The Lion and the Antelope



In a television nature series about the animals on the plains of Africa:

Week 1 is about the Impala antelope, about the life and survival of this herd animal. The narrator focuses on a young female and her calf, about the vulnerability of the youngster, especially when it gets separated a short distance from the rest of the herd. A big cat stalks the baby. We lean towards the television, on the edge of our seats. “Run little one, don’t let the big bad cat get you.”

Week 2 is about the big cats. The narrator tells us about a lioness and her litter of lion cubs and we watch them tumble and play. The mother is hungry and weak. She needs to catch some food to stay strong and to provide for her babies. She doesn’t want to leave them because they are still vulnerable, but she has no choice. If she doesn’t eat they will all starve. The lion sees a small antelope separated from the herd. It won't feed her and her cubs for long but it'll give them a chance. We lean towards the television, on the edge of our seats… “Run mamma, catch some food and feed your babies!”

It's the same story, just the way the narrative is set up for us determines who we are emotionally invested in, who we want to succeed.

In the world of user-centered service design there would ideally only be one story, the one where everyone gets the thing they need. However, many times the needs and wants of an organisation conflict with the needs and wants of the customer.

The above story about the lion and the antelope is an extreme example, because it implies a win-at-all-costs approach and that’s not what I’m advocating. It’s just a ready example of how we become emotionally invested in one side of a scenario based on how it’s told.

If you have two narratives going on between you and your customers it’s worth asking yourself what the other perspective is.