“Themes” is virtually identical to the concept of “user goals” that we use in the imapct mapping method.
In both cases, it’s asking the question “what bigger problem does the user/customer need help with?” that does the trick.
At InUse Experience, we’ve used impact mapping, combining and aligning business goals with user goals for well over a decade. And it works beautifully on several levels.
So it is really a great idea and a great tool.
It gets us better buy-in from management. It provides stronger direction in product development — for example, a good way to say “no” to features, since we can easily show that they don’t really fit with the users’ higher goals.
The method was originally described in a book buy Ingrid Domingues and Mijo Balic; the current best description is in Gojko Adzic’s book Impact Mapping, which I highly recommend.
(I’ve also presented the method Impact mapping at several conferences; if you want to know more, please get in touch.)