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Companies in Lebanon are always praised for being resilient. While this is definitely a quality needed in our country and region, it brought with it a malicious side.
 

According the National Geographic, When faced with imminent danger or death, certain species of ducks will play dead. They freeze any movement, fake death and compress their body structure and temperature until they are out of danger. It’s called tonic immobility, and scientists think that the response is a defense mechanism. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good one: These death-feigning fowl are often eaten anyway.


 So let's imagine then what would happen when this danger last longer than the species had envisioned?

As it is immobilized, it looses its reflexes for normal agility, mobility and exploration for food/growth as well as any sense of hope in surviving to the future. It focuses only on the short term.

 This is exactly the negative side of continuous resilience mode that practiced over a long period could plunge companies in a perpetual status quo that becomes the norm and fossilizes mindsets  even long after danger fades.

 

One of the main side effect is obviously loosing any sense of initiative that is new or unfamiliar as it will be considered a risk taking even if probability of success exceeds by far chances of failure. As failure is lived in our culture  as a weakness exposing self to danger of extermination rather as a training for fitness and prosperity over the mid to long term.

 

The point is that resilience without an alertness on its side effects and establishing a continuous exploration and agility drills and exercises is equally fatal as external threats to any organization.

 Practically top management need to stop using the political and economical downturn as an all out excuse to fossilize their organization and people and bring to a halt any sense of creative and uncharted initiative whether internal or externally induced.

 That is, to a substantial extent, why in my view our youth are emigrating. It's not all true that they do so because of lack of vacancies in our country. The truth is that they can't see themselves prospering and flourishing in a rigid and constantly tuned on short terms and overwhelming negative survival mindset work environment.

 One of the most frustrating and irritating facts is when established and high performing companies refuse upfront to embrace new ideas and suggestions brought to them by theprogressive thinkers and just want to do business as usual. The usual being few decades old! They claim being different yet they copy the familiar and safe in every aspects and at every level.

These companies have lost their childhood like sense of curiosity and exploration. They want to know and control the outcome of any initiative before they embark on the journey!

Why ? Fear that became their  driving force and second nature. The comfort of safety versus the thrill of new experience. This is where the call comes. Established companies have a duty, yes duty, to give new ideas and the people behind them a chance!

 They have to embrace them not fight them as without new blood and new thinking they would maybe survive but they won't create joy and excitement for our societies, families, customers and future generations and we will certainly drag behind other nations and markets.

Their duty is to be as much cautious on their values as much as progressive in trying new ways and new techniques for managing change and transformation from the old way to the new. Duty is to create R&D labs, innovation labs, ideas labs. bring talents on board to co-experiment together. Explore the latest techniques and technology that will ensure their healthy longevity, competence and prosperity for all stakeholders.

 What is the cost of trying and prototyping a new way of doing business compared  to the cost of missing the train of progress and differentiation. A question worth asking!

 

Joe Ayoub- Brandcell, Business design consulting.

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Deutsch’s Douglas Van Praet discusses how focus-group feedback, and the whole notion of the consumer, are misguided and how research should focus on understanding the unconscious and improving human lives.


Understanding the unconscious and improving human lives.

Whenever  the word "consumer" is heared, a term unavoidable in marketing, a certain part winces. The label is counterproductive and misguided, suggesting hubris by putting corporate interests over customer concerns. The worst offense is that it presupposes a response you haven’t earned yet. Their purpose is not to consume your product!
Yet this label frames market research, with an emphasis on sales and usage, in other words, the bottom line, market share, or ROI. The ultimate goal is profitability, not helping people better themselves.

How these research studies are done is at sharp odds with what science now knows. The elephant in the room is that the vast majority of our decisions are made unconsciously. What is a no-brainer for any cognitive scientist remains mind-boggling to marketers. The conscious mind is simply not running the show, but we’ve created an entire industry pretending that it does.

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Advertisers are doubling down on this myth, investing in exhaustive investigations of self-reported preferences, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs. These deceptions become guideposts for product and campaign development. For $150 and a ham sandwich, panelists are drilled for hours in formal focus groups before two-way mirrors and cleverly concealed microphones that elicit groupthink and inauthenticity. The best become "professional respondents" glibly dominating groups on the topic du jour—from potato chip to microchip.

What is the problem?

