experience design: what are we designing?

Yesterday, I had Lee Green, IBM’s Worldwide design chief, as a guest speaker for my class. As always, it was filled with lots of interesting stories from times he was with IBM, including the small division that he was asked to join called “desktop” and the day when the Big Blue went cultural change with a new dress code. He shared many examples where IBM leverages its design competency to bring solutions to its clients and how that has changed the way IBM internally organize for its own operation.

An important part of his message was that experience can and should be designed. It is not something that happens as a afterthought. Rather, it is something that is carefully designed and crafted with the same level of rigor and intensity. One important factor that differentiates great organizations from mediocre ones is the intentionality of experience design. There are two aspects that need to be explicitly articulated.

One is the methods by which experience is articulated. Tools like customer journey map with explicit articulations of various customer touch-points, spatio-temporal context, periphery actors and different dimensions of experiences can be extremely powerful. Such tools immediately allows to see the innovation space that one can operate and how they might they can expand their interactions with their customers.

But at the same time, what is necessary is the ways in which the organizations can mobilize and coalesce necessary resources in order to deliver such experiences. The challenge here is that it is often highly political exercise. Lee talked about how IBM deals with this challenge internally. How do you bring multiple constituents together to “mashup” their services and resources? The principle here is that organizations do not drive what they give to the world. Instead, what they give to the world defines who they are. It is this reflective process of “becoming” that is at heart of organizational challenge in experience-based innovation. Lee’s talk was excellent as it illuminates some of these issues in IBM’s context as they rapidly become one of the world’s largest service company.

Professor | Writer | Teacher Digital Innovation, Design, Organizational Genetics Case Western Reserve University

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