Creating a truly Transformative Experience
If you asked the majority of people to describe themselves, the words ‘creative’ and ‘problem-solver’ would probably feature in some shape or form. Yes, this is because they have become major buzz words, but it’s for a good reason. By nature, as a species we’re innovators, we’re not content with standing still because we want to make the world a better place, regardless of what that means to us individually. But how many of our ideas become reality, let alone create transformative change? A miniscule proportion right? So what makes those improbable few so special? Surely there are some common ingredients that we can latch on to?
The narrative is generally all the same. “Do your research”, “Create a prototype”, “Know your market”. But to that Henry Ford had a great response: “If I had asked customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse”. So, is he wrong?
Now I’m not saying we discount all of those things in their entirety because I still think they have their place, and an important place at that. But clearly they’re not the be all and end all.
So let’s play devil’s advocate for a second and think about the opposing school of thought that often gets thrown about. If you want to create truly transformative change, you need to create something people didn’t know they wanted. Great, so that narrows it down!! But of course that stands true, people in the 20th century weren’t yearning for a smart device that housed all of their key personal services in one device, a smart phone, yet now we can’t imagine our lives without them.
So what do these two perspectives tell us?
It tells us the quality of the idea really matters, a prototype of a rubbish idea is still a rubbish idea. And it also tells us our approach really matters - at the heart of every truly transformative idea is an emphasis on the experience. Going back to Henry Ford, he wanted to create a universal car that could be “used for any purpose, was simple to operate, affordable and durable” - and now the majority of us in the developed world own a car, know how to drive a car and use it for pretty much every transportation function.
Note here how Ford doesn’t reference any features and functionality of the car in his mission, it’s all about the experience. Unless we’re really into our cars, we don’t care about the number of gears or the amount of travel on the suspension, we only care that it satisfies our needs and wants - that it’s a great experience.
So how do we go about weaving this philosophy into our ideas?
Ultimately, the experience of the user needs to be front and centre all the way from ideation, through to design, and finally through to execution. It has to be the well that we keep going back to whenever any decisions are made, big or small - how does it impact the user experience? If you think about it, that’s what all successful businesses focus on when they market their products. Going back to our car example, I recently went to the cinema where one of the pre-viewing adverts was an Audi advert. During this advert, all they spoke about was experience using phrases like “Ideas are beautiful”, “they grow from our imagination” “to make it more beautiful, meaningful”, I could go on. The point is, they’re not advertising the car in any way, if you didn't have the supporting images of the car to the script you would have had no idea what they were talking about. That's because, like Ford, they’re not advertising features and functionality, they're advertising a human experience. But why such a heavy emphasis on experience?
It’s backed up by science. Research shows that once our basic human needs have been met, humans focus on emotional fulfilment next. In other words, as long as our basic survival needs are met, we focus on how every experience makes us feel, or what is known as emotional resonance. So the most successful companies aren’t targeting our need for basic survival, they are targeting our wants. And for that, they need to focus on the emotional resonance, how using the product makes us feel.
But, again, we’re at a familiar point. What has this got to do with digital transformation?
The simple answer is - everything. If you want to create truly transformative change in your business using technology, the experience must be front and centre throughout. It must be the driver behind the initial idea, the focus during the design and the reference point during execution. But, how? Where do you begin?
What you need to do is create an experience blueprint. What do I mean by this? It is effectively an emotive map of the user journey. And there are some critical pieces of information associated with this. It must be based on observations and not assumptions. Assumptions are the kryptonite of transformation. They rapidly compound on top of each other and before you know it your transformation becomes a damp squib you can barely call change.
If you want to make decisions based on observations rather than assumptions you have to do our research. This is where that prototyping school of thought comes in. You want to be able to test whether the feelings you’re trying to evoke in people are actually being realised. Are they as effective as you expected? Under what circumstances are they the most effective? Plotting this out creates an incredibly detailed experience blueprint that allows you to stay true to the experience you were looking to design. And, if you get it right, allows you to seamlessly connect the experience directly to the business opportunity you are looking to take advantage of with your transformation.
From my experience, like an emphasis on experience marks out the top brands from the mediocre ones, it also marks out those that are able to create truly transformative digital transformations. So for all your digital transformation initiatives that are currently in-flight, and for all of those that you are considering next, have a think. How much of an influence has the user experience had on the idea, the design and the execution? Should it play a more important role?