What Is Storyboarding And Why It Matters In Business

A storyboard is a linear sequence of illustrations used in animation to develop a broader story. A storyboard process is now used also in business to understand and map customers’ experience and enable the growth of the company using that process.

What is storyboarding?

Simply put a storyboard is a sequence of illustrations whose aim is to visualize the critical moments of a whole story.

That isn’t a new tool in animation. Indeed storyboarding was popularized by Walt Disney Studios during the 1930s.

Storyboarding is critical in animation as it enables to develop of the broader story.

Indeed, the developers of content would use storyboarding as an inexpensive way to build content to see if it worked before doing the entire production.

Thus, storyboarding, as used in animation, has a few key elements that make it so useful:

  • An inexpensive way to visualize a story before it gets developed in full.
  • Visualize a whole story with a minimum amount of information.
  • A quick and dynamic approach to visualize an entire story.
  • The ability to capture the critical emotions at each sequence.
  • A way to present and pitch a story before it could get produced.

Storyboarding, which has become a best practice and process in the movie industry, is now also an essential process in business; let me show you why.

Storyboarding in business can help in many other cases:
  • Uncover customer experience.
  • Align on a longer-term vision.
  • Pitch a broader project idea.
  • And more.

In this case, we’ll look at how Airbnb has been using storyboarding to uncover hidden patterns for its customers that enabled the further platform scale.

Empathize with your customers

As Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and CSO at Airbnb pointed out on Sequoia blog

Creating a great customer experience is the highest priority at Airbnb and something that we’ve made a big part of our culture.

Storyboarding then helped Airbnb executives and employees to understand its customers deeply.

Empathy and being able to feel the emotions and moods of customers throughout the travel experience enabled Airbnb to map it at best.

Map the customer journey

One thing that’s really helped is a storyboard we created that depicts the different steps someone goes through from the time she first hears about Airbnb to the time she leaves post-visit feedback. We have 15 pictures that cover the guest journey and 15 more that show the journey for the host.

Nathan Blecharczyk also pointed out how this storyboarding process needs to be done from end-to-end.

From the customer first hears about your product and service up to the time she/he has consumed it. 

Understand where you’re missing out

What the storyboard made clear is that we were missing a big part of the picture—the offline experience—that’s an even more meaningful part of using Airbnb than booking a property.

Thus, this process enables the company to uncover steps you were missing out on.

Each of those steps you were not covering or providing value will become an essential ingredient for a great customer experience.

However, it is essential not to get bogged down in too many details.

Select only the meaningful moments

We started brainstorming what our storyboard would look like. We started with a list of many, many moments, grouped like ones together and refined them down into a concise set. If you have too many moments on your storyboard, it’s worthless. Fifteen seemed comprehensive yet manageable.

As pointed out by Nathan Blecharczyk on the Sequoia blog, it is crucial to map at first only the most significant moments.

That makes the process manageable and actionable.

For instance, Airbnb had mapped fifteen key moments in its storyboards. 

Build a roadmap around those pivotal moments

We then had a roadmap for figuring out what a customer expects in each of those situations, what we were doing to meet those expectations and where we had an opportunity to create a “wow” moment.

Once those key moments get uncovered, it’s time to offer a great customer experience by providing value to your customers in those faces.

Airbnb likes to define those moments when the value is provided at best as a “wow” moment.

Thus, it has to be turned into a product roadmap.

Uncover the gaps and fill them up with a “wow” experience

We noticed a lot of gaps. It became our number one priority to fix those areas where we weren’t doing what the customer expected of us.

What’s a valuable “wow” moment?

Imagine in Airbnb’s case the case of a guest arriving at a host’s house and, without even knocking on the door, finding the guest with a bottle of champagne to celebrate the arrival of the guest (this is an exaggerated example as some people might not like this welcome).

But the point is the storyboard enables you to develop a deeper bond with a customer, to improve the experience at each potential step.

Airbnb neighborhood guides case study

One example of one of the projects that Airbnb has implemented as a consequence of using storyboards is the “neighborhoods guides” section available on the platform.


With storyboards, Airbnb understood all the questions travelers had before, during, and after traveling.

Therefore, Airbnb came up with the neighborhoods guides:


So that for each city, people could find answers to questions related to the things to do in the city.


And also look at all the possible things to do in each neighborhood.

This helped Airbnb guests to find all the travel-related answers they might have before reserving the trip.

Those guides are so granular to unlock critical information for each neighborhood, almost like you had a local, giving you all the suggestions  you needed to have a great trip:


Key takeaways

  • Disney popularized storyboards in the 1930s to develop stories before the production of movies
  • Storyboards became a best practice in the movie industry world as a way to craft compelling stories before producing expensive movies
  • Now storyboards get used in business for several purposes. Airbnb used it to enhance customers’ experience
  • During Christmas vacation back in 2011, Chesky, Airbnb co-founder found out about the storyboarding technique, and he implemented it within the company to map the three key processes (host, guest, and hiring process) for Airbnb.
  • Those storyboards got transformed in actions within the service. One example is the “neighborhood guides” that Airbnb developed to give all travel-related answers to its users.

