Stories and Sensemaking.
Interesting question Dan. Delving into the strangeness of everyday life will feel turbulent at first. Less turbulent than one tends to predict. But the bumps and the butterflies come with the cognitive highs and the lows of change. Stories, like design methods, help us to refer to common threads of reason, as if they formed a rope we were meant to hold onto when descending into a cave.
In my experience ‘user stories’ mostly fail at reading the actual world.
When this happens, stories lead us away from the strange phenomena (we need in this instance) and back toward cliches that we expect others to be familiar with. Cliches become stories we can sell to a skeptical buyer. Fictional stories about people (users, customers, influencers…) can be produced in minutes! A little Joseph Campbell, a few hours on the web, and persona builder… et voila. (btw, I have seen similar misrepresentations using journey frameworks as well.)
When one resorts to a stereotype, then they knowingly distort the world, undermining the very purpose they work toward, only to accept false confirmations of success.
There are several chief complaints about the exploratory notion of research: 1. It takes too long. 2. It costs a lot. And, 3. it seems hard to do. You and I both know from actual experience that the opposite is true of each complaint. One can study the actual world this afternoon. One can get started with little more than a transit pass, a printed consent form, and a phone. Finally, the sensemaking part can feel as natural as a friendly conversation. As long as everyone in the conversation holds onto the same rope; by referring to one video clip at a time.