The problem is we’re profoundly social beings having spent 99% of our evolution relying on vital resources from tribal affiliates whose opinions mattered. Group rejection likely meant a death sentence. So it’s no surprise we still only put our best face forward while artfully maneuvering ourselves competitively in the pecking order.

The brain is designed to hide most of our intentions and promote self-confidence, an adaptive function that improves lives and prevents information overload. So we invent stories and believe our lies and confabulations. Social science experiments reveal that we are inherently self-righteous and consistently overrate our knowledge, autonomy, and abilities. We say advertising doesn’t influence us even though sales say otherwise. And we maintain these self-serving delusions when wired to a lie detector, which means we are lying to ourselves and not intentionally to the experimenters!

But marketers cling to these false convictions and post-hoc rationalizations in large-scale quantitative studies that test and track "awareness," "topline" reports that skim the surface because they ignore real motives that lay hidden in the depths of our "unawareness."

This vast data dump is distilled into a target "persona," the "true north" for creative inspiration. Psychologist Carl Jung is turning in his grave because he coined the term to describe the fa├žade we contrive to make an impression on others while concealing our true nature. The persona is the mask of overconfidence that colors reality in our favor to adapt to social situations.

We need to penetrate this veneer. As Jung put it,

"In each of us there is another whom we don’t know." This inner "self" is a term he used to describe the totality of the psyche that includes our unconscious intentions or, in essence, "the real you."


And we all share an inner essence through our DNA. We’re not consumers, eyeballs, non-responders, laggards, Millennials, or Hispanics. We are humans. And by raising our sightline and defining customers more broadly we will not only deepen empathy and relevance but also widen appeal.

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This doesn't imply all research is bad research. Measuring sales and online engagement is very useful because we observe what people do, not what they say they do. And despite the pitfalls of qualitative research we can still observe face-to-face, micro-expressions and body language that belie words. Skilled moderators can unveil hidden agendas and unconscious defenses. But these researchers are rare. Strategists who inspire through traditional methods make subjective leaps beyond the data. They succeed in spite of current research protocols, not because of them.

A 7-step process was developed, shedding human insight on how idea becomes action:

1) Interrupt the Pattern
2) Create Comfort
3) Lead the Imagination
4) Shift the Feeling
5) Satisfy the Critical Mind
6) Change the Associations
7) Take Action

Source Fastco Create
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Balance Goals

Today's top employers are doing much more than providing a good salary and basic benefits to recruit and retain employees. In fact, some employers are trying to empathize with employees' personal needs as much as they focus on their professional needs. You've heard of on-site fitness classes — but how about on-site health clinics? Unlimited vacation is nice — but wouldn't a flextime schedule better match your work-life balance goals?

For companies that offer these and other "personal" benefits, the potential payoff is promising — based on a recent report, UK consultant group Lady Geek found that the most empathetic companies increased in value more than twice as much as the least empathetic companies in 2015.

How do you measure "empathy"? Lady Geeks defines the term as "a cognitive and emotional understanding of others' experiences" and consults clients on how to engage with customers and employees holistically. Their analysis uses a variety of metrics, such as CEO approval ratings, gender ratios on the board, brand controversy (such as scandals and fines) and sentiment on the company's social networks. 

Below are the 10 companies that topped their Global Empathy Index — and a little something to learn about empathetic policies from each.


1. Microsoft

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Headquarters: Redmond, WA

Monetary value: $436.4B*

Number of employees: 118,584

Empathetic policy highlight: Microsoft offers a lab program, Microsoft Garage, which both encourages and supports employees' side gigs and creative ideas. The program allows employees across any department to brainstorm, plan and develop projects outside their primary job or function at Microsoft.

2. Facebook

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Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA

Monetary value: $289.1B

Number of employees: 11,996

Policy highlight: Facebook allows employees to select their own workday start and stop times. The flextime program provides employees with the opportunity to align their hours on the job with their lifestyle, which Facebook believes leads to greater flexibility and productivity.

3. Tesla

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Headquarters: Palo Alto, CA

Monetary value: $29.2B

Number of employees: 12,000

Policy highlight: Tesla pays 100 percent of the direct plan costs for employee health plans. The plans come with high deductibles, but with an in-house medical clinic, employees can avoid unnecessary visits through an on-site clinic visit first.

4. Alphabet (Google)

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Headquarters: Mountain View, CA

Monetary value: $515B

Number of employees: 59,976

Policy highlight: Mom or dad-to-be? Moms get up to 18 weeks of paid leave, while dads get six. To help out even more, the company provides "baby bonding bucks" to help with expenses, such as formula and diapers.

