Can We Design For Meaningful Experiences And Customer Delight?

Originally published in the Playbook of the American Management Associations (July 2016)

What is your organization’s strategic goal? Should your organization generate solutions, provide meaningful experiences, or even “customer delight”? Why?

Imagine you check into an exclusive hotel at a breathtaking beach resort. You spot an attractive person whom you’d like to meet during your stay. When you open the door to your room, you see it has a devastatingly beautiful and vast ocean view. You are relaxed, and deeply happy. After a pleasant dinner, you turn in early, as you plan to watch the sun rise and do some exploring. Then it starts. You hadn’t realized it at first, but there are mosquitoes in the room. You hate mosquitoes, having been traumatized by them in the past. So you can’t sleep. Every time you think you’ve caught them all, more appear.

Overbooked, the hotel can’t help by moving you to another room. With no other choice, you give up and try to sleep. Exhausted, you finally fall asleep at 3 a.m., and wake up too late to go through with your original plans. Your arms and legs are covered in bites. To cleanse your mind, you open the terrace doors to see the ocean. You feel calm once more. You watch as a cab approaches the hotel entrance, and the person you’d wanted to meet gets in, luggage in hand. You realize you’ve lost the opportunity to get to know the person. The hotel staff can’t give you a name, and you didn’t take a photo to post on social media. “Worst vacation ever,” you say to yourself. “A terrible experience.”

The story illustrates the challenge we face in designing meaning and perception. Could we reduce the possibility of mosquitoes? For sure. Can we design for better matchmaking? Possibly. Can we design a certain meaningful experience, or even delight? Most likely not.

Meaning is about perception, the context, and the prior individual story — it is complex and unpredictable. We might explore a more holistic, yet incomplete, perspective, imagine the possible actions the guest could take, collaborate and generate a set of new ideas. Yet still we would prioritize.

There is no certainty in design; no “equation of the word.” Too many unknown variables exist, and besides, it would make living in the present much more difficult — and boring.

Meaning results from the emotional and cognitive moment in a specific setting and time. Value perception is illustrated in the story as both complex and singular — one small detail can change everything. The moment of consumption fades fast, so it’s our emotional and cognitive load — the total amount of mental effort and emotional balance necessary — which defines our patience with and tolerance for not-so-perfect experiences.

So the question isn’t if we can design meaningful experiences or even customer delight, but if we can design for it (with many options).

As we cannot offer certainty, we offer alternatives that might create surprises, reward interactions, and engage different behaviors. This also means that we design not just the interaction, but also an ecosystem that in the perfect sense incorporates relationship, product/service/brand, and experiences — and if we are lucky, we generate meaning.

An introduction to...Future Value Generation

Now available for pre-order:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E25ZXFK/   Innovation, foresight and strategy have to be about sense-making. No longer should they stand alone, but generate benefits through integration. Finding synergies is the key to creating an agile organization that balances the present with the future, and external changes with the internal value offering.  When we innovate, we transform, tackle problems of the past, find solutions for today’s challenges, and design new opportunities.

Now available for pre-order: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E25ZXFK/

Innovation, foresight and strategy have to be about sense-making. No longer should they stand alone, but generate benefits through integration. Finding synergies is the key to creating an agile organization that balances the present with the future, and external changes with the internal value offering.

When we innovate, we transform, tackle problems of the past, find solutions for today’s challenges, and design new opportunities.

Yet any solution whatsoever will be implemented in the future, in a reality different from ours. That is why we need to understand what this new future will look like, what will be important to people, what technologies are possible, and if the solution we design in the present will still generate value when implemented. We need to use foresight and transform the understanding of the ongoing shifts into present insights. Integrating insights and foresight: innovation and foresight.

I can assure that your Strategic Capabilities will be different, as well. Some we can adjust, others we need to create. Knowing what will change and how to adapt your business abilities means to connect the present with the future: strategy and foresight.

Finally, with constant change, we must react swiftly, be prepared, and have access to alternatives—options that allow us to manage crises in the present, explore new opportunities, and implement the changes necessary in our Strategic Capabilities to generate future value. We need an integration of strategy, innovation and foresight.

This integration of innovation, foresight and strategy generates synergies and defines the Building Blocks and the overall logic of the Future Value Framework. This integration brings with it certain benefits:

New business logics

Human-centered organization

Higher level of preparedness for external surprises

Strategic Capabilities aligned with future goals

Organizational flexibility and faster decision making

Crisis management with fewer negative future implications

Continuous process of innovation

 

A brief summary of the 7 Building Blocks

Present Value Proposition: For whom and when do we generate value? What value flows? The Present Value Proposition describes which value is exchanged. The flow must be sustainable for all parts involved. It is where the Value Generator (organization) and the Value Perceiver (people) meet. This connection defined the “why” of existence and how the organization adds extra value for clients.

Portfolio of Changes: What are the relevant Attractors and Drivers? Do we prioritize opportunities or risks? The Portfolio is a choice of Driving Forces (faster changes) and Attractors (slower accumulating changes) relevant to the organizational context. It establishes a strategic focus for practical implementation. Integrated with the other Building Blocks, it increases awareness of shifts and facilitates agile decision making. The Portfolio improves strategic alignment between the present and the future.

Futures Context: What drives future societies? What do people value? The Futures Context describes techno-human future logic. “People of the Future” play a central part in this setting. Their preferences define how the organization can offer and be relevant in the new context. The interplay of the individual, society and technology allows the identification of new opportunities and risks.

Vision: What is the reason we will exist? What is our purpose? Vision is an energetic commitment, balanced with what is possible for the organization. It integrates the desires, purpose, the present/future Strategic Capability and sense-making to internal and external stakeholders. The vision mobilizes and sets a workable strategic north.

Future Value Proposition: Why will people choose us in the future?What value will we add? The Future Value Proposition describes what value the organization adds to people, and the possible exchange of value. We identify new opportunities, and determine what business logics and Strategic Capabilities are necessary to generate future value.

Value Polices: What new Strategic Capabilities do we need to generate future value? What is our strategy of change? Value Policies lay a course of action and define an approach for agile decision making. Policies define the change necessary to create new value. They connect the future with the present, and external changes with the internal organizational context. Each Value Policy allows a controlled implementation of short-term tactics aligned to the set strategic north, adjusting the Strategic Capabilities.

Options Portfolio: What options do we have/need to implement the change? How can we generate new options? The Options Portfolio is a combination of alternatives aligned to the organizational boundaries. Pre-validated against the Value Policies, it offers a buffer of choices to be accessed when needed. The Portfolio facilitates decision making when a fast response is necessary, and increases alignment with the Vision and Future Value Proposition. It integrates a process of innovation aligned with strategy.

 

Thank you for reading my post.  Are you interested in generating new future VALUE? If yes, please check out my book: Future Value Generation.

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