Six dimensions of experience design
Diagram: Nathan Shedroff | via Pantopicon
Diagram: Nathan Shedroff | via Pantopicon
Over at A Thousand Tomorrows, Antwerp-based futurist Nik Baerten has published the transcript of a recent interview with experience designer Nathan Shedroff, about the intersection of futures and experience design. Below, some [abridged] highlights...
NB: We have learnt that both as a means to inspire future thinking and to communicate and discuss alternative futures, experiences add significant value to the process of participatory futures exploration and envisioning. [...] How do you look at using experiences as tools, as a means to an end (e.g. gaining insight, anticipating & preparing for change)?
NS: Everything we perceive is an experience so, fundamentally, it’s impossible not to create an experience. The difference between what you're suggesting and much of futures work is done is simply about considering more of the dimensions of experience in the delivery. For example, reading a white paper or watching a video are still experiences. They're just not as immersive as immersing audiences in scenes or environments in realtime. All have their place, however.
Many people in the business world have trouble truly visualizing opportunities or even any sense of an alternate future. To help transform their perspectives, it's important to immerse them in an appropriate way -- sometimes widely and sometimes deeply. Usually, the more that the experience models how people live and work in their present lives, the easier it is for them to accept changes that transform their perspectives. This is why immersive experiences like environments and even workshops can be so much more powerful than reading a report.
NB: The fields of foresight, visioning, scenario planning etc. are not unknown to you. You have dealt with future scenarios a few times as well. Could you tell us something about your own experiences?
NS: Scenario Planning is an incredible tool. [...] However, it can be tricky in business because, often, executives "get" the new vision but they're still left with no way to implement it and alternate scenarios are often purposefully provocative extremes. Taking these visions and weaving them back into present strategy is often too confusing or difficult for managers and leaders to do.
Artifacts from the future that relate directly to an organization's business (whether part of the original future studies or completed in a second phase) can help support courage and commitment to innovation since the tangible attributes of prototypes helps leaders "see" examples of offerings and not merely imagine details between the organization’s current and potential strategies. It's extra work but usually well worth it.
NB: In my personal humble opinion design and futures studies are intimately linked. Both basically deal with the yet-non-existent, both look for creative solutions to challenges, both are about changes of perspective, both are about thinking in terms of alternatives.
NS: You're absolutely right. Whether the design process is being applied to future studies or current offerings doesn't really matter. It's still, mostly, the same process. That's a powerful situation because it means that the same development teams that produce an organization's solutions can usually turn to future studies with little change to their process (thought they could always use a chance to change their own expectations to the new context) and vice versa. The same teams that work on future artifacts can turn their same skills to integrating what they've learned to real products and services. Of course, they need to be given permission to actually do this, something that takes a special kind of management.
NB: One could say that an experience is always co-designed, in the sense that it emerges from the interplay between creation and beholder. [...] Co-creation, co-design, participatory design … how do you connect those to the design of experiences?
NS: There is no one, right way to design or develop anything. To a large degree, it needs to reflect the culture -- especially the innovation culture -- of a company. [...] Future scenarios are often used as a way of confronting an organization's leadership, purposely jarring their thinking. That works for some organizations and not for others.
You're absolutely correct that design and development is a co-creative process. It's best when there are multi-disciplinary teams that represent al of the key areas of development, production, distribution, messaging, and service. These teams can be difficult to manage because there may be so many people and many may not be comfortable suspending their disbelief in order to explore new options.
NB: Do you see a certain evolution in the types of experiences we expose ourselves to and why? Where do you see it going?
NS: We definitely hunger of meaning in our lives. That's the most important aspect of any experience. [...] I don’t think we're accelerating the pace or strength of experiences in any way, other than to recognize them and build them more deeply and more thoughtfully. In terms of storytelling, entertainment, and information, we are getting back to more interactive forms of experience than we have in the recent past simply because interactive media have become so prevalent in our lives.
In terms of business, however, we still have a long way to go toward making truly compelling experiences part of the way we learn within organizations, collaborate, share understanding, and build strategies.
NB: [H]ow do you look at design aimed at transforming society instead of companies (and their product/services)? Where do you see similarities and differences?
NS: A product, service, event, or environment can all be transforming -– or not at all. There's nothing exclusive within the categories.
Everything an organization does has a social impact, whether intended or not. Creating people social impacts, as well as better environmental ones, is simply a matter of addressing and valuing these issues at the strategic level of the organization as well as the tactical level of product and service development and implementation.
A strange conversion is taking place in the business and NGO worlds. Not only are business people learning that they can address social and environmental issues through their work -- profitably -- but, also, leaders of NGOs are waking-up to the fact that just because they have a social mission to their organization doesn't mean they can't learn to be a more successfully managed group using leadership and management techniques from the corporate world.
Cheers to Nik and Nathan for sharing their ideas! [Link]
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