5. Procter & Gamble

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Headquarters: Cincinnati, OH

Monetary value: $213B

Number of employees: 118,000

Policy highlight: Life happens. And when employees are going through a difficult time, Procter & Gamble offers a personal leave of absence. Employees can take up to three months off periodically without pay — but with continued benefits — allowing employees to take time for personal needs and the company to retain valuable talent.

6. Apple

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Headquarters: Cupertino, CA

Monetary value: $587B

Number of employees: 66,000

Policy highlight: Apple prioritizes employee health by offering a wellness center at its corporate headquarters, which includes doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors and dietitians. Don't work full-time or at corporate locations? No worries — even part-time and remote employees qualify for benefits.

7. Johnson & Johnson

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Headquarters: New Brunswick, NJ

Monetary value: $278B

Number of employees: 126,500

Policy highlight: Johnson & Johnson is a leader in understanding how employees' movement while working affects physical health. They've built an ergonomic workplace and implemented strategies to improve productivity as well as long-term health and wellness.

8. Walt Disney

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Headquarters: Burbank, CA

Monetary value: $170.2B

Number of employees: 180,000

Policy highlight: Employees receive free and discounted admission at many Walt Disney theme parks across the country, which can save workers' and their families thousands over the course of one's career with the company (not to mention provide some pretty cool vacations for theme park enthusiasts).

9. Prudential Financial

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Headquarters: Newark, NJ

Monetary value: $35.8B

Number of employees: 48,331

Policy highlight: Being a caregiver for a parent or relative is a tough job, but Prudential makes it easier by providing adult care in an employee or loved one's home. In addition, the company provides geriatric care services (in-home care and facility assessments), elder law services and adult care-giving seminars.

10. Audi

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Headquarters: Herndon, Virginia

Monetary value: $28.8B

Number of employees: 80,000

Policy highlight: The Audi Veterans to Technicians Program is designed to bring veterans back into the workforce. Participants in the program receive individualized support, advice and assistance from a team of dedicated program staff.

Source REWORK

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In today’s connected world, customers have more power than ever before. Social media is how we share & talk about our experiences. They influence our perceptions of brands & the choices we make just as much, if not more, than, traditional media. In the wake of the economic strains, companies are seeking to streamline operations. The best way to achieve this is to be customer centric. But what does this really mean? In reality most businesses actually fail to grasp the answer. For one, It’s not simplistically instruct-ing your employees to put on a smile and give a warm greeting. In fact, it’s vastly deeper than that and works across the three distinct yet essential following levels:

The Customer Perspective

In a recent survey conducted by Brandcell, “efficiency, quickness, and responsiveness” emerged as the most important elements of a great service (63%). As such, understanding the customer perspective and then bringing it inside the company is key to start. Some companies may proclaim to be doing customer satisfaction surveys. This can only give a partial view; ‘the What’, but lacks to answer ‘the Why’; why people or customers behave & feel this way. More so, people tend to say one thing & do another.

You may have lost customers who have traded down from you, but gained others who have upgraded to you. Do these new customers value same aspects of the brand experience as the previous customers? What mechanisms are in place for quick feedback, so you can find out? Just at the time when understand- ing the customer is most important, marketers tend to know the least.

To understand them companies need to dive into customers lives, observe customers in situ & ‘listen with an empathic eye’ to uncover insights that identify elements of dissatisfaction more than satisfaction, and to deeply discover what customers really want, need and aspire to.

Next is data collection. Here again businesses are missing the real value, with most not really knowing what to do with all the data they collect & store in their CRM system beyond sending out SMS or emails. Data needs to be correlat- ed & cross-examined with the consumer perspective from level one for building further knowledge of behavioral patterns. Once such information has been gathered & synthesized, the company is in a better position to devise new solutions and experience improvements that can enhance custom- ers’ lives and really engage them.

Identifying critical insights with data allows you to study your cost structure and determine which expenses can be reduced with minimal incidence on customer satisfaction and re-allocating resources on the actions & aspects that has substantial positive impact on customer’s experience with your brand. 

