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  • Danny

Designing Experiences: My secret sauce

When it comes to designing experiences the way in which I design them tend to have a lot of similarities from one project to the next, they all tend to follow a consistent flow I have developed over time.

How I would design the experience of people and culture would follow a very similar pattern to how I would design the next L&D function or the customer experience, it is a term I call “design as thinking” it’s something very similar to a phrase I picked up from Micro in our various chats.

The reason I went with design as thinking is to highlight the big whopping thing that tends to be overlooked and that is thinking about design in order to fix complex problems…

It is vital not to get this mixed up with design thinking as it is very different to me, here’s why...

When all you have is a hammer.

Design is a mindset, it can be organic but also be rigorous, it is a collection of ideas, tools, it is also awareness of not one size fits all.

As with all good design flows its very iterative, so when I see people pinning their hat to just one thing i.e. design thinking, it worries me mainly because the nail that sticks out gets hit.

You will see that what is new will become old and what is great will become bad, when we start sticking our name to just one way of designing then we tend to start wearing blinkers at every problem and adding our own bias. As designers, problem solvers or whatever you want to call yourself this is the last thing you want to do.

Over time I have applied this Design “as” Thinking flow and mindset to various problems and honestly, I would say it’s been one of my best pieces of work.

Not because it’s radical or because it’s something I’ve tried and tested over a good few years, nope, the reason it’s my best work is that it has allowed me to look at challenges in a whole new way.

It is adaptable to the challenge and not stuck to a model, it is a remix of ideas from other areas, it is a guide, a north star if you like, it’s not a purest type thing...

My flow consists of three phases, which I will go into detail over the coming weeks and months, where I will highlight the individual touchpoints in each phase. For now, let me give you an overview of the flow without the over complex detail, this is what I call my secret sauce

Phase 1 - The Understanding

The understanding section of the flow is critical, mainly because if we don’t truly care about the actor's problem at the start, they are not going to care about the solution at the end. Our goal here is to observe, look, listen and understand the actor's problems, pain points, and frustrations. Taking this true human-first approach to the problem will not only allow you a clearer and better understanding via the actor's point of view but the data collected here will make your solution design a lot more friction-free later down the line, let's be honest who doesn't want that!

If we don’t truly care about the actor's problem at the start, they are not going to care about the solution at the end.

Phase 2 - The Experience

Hopefully, if you have been reading my previous posts you understand my take on experience design, that everything is an experience and actually applying experience design to things such as people and culture is vital for any head of. I would even go as far to say if they don’t understand XD are they right for the role… there I said it.

(if you don’t get this I would recommend you check out my previous articles)

I have broken down in the past how I design and see experiences and the various levels within that i.e. Macro, Micro, Nano.

This phase of my flow needs to happen after the understanding because even once we understand the problem and have the data and insight to back it up, it’s still important to acknowledge the experience what is in place already, or maybe the lack of one… This actors point of view allows us to avoid the trip line of “we know best” remember it’s about them not you.

As a reminder my definition of XD is:

“Experience design - is the interactions between the actor (person) and the touch points of their journey, this involves designing the experience in the Macro , Micro , and Nano and designing from the actors point of view" This takes into account their senses, space, and movement to create an emotive response.

Phase 3 - Consumer Grade Tech*

Before I even get into this I want you all to address the star(*), this is just as important as any of the text in this article, what this star represents is “if needed” mainly because consumer-grade tech isn’t needed in every solution. While it’s awesome to imbed the consumer grade tech into your flow, forcing it into somewhere that it doesn’t fit can be destructive to the whole flow…

The CGT phase added in various elements from the previous to phases with an understanding of fish where the fish live this understanding of the habits, behaviours and expectations of the actor and also understanding the experience they have within that tech is vital when comparing the work life tech vs our personal life tech

Fish where the fish live

Putting it all together

While this has been a work in progress for me for a long time now I have to admit I am nervous to share it with the world. It is critical that the points highlight that although this flow is something I have tried, tested and refined over time as I mentioned earlier this is not the reason it is my best piece of work, therefore, the iterations will not stop and they shouldn’t. I can already see some potential iterations to it but I want this flow to be anti-fragile.

I want it to grow from shock and not be just robust. It’s a flow that can overlay your design of the people and culture experience within the business, it can be the flow for designing the next great customer experience… it can be whatever it needs to be to given the right shock!

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