As someone who works in an applied research lab, I find that by far the hardest part of my job is choosing problems worth solving. I need to choose problems whose solutions are likely to lead to useful, deployed products five to 10 years down the line. Furthermore, I'm surrounded by bright and creative technology-oriented folks, so I'm exposed to dozens-even hundreds-of cool ideas each year. Whenever I hear about a cool idea, I find storytelling to be a powerful technique for performing a quick sanity check. I ask the idea's initiator to tell me a detailed, believable story involving an actual person who uses the technology to achieve a goal.