The Organizational challenge

The organizational challenge involved with being customer centric, necessitates alignment of policies, systems, staff training and back office with front end. A customer having to repeatedly give the same information across different touchpoints of one company will inevitably find his experience frustrating. Customers expect their interaction, regardless of whether by phone, internet or in person, to be seamless. Again, it’s about bringing the customer metaphorically inside the company and building everything around them, a process that is known as business design. One sobering way of looking at it is that with every business action that takes place, it can either add value to the customer or cost to the company. Additionally, if any company policy doesn’t impact the customer directly, does it need to exist?

Can we replace it with a step that adds value to customers & their experience with the product/service of the organization? 

Delivering delightful experiences

When the actions cited above are applied to bring about customer centricity, the result is that business plays a meaningful role in its customers’ lives. It also allows companies to reduce complexity and frustration, while unlocking innovation and opportunities, plus decreasing the cost of serving those customers. Today, customer reviews and social media mean you’re now only as good as your customer’s experience. Over 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. This is very significant as it validates the importance for brands to get their customers ‘service experience’ right as the traditional product/price proposition is no longer good enough.

So to improve net earnings and margins, the answers lies in how your customers (your source of wealth) are experiencing your organization’s delivery on its promise. 

Joe Ayoub - Brandcell CEO

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Discover your customers ‘Job to be done’ with empathy interviews

People buy product & services to fulfill a need or for a ‘job-to-be-done’.
These jobs can vary tremendously:
Small things - pass the time while queuing; to regular tasks - pack a fast healthful lunch for my son to take to school; to the Self-fulfilling - buying a new premium watch.

Understanding why customers chose product A & not B is deeply related with the job this product is ntended to achieve in a given circumstance at both functional & emotional levels.
To uncover the insights that drive people’s behavior, relying on big data alone would only describe patterns & empirical correlations that often miss the true inner motivations. 
When asked directly, people rarely know what they want, which makes traditional Q&A interviews unsuccessful. To overcome this barrier, empathy interviewing focuses on establishing a regular conversation, which encourages subjects to speak from the heart and talk about what’s really important to them and reveal why they behave a certain way.
Like a therapist, skilled empathy interviewing can draw out what the subject really thinks and feels about the human experience. The information we extract will show you where your customers are coming from and how they experience your brand.

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The empathy map - One of the many mapping tools used by Brandcell


Observe users in their natural environment

When we pair this technique with other approaches, we gain a deeper sense of who your customers are and how you can deliver smart solutions:
Seeing your customers in a natural setting is an authentic approach that exposes not only which products they use, but also their feelings and utility for those products.it also gives you instant snapshots of the interactions they have with your touch points uncovering the irritations or frustrations they may experience.

Understanding customers’ insights is key to develop innovative solutions, differentiating your business from the crowd and build a meaningful conversation with your audience leading to true brand loyalty that generate lasting revenues.
 

For additional information on how Brandcell's research methods can benefit your organisation or for any other details, please email us at info@brand-cell.com or call us on 01 335417.

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How can you, in a tough economy, make the right decision, fast, while minimizing risk?

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The SPRINT is a quick & proven process that brings together customers, employees, management and designers in a joint effort to improve business experience, strategy & tactics.  Developed at Google Ventures, it’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more—packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.

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Working together in a sprint, you can shortcut the endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of deciding on a course of action on a product or service to understand if an idea is any good, you’ll get clear feedback from a realistic process. The SPRINT gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to get some insights & reactions, before making any expensive commitments.

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Brandcell consulting will be moderating the sessions. The ideal team will be composed of decision makers, finance, marketing, customer service, product/service designer/manager and IT/logistic executives.
 

For additional information on how the SPRINT method can fit to your organisation's case, to book your session or for any other details, please email us at info@brand-cell.com or call us on 01 335417.

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Brandcell Consulting has conducted a survey to investigate what consumers believe are the qualities of great service. The online questionnaire revealed the way services make Lebanese consumers feel and what matters to them most about the quality of service delivered to them. 

These are the 4 best and worst performing sectors as perceived by Lebanese customers.

 

The Best Sectors in Customer Service:

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1.Food & Restaurant

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2. Hotel

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3. Leisure (Cinema, Gyms, etc...)

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4. Retail

 

The Worst Sectors in Customer Service:

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1. Public Sector

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2. Telecommunication

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3. Banking

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4. Air Travel

The full study has already been published on the website, and can be read in its entirety here
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Experience design: An in-depth guide to what this mix of branding, UX, service design and more really means

 

Leading studios and designers discuss what experience design is and how it can let you provide more for your clients.