Key Highlights

  • Introduction to Storyboarding:
    • Storyboarding is a sequence of illustrations used to visualize critical moments of a story or process.
    • It originated in animation, popularized by Walt Disney Studios in the 1930s.
    • Storyboarding helps in developing and testing content before full production.
  • Storyboarding in Animation:
    • Used as an inexpensive way to visualize a story before full development.
    • Visualizes the story with minimal information, capturing emotions and critical moments.
    • Used for pitching and presenting story ideas.
  • Importance of Storyboarding in Business:
    • Walt Disney’s use of storyboarding aligned the organization around a vision.
    • Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky learned about storyboarding from Disney’s biography.
    • Storyboarding helps uncover hidden patterns and deeply understand customer experiences.
  • Empathy and Customer Mapping:
    • Storyboarding facilitates empathy and understanding of customer emotions.
    • Mapping the customer journey helps identify critical steps and emotions.
  • Uncovering Missed Steps:
    • Storyboarding reveals steps that might be missing in the customer experience.
    • Uncovered steps become essential for delivering a great customer experience.
  • Selecting Key Moments:
    • Start by mapping only the most significant moments to make the process manageable.
    • Airbnb initially mapped fifteen key moments in their storyboards.
  • Creating a Roadmap:
    • Develop a roadmap to meet customer expectations and create “wow” moments.
    • Turn valuable “wow” moments into actionable steps.
  • Filling Gaps with “Wow” Experiences:
    • Storyboarding helps uncover gaps in the customer experience.
    • “Wow” experiences deepen customer bonds and improve each step.
  • Airbnb’s Neighborhood Guides:
    • Airbnb implemented projects based on storyboards, such as “neighborhood guides.”
    • These guides offer answers to travelers’ questions and suggestions for each neighborhood.
    • The guides enhance Airbnb guests’ travel experiences and provide valuable local insights.

Connected Agile Frameworks


AIOps is the application of artificial intelligence to IT operations. It has become particularly useful for modern IT management in hybridized, distributed, and dynamic environments. AIOps has become a key operational component of modern digital-based organizations, built around software and algorithms.


AgileSHIFT is a framework that prepares individuals for transformational change by creating a culture of agility.

Agile Methodology

Agile started as a lightweight development method compared to heavyweight software development, which is the core paradigm of the previous decades of software development. By 2001 the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born as a set of principles that defined the new paradigm for software development as a continuous iteration. This would also influence the way of doing business.

Agile Program Management

Agile Program Management is a means of managing, planning, and coordinating interrelated work in such a way that value delivery is emphasized for all key stakeholders. Agile Program Management (AgilePgM) is a disciplined yet flexible agile approach to managing transformational change within an organization.

Agile Project Management

Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance.

Agile Modeling

Agile Modeling (AM) is a methodology for modeling and documenting software-based systems. Agile Modeling is critical to the rapid and continuous delivery of software. It is a collection of values, principles, and practices that guide effective, lightweight software modeling.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Bimodal Portfolio Management

Bimodal Portfolio Management (BimodalPfM) helps an organization manage both agile and traditional portfolios concurrently. Bimodal Portfolio Management – sometimes referred to as bimodal development – was coined by research and advisory company Gartner. The firm argued that many agile organizations still needed to run some aspects of their operations using traditional delivery models.

Business Innovation Matrix

Business innovation is about creating new opportunities for an organization to reinvent its core offerings, revenue streams, and enhance the value proposition for existing or new customers, thus renewing its whole business model. Business innovation springs by understanding the structure of the market, thus adapting or anticipating those changes.

Business Model Innovation

Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

Constructive Disruption

A consumer brand company like Procter & Gamble (P&G) defines “Constructive Disruption” as: a willingness to change, adapt, and create new trends and technologies that will shape our industry for the future. According to P&G, it moves around four pillars: lean innovation, brand building, supply chain, and digitalization & data analytics.

Continuous Innovation

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problem and not the technical solution of its founders.

Design Sprint

A design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore a lesson learned to be iterated.

Design Thinking

Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.


DevOps refers to a series of practices performed to perform automated software development processes. It is a conjugation of the term “development” and “operations” to emphasize how functions integrate across IT teams. DevOps strategies promote seamless building, testing, and deployment of products. It aims to bridge a gap between development and operations teams to streamline the development altogether.

Dual Track Agile

Product discovery is a critical part of agile methodologies, as its aim is to ensure that products customers love are built. Product discovery involves learning through a raft of methods, including design thinking, lean start-up, and A/B testing to name a few. Dual Track Agile is an agile methodology containing two separate tracks: the “discovery” track and the “delivery” track.

Feature-Driven Development

Feature-Driven Development is a pragmatic software process that is client and architecture-centric. Feature-Driven Development (FDD) is an agile software development model that organizes workflow according to which features need to be developed next.

eXtreme Programming

eXtreme Programming was developed in the late 1990s by Ken Beck, Ron Jeffries, and Ward Cunningham. During this time, the trio was working on the Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation System (C3) to help manage the company payroll system. eXtreme Programming (XP) is a software development methodology. It is designed to improve software quality and the ability of software to adapt to changing customer needs.

