize and align your product, development and design teams.

see example

Imagine you’re the SVP of Consumer Banking at a giant bank.

You’re sitting in the kitchen with Darius: single father of two, living with his girlfriend in the fringes of Milwaukee.

He’s showing you that he’s developed a perfect way to budget and make sure his paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle can cover his bills.

He uses the calculator on his Android phone.

On the first of the month, he enters the amount he has to spend.

Each time he buys something, he subtracts that amount in the calculator app.

The calculator app doesn’t clear his balance, so he knows when he’s close to running out of money.

We were confident that we should build life planning features to help customers plan their retirement.

Now, we know we should build simple, debit-based tracking features to help Darius—and the millions of others living paycheck to paycheck—end the month in the black.

This book—and our work at Modernist Studio, part of Gorilla Logic—will help you see the world differently, so you can change the way you build products.

You’ll learn how to:

Uncover your customers’ conscious and subconscious desires

Create a design strategy that leverages these latent desires to ensure customer adoption

Design a north-star vision, so your colleagues feel a strong sense of mission

/ˈlātnt/
(of a bud, resting stage, etc.) lying dormant or hidden until circumstances are suitable for development or manifestation
*We’re Modernist Studio, a strategy, design and innovation consultancy. We help clients create exceptional products, services and teams.
Visit moderniststudio.com to learn more.

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