Nailing down precisely what experience design is and how it relates to design as a whole isn’t simple.

“The terminology is still very new and its definition is in flux,” explains Deloitte Digital's experience designer Jani Modig, who considers the field “the bridge between business and design, combining organisational strategies and different design disciplines from UX to service design”.

David Eveleigh-Evans, chief creative officer at international experience design firm Method, has a similar take, calling it “an approach to design that enables you to think about the connection between business and its customers by defining the relationship they have”.

He stresses the importance of brand, the creation of relevant, engaging, differentiated experiences, and gearing design to what the customer wants: “You identify needs and deliver them in the context of what the business can create. It’s holistic, in the sense of combining insight, strategy, design and technology.”

So what is it?

If this all sounds very abstract - and experience design often is - it's useful to cite some concrete examples of this all-encompassing approach to it. One often-quoted of how broad experience design can be is of the bank whose new website's online services were designed to replace many branch services, and so what branches were for - and therefore their design and branding - had to change to reflect business services replacing tellers.

Another example that always comes up on conversations about experience design is Apple. Seen as being at the forefront of experience design, the company's brand and approach to customer experiences defines what products it develops and how they work through to the minuitest detail of even purely digital apps.

For Rob Varney, experience design director at user experience design agency Foolproof, this boils down to “a design practice focussed on creating positive human outcomes”, addressing and considering the needs, feelings and desires of who will use the product. As with other design processes, “you still conceptualise, iterate and go through a process of review and reflection with the client, but the difference with experience design is customers are embedded in the process”.

He adds this needn’t always be via co-creation and direct involvement, but can sometimes happen through experience designers putting themselves in the minds of potential customers.

Is experience design just UX?

There are arguments, especially when experience design pertains to digital and interactive projects, that this is really just repainted user experience design. Clearleft founder Andy Budd argues experience design has typically been about physical, tangible experiences, but in digital it makes little sense to ‘remove’ the (term or actual) user.

He wonders if agencies are feeling ‘devaluation’ in the term ‘user experience design’, and are wanting to differentiate through something new.

(On asking Budd about wider connotations, on what you should call the design process for working across all kinds of media and touchpoints - from websites and social media to apps designing how retail stores and products work - to create a fully integrated, seamless experience, he wryly suggests: “How about design?”)

So is this just UX, the new UX, or something else entirely? Rob says this to some extent depends on your understanding and definition of that field; Foolproof appears to consider UX more ‘mechanical’ than Budd, and thus experience design is “the added ingredient of brand and added complexity of how we want people to feel when using something and moving through the process”.

By way of example, Jani says UX might focus on a single channel (hotel room booking via an app) but experience design orchestrates all channels and touchpoints (from seeing a hotel ad online to the checkout at reception). 
 

David provides another example: “It’s about different design skills coming together to solve an experience problem, rather than just a poster problem or a mobile app problem. It enables you to understand how the mobile app is related to the campaign and the business offering, the products and services, the touchpoints of the customer service, my attitude and the meaning that gets created by the brand.

"All those connections are relevant when you’re doing an instance of or degrees of the whole experience.” It’s about “seamless and consistent experiences during the entire customer journey,” adds Jani.

Customer satisfaction

A key reason, then, for taking an experience design approach is the increased interconnectedness of everything. “Customers don’t see differences between channels — mediums of interaction — and so jump from one to the other and expect the same seamless experience everywhere,” says Jani. “Experience design allows organisations to think where, when and how an organisation interacts with its customers.”

This can happen in the most mundane of places. Dan Harris, service design director at service design consultancy Fjord, says because people increasingly use social networks and web-connected services, their expectations of things like banks are now radically different, and so such institutions must change how they work internally and through interfaces (including websites and apps) to meet that challenge — “a huge area of design opportunity, because we can go out, understand what people value and see where their expectations truly lie, and help clients provide that experience and that service”.

David says this extends to countless products and services that have a disconnect with their brands: “They have a certain market image, but your expectation isn’t met when using the product. They have less quality and are poorly executed. Even Apple struggles with its huge ecosystem”.

For Method, a key experience design benefit for a business is to ‘fix’ this, and have everything driven from brand intention: “The promise of a brand and delivering that as a pure, clean way of creating the experience, through engagement and relationship to the customers — at every point of interaction.”