ICE Scoring

The ICE Scoring Model is an agile methodology that prioritizes features using data according to three components: impact, confidence, and ease of implementation. The ICE Scoring Model was initially created by author and growth expert Sean Ellis to help companies expand. Today, the model is broadly used to prioritize projects, features, initiatives, and rollouts. It is ideally suited for early-stage product development where there is a continuous flow of ideas and momentum must be maintained.

Innovation Funnel

An innovation funnel is a tool or process ensuring only the best ideas are executed. In a metaphorical sense, the funnel screens innovative ideas for viability so that only the best products, processes, or business models are launched to the market. An innovation funnel provides a framework for the screening and testing of innovative ideas for viability.

Innovation Matrix

According to how well defined is the problem and how well defined the domain, we have four main types of innovations: basic research (problem and domain or not well defined); breakthrough innovation (domain is not well defined, the problem is well defined); sustaining innovation (both problem and domain are well defined); and disruptive innovation (domain is well defined, the problem is not well defined).

Innovation Theory

The innovation loop is a methodology/framework derived from the Bell Labs, which produced innovation at scale throughout the 20th century. They learned how to leverage a hybrid innovation management model based on science, invention, engineering, and manufacturing at scale. By leveraging individual genius, creativity, and small/large groups.

Lean vs. Agile

The Agile methodology has been primarily thought of for software development (and other business disciplines have also adopted it). Lean thinking is a process improvement technique where teams prioritize the value streams to improve it continuously. Both methodologies look at the customer as the key driver to improvement and waste reduction. Both methodologies look at improvement as something continuous.

Lean Startup

A startup company is a high-tech business that tries to build a scalable business model in tech-driven industries. A startup company usually follows a lean methodology, where continuous innovation, driven by built-in viral loops is the rule. Thus, driving growth and building network effects as a consequence of this strategy.


Kanban is a lean manufacturing framework first developed by Toyota in the late 1940s. The Kanban framework is a means of visualizing work as it moves through identifying potential bottlenecks. It does that through a process called just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to optimize engineering processes, speed up manufacturing products, and improve the go-to-market strategy.

Rapid Application Development

RAD was first introduced by author and consultant James Martin in 1991. Martin recognized and then took advantage of the endless malleability of software in designing development models. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a methodology focusing on delivering rapidly through continuous feedback and frequent iterations.

Scaled Agile

Scaled Agile Lean Development (ScALeD) helps businesses discover a balanced approach to agile transition and scaling questions. The ScALed approach helps businesses successfully respond to change. Inspired by a combination of lean and agile values, ScALed is practitioner-based and can be completed through various agile frameworks and practices.

Spotify Model

The Spotify Model is an autonomous approach to scaling agile, focusing on culture communication, accountability, and quality. The Spotify model was first recognized in 2012 after Henrik Kniberg, and Anders Ivarsson released a white paper detailing how streaming company Spotify approached agility. Therefore, the Spotify model represents an evolution of agile.

Test-Driven Development

As the name suggests, TDD is a test-driven technique for delivering high-quality software rapidly and sustainably. It is an iterative approach based on the idea that a failing test should be written before any code for a feature or function is written. Test-Driven Development (TDD) is an approach to software development that relies on very short development cycles.


Timeboxing is a simple yet powerful time-management technique for improving productivity. Timeboxing describes the process of proactively scheduling a block of time to spend on a task in the future. It was first described by author James Martin in a book about agile software development.


Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.


Scrumban is a project management framework that is a hybrid of two popular agile methodologies: Scrum and Kanban. Scrumban is a popular approach to helping businesses focus on the right strategic tasks while simultaneously strengthening their processes.

Scrum Anti-Patterns

Scrum anti-patterns describe any attractive, easy-to-implement solution that ultimately makes a problem worse. Therefore, these are the practice not to follow to prevent issues from emerging. Some classic examples of scrum anti-patterns comprise absent product owners, pre-assigned tickets (making individuals work in isolation), and discounting retrospectives (where review meetings are not useful to really make improvements).

Scrum At Scale

Scrum at Scale (Scrum@Scale) is a framework that Scrum teams use to address complex problems and deliver high-value products. Scrum at Scale was created through a joint venture between the Scrum Alliance and Scrum Inc. The joint venture was overseen by Jeff Sutherland, a co-creator of Scrum and one of the principal authors of the Agile Manifesto.

Stretch Objectives

Stretch objectives describe any task an agile team plans to complete without expressly committing to do so. Teams incorporate stretch objectives during a Sprint or Program Increment (PI) as part of Scaled Agile. They are used when the agile team is unsure of its capacity to attain an objective. Therefore, stretch objectives are instead outcomes that, while extremely desirable, are not the difference between the success or failure of each sprint.


The waterfall model was first described by Herbert D. Benington in 1956 during a presentation about the software used in radar imaging during the Cold War. Since there were no knowledge-based, creative software development strategies at the time, the waterfall method became standard practice. The waterfall model is a linear and sequential project management framework. 

Read Also: Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

Read Next: Agile Methodology, Lean Methodology, Agile Project Management, Scrum, Kanban, Six Sigma.

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