"Touchy" User Stories

I saw a commercial just a few days ago that included a service from TouchNote, a company specialized in printing and stamping postcards for customers using their mobile device. I haven't used the service myself yet, but I was very intrigued by the idea when I saw the clip.

The idea is pretty 19th century to be honest, straight forward sending postcards to people. What is different however is that the person sending the postcard uses their mobile device to select the image and content. Once the information is submitted, Touchnote prints the card, puts a stamp on it and a few days later, the postcard arrives by regular mail in the mailbox. 

If anybody would have pitched that idea in the 2000s to someone, you would have probably  received feedback like this: "Why not just email the person and attach an image?", or "Why pay someone for something that is free?", or "Why have a card on its way for 2 days, if your recipient could have it instantly?".

All valid points, but everyone I had mentioned this service to so far gave me surprisingly very different feedback, such as "That is really cool" and "what a great idea!".

The only way I can explain the different reactions is something we see during our coaching services with teams. People like receiving a tangible piece of information. They can hold it, show it to someone else or attach it easily to something. It is real and shows the extra effort the sender was going through. We learned in the past decade that electronic information just can't replicate the same reaction or perception. When we write user stories on index cards or sketch on flip-charts just carries a stronger message as if we are typing something in a tool. We can share the information easier and collaborate better.  I am not suprised that the company even used the word "touch" in their product name for that very same reason. 

Next time you facilitate a workshop, incorporate paper products (e.g. index cards) and markers more often and have people write and draw things on it. Take images of the real artifact (e.g. www.agilenomad.com) to manifest the idea and people will remember conversations easier. Maybe you also want to start sending the occasional postcard to your colleagues and friends. 

Jochen Krebs