Know-all

Given the nature of experience design, it’s no surprise experts recommend you should be well-rounded to practice it. Jani echoes Eric Schmidt in calling experience designers “learning animals”, because “there’s a broad spectrum of skills to excel in”, and Rob talks about cross-training: “Our team has people with all kinds of skills, but the power comes when you bring them together. Everyone needs an understanding of what everyone else does, to collaborate effectively.”

At Fjord, Dan notes there’s an especially tight interplay between interaction design and visual design, to “create a system that helps people understand something, elegantly complete what they want to do, and have an experience they want to come back to and feast upon”.

He continues that there’s also a major “need to understand people, motivations and irrationalities,” which he reckons “takes a bit of a psychologist’s inquisitiveness.” Rob adds this involves “plugging into the thoughts and desires of the customer, observing their behaviour and the context within which they’re behaving, and thinking about how what you’re designing works with that and any commercial objectives”. You take all that and build solutions — he says you cannot be precious.

Dan agrees: “Think about craft. It’s about chipping away at things, trying things out, and being willing to throw it away and start again. Experience design is about having that sort of mindset.”

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Embracing change

But given the ‘holistic’ nature of experience design, can it be practiced on a brand by a creative agency, or must it be part of a bigger company change? And if you only have access to part of the pie, is it still valid to utilise experience design methodology?

From an agency standpoint, Jani says it’s easier for those already heavily invested in digital, who can “combine data, customer research insights, branding and client strategy with innovative solutions”. For individual freelancers, who might be a smallish cog in a much larger project, David argues you can still apply experience design principles: “You don’t have to have an end-to-end experience to apply this thinking. If you’re a web designer, your job is to translate the brand strategy into ways of working, types of attitudes, expressions and behaviours.”

By way of example, convenience would for a budget supermarket be an absolute principle that drives everything regarding user flow. The experience would be about speed and frictionless payment, and even when “faced with the limitations of a platform you cannot change,” you can “take these fundamental principles of experience design, to give you direction”.
 

Buy-in from clients can also be key. Dan says Fjord asks clients whether they can “deliver what customers expect without rewiring their operation around such delivery”, and if they can “deliver that operation without a culture of user-centred thinking”.

Transforming a company into an experience design company is, he says, “part and parcel of becoming a digital-first company,” something many aren’t built around. “So it goes deep, and you must think about clients having the capabilities from an operational point of view to deliver the experiences users now expect. And while you can design experiences for brands as short-term campaigns, they won’t necessarily be transformative and effective.”

Experience the future

Thinking ahead, everyone agrees this line of thinking will underpin most successful design projects, regardless of where they’re targeted. “Experience design might be nascent, but for me as a designer, it’s natural to bridge all aspects of design and understand why they’re connected,” says David. “With digital, you now have that two-way thinking of having to transform for the customer and give them what they want, when they want it.“

Agencies and individuals might, as noted earlier, differ in approach, what they call experience design, and precisely where they think it sits within the web of ‘design’, but Rob says that doesn’t matter: “We can intellectualise about the differences between experience design, user experience design and so on, but our clients come to us because they want to make the thing that they’re creating better for them and their customers. What’s important is what you do leads to a better experience.”

Source Digital Art Online

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IN 1894, W.K. Kellogg made a discovery that would forever change what we eat in the morning. Seeking a more digestible breakfast alternative to baked bread for his brother’s hospital patients, the bespectacled former broom salesman accidentally left a pot of boiled wheat out overnight. The wheat became softened and when he rolled it out and baked it, each grain became a crispy flake.

Kellogg tried the technique on corn. Over the course of several years, he perfected the tasty flakes by experimenting with different formulas and testing them with his brother’s patients. He had invented — or designed — corn flakes.

But Kellogg didn’t stop there. He believed that the entire population — not just hospital patients with special diet restrictions — would enjoy the new food, and he carefully positioned and marketed it. He created a recognizable brand and set about continually improving packaging that kept the product fresh. The product went on to sell 175,000 cases in its first year, laying the foundation for the $22.5 billion company that still bears Kellogg’s name.

Kellogg’s genius came not just in his flair for food product invention, but also in his customer-centric approach, iterative prototyping process and careful consideration of the entire product experience — from the cereal itself to its packaging, marketing and distribution. Kellogg was more than a brilliant food scientist and marketer. He was also a brilliant designer.

One misconception still surprising to hear around Silicon Valley is that design is about making a product pretty — that it’s about designing the cereal box. Of course, colors, typography, layout and graphics — the classic elements of visual design — play an important role in the overall impact a digital product experience has on users. But pixel-perfect mockups and Dribble-friendly UI elements are just one component of a well-designed product.

IDEO is famous for popularizing Design Thinking – a repeatable, human-centered method for creative problem solving and innovation. Much like Kellogg did in re-inventing breakfast, this holistic approach to design takes inspiration from real people, works within market and technological constraints, and considers every product touch-point as an opportunity to surprise, delight and deliver benefits to users.

When done well, a human-centered approach fuels the creation of products that resonate more deeply with an audience — ultimately driving engagement and growth. As proof, one needs to look no further than the recent success of design-driven companies like Warby Parker, Fab, AirBnB and Pinterest. We’ve also recently seen digital stalwarts like Google, eBay and LinkedIn invest in the design of more cohesive and sophisticated user experiences.

Here are some of the ways of experimenting with human-centered design methods that product teams can practice every day to stay innovative.

Ask the right questions

If you’re struggling to generate ideas or stuck in a product rut, you’re probably asking the wrong questions. For example, at IDEO, a traditional telco shaped its strategy by asking questions like, “How can we raise our customer’s average monthly bill by 10 percent?” and, “How can we minimize our customer service call times?” Needless to say, business was stagnant at best.

When  the problem was re-framed in human-centered terms by asking questions like, “How can we help busy families to stay connected?” and “How can we reward our most loyal customers?” suddenly a formerly reticent client team was bursting with ideas and infused with a newfound sense of optimism.

Get out From Behind Your Desk

To stay innovative you need to stay inspired. Despite the plethora of information available behind the comfortable confines of your computer screen, you risk mental stagnation when you fall into predictable routines. Get out into the world and into the contexts that people are using your product – you’ll be surprised how quickly unexpected opportunities are revealed.

Make User Feedback Routine

When you’re working at breakneck speeds with tight deadlines, taking time out to gather feedback from users can feel like a luxury that’s easy to put off. But there’s no substitute for the nuance and depth of insight that can come from an in-person conversation. And with a couple of well-crafted Craigslist ads, a couple hundred dollars to pay your participants and an afternoon, you can quickly check key assumptions, uncover opportunities for improvement and gather inspiration for new ideas.

It doesn’t have to be formal or lengthy. In fact, rough prototypes often spark richer conversations than fully realized designs because participants are less likely to be concerned about offending the people in the room. Interactive prototypes allow for less directed feedback. Ask participants to verbalize their thought process as they use it. Try not to correct the participant or defend your prototype and answer their questions with questions. “What does this button do?” “Well, what would you like it to do?”

You can also use competitors’ products as a way to quickly understand what people value. For example, when working at IDEO on a project to design a low-cost video camera, the team had participants place a half dozen different existing cameras along various spectrums — most to least fun, most to least useful, most to least expensive. As they went through the exercise, they were made to articulate their rationale, providing actionable insights into how features and functionality could be prioritized.

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Think of Design as a Team Sport

George Kembel, an advisor at Stanford’s d.school, teaches the value of what he called an extroverted design process. By forcing yourself to articulate your ideas to someone else in words or sketches, you are inadvertently advancing your thinking. Meanwhile, your collaborators inevitably bring different frames of reference — and fresh thinking — to the problem, which will ultimately elevate the work. To quote the late Stanford design professor Matt Kahn, “You have to feed forward if you want feedback.”

To encourage this behavior, it’s important to cultivate a shared ownership of ideas. When a new idea arises, it’s the team’s idea, not an individual’s. The inverse scenario can lead to idea hoarding, which is like kryptonite to innovation. Often simple shifts in language can go a long way here — use inclusive language like “we” and “our” rather then “my” and “mine.” Instead of saying, “my idea,” try, “our idea” or “the team’s idea.” It’s not about claiming credit; no good idea comes from just one person. It’s about the quality of the idea and success of the team.
 

Build Minimum Viable Prototypes

The concept of the minimum viable product (MVP) has become near doctrine in the startup world, thanks in part to Eric Reis and his book The Lean Startup. Along with an iterative, agile development process, this build-to-learn philosophy meshes seamlessly with a design-driven, human-centered approach.

Before you even launch your MVP, think about what prototypes you can create cheaply to address your biggest product assumptions. Then test, iterate, test again and repeat. Keynote,for example, is great for rapid prototyping. You can quickly assemble alternative flows, easily create a range of screen designs and even introduce motion in to your prototype. There are some great digital tools available to gather quick feedback like usertesting.com, Verify, Crazy Egg and Get Satisfaction.

Like W.K. Kellogg did more than a century ago, involving your users early, prototyping to learn and applying a design-driven approach to every touch point along your product journey — not just your cereal box — can lead to breakthrough product experiences. Give it a try and you might just come up with some tasty results.

Source Wired

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Ever since the publication, nearly two decades ago, of Peter Senge’s monumental bestseller The Fifth Discipline, we’ve been in the age of the “learning organization.” Executives have come to understand that for their companies to stay ahead of the competition, their people, at every level, have to learn more (and more quickly) than the competition: new skills, new takes on emerging technologies, new ways to do old things, from manufacturing to marketing to R&D. Gary Hamel, the influential business strategist, likes to say that one of the most urgent questions facing leaders (and thus their companies) is, “Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?”

It’s hard to argue with this love of learning. But one thing I’ve learned over the last few years, as I’ve traveled the world in search of organizations unleashing big change in difficult circumstances, is that the most determined innovators — the organizations with the most original ideas about how to compete and win — aren’t just committed to learning. They are just as committed to teaching. They understand that the only sustainable form of market leadership is thought leadership. And if, as Aristotle famously said, “teaching is the highest form of understanding,” then they also understand that the most powerful way to demonstrate your position as a thought leader is to teach other organizations what you know — whether they are customers, suppliers, or even direct competitors.
Think of it as the rise of the teaching organization. One of the most compelling examples of this phenomenon is a health-care provider in Seattle called Virginia Mason, a 90-year-old hospital system with 400 doctors and nearly 5,000 employees. Dr. Gary Kaplan, the organization’s CEO, is something of a legend in healthcare circles for the turnaround he’s led since taking charge in February 2000. At the time, Virginia Mason was struggling with deteriorating finances, inefficient processes, and uneven quality. Kaplan and his colleagues became committed students of the Toyota Production System, the blend of management techniques that fueled the rise of the most powerful car company in the world. The CEO led frequent pilgrimages to Japan, adopted the strategies, practices, and management language of its Japanese mentor, and developed a whole new way of running a hospital that it calls the Virginia Mason Production System — a system that has delivered staggering improvements.

In other words, Virginia Mason became the ultimate learning organization. Now it aspires to become the ultimate teaching organization. A year ago, Kaplan created the Virginia Mason Institute and opened the doors of his hospital to the outside word. The Institute leads tours of the facilities and explains how they work, teaches classes in various management techniques, and otherwise shares what Virginia Mason knows with individual executives and entire healthcare systems. The student has become the teacher.

Why bother? “First and foremost,” Kaplan told me, “this is about our vision to be the quality leader in our field and to help transform the field as a whole. Part of our mission as a company is to help improve our industry. But the more we educate, the faster we move as well. This will spur us on, push us to keep getting better, and people will chase our taillights. Our credibility as a company is dependent on our ability to deliver results. By teaching others what we’ve learned, it forces us to keep learning.”

You don’t have to be a huge organization with a full-fledged institute to teach other companies what you know. The founders of 37signals, a fast-growing software company about which I’ve written in the past, have developed a truly original set of ideas about strategy, marketing, and the organization of work — ideas that have fueled their tremendous success. But they don’t keep those ideas to themselves. Through a series of conferences (called Seed), a fabulously instructive blog (called Signal vs. Noise), and even a free e-book on the Web (called “Getting Real“), Jason Fried and his colleagues share their ideas with anyone who wants to learn from them.

Their approach, they like to say, is not to out-market the competition, but to out-teach the competition. Why? Because teaching creates a different kind of presence in the marketplace. It creates a higher sense of loyalty among those who learn from you. And it helps the company create not just customers for its products but an audience for its ideas — in the same way that famous chefs are willing to share their recipes so as to build a following for their overall approach to cooking.

So by all means, stay focused as leaders on what your companies need to learn. But don’t miss the opportunity to share what you already know. The most idea-driven organizations have a chance to become the best teaching organizations — and we never forget our best teachers. 

Source Harvard Business Review









 
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