Experience design strategy as a source for opportunities mapping

We hear a lot around about the importance of change and innovation to organizations, and how, in this industry, who is not running forward is being left behind. I particularly don’t like to see innovation as a race, because it depends on so much more than just time and, as we say in Brazil, “the hurried person eats raw food”. For me, innovation is about collaboration, observation, empathy (this overused word) and mainly strategy. Far away from a race, who gets there first is not necessarily the winner because they may have run in the wrong direction. And the best way to keep yourself in this “competition” is by focusing on delivering real value to humans, putting people in the center.

Innovation may be sometimes chaotic and unpredictable, but we have acquired some knowledge on how to put our boats afloat with less risks. At one side, innovation requires understanding users and their needs and mapping how to deliver impactful solutions to remedy them. At the other, innovation requires investment of time, money and effort. Recently, this paradigm was beautifully translated by the NNGroup in the figure below.

The division is very similar to the Ways to Grow Framework by IDEO [1] based on Tim Brown’s book “Change By Design” [2] or even the Opportunity Horizons seen in Ulrich & Eppinger [3], but it gives a new twist. Instead of looking only at the product being envisioned and potential market, it puts user experience in the center and acknowledges an important factor: without investment, there is no possibility of profound change. A comparison of the three approaches is presented at the end of this post :)

Experience design, though something relatively new and still strange to many organizations, is able to promote incredible positive impacts and ROI, but it requires investment. Even the best UX or Service Design team will not be able to promote real change without proper time and money. Service Design is not witchcraft. To deliver value and change, we need a maturing process, one only achievable with real investment, which provides us with resources to do proper research, mapping, deliberation, ideation, testing, and to manage the implementation.

On the other extreme, companies usually want to change and are willing to invest a lot, but even so the efforts provide no actual results. When change is not driven by human experience and user-driven value delivery, it is very easy to aim for the wrong spot. That is one of the strengths of Service Design approaches: by thinking holistically in the most important part of any solution (humans), the needed changes become evident. Otherwise it is very easy to put our own points-of-view and biases, which are often not aligned with what people really need.

Regardless of which lenses we look, thinking about the framework proposed by the NNGroup or the one by Ulrich or by Tim Brown, the best way to achieve real, disruptive, radical changes is by human-centered design, by investing time, money and effort in understanding real needs from real people and focusing on solving them.

First level

3 Approaches to Experience DesignRefine: small adjustments and maintenance of existing solutions, refining the experience to smooth rough edges. These changes demand low investment and effort, but will not promote drastic improvement to value delivery.

Ways to Grow Framework — Incremental: solutions built over existing offerings targeting existing users, usually resulting in less impact but also less risks.

Opportunities Horizons — Horizon 1: with relatively low risks, these incremental opportunities are usually improvements, extensions, variants, and cost reductions of existing products for existing markets.

Second level

3 Approaches to Experience DesignRemodel: rethinks the existing journey to promote moderate adjustments. Though the core value of the solution remains unchanged, components of the journey can be changed to create efficiencies and conveniences to the user. With more investments and effort, the changes promoted here tend to be more relevant and evident.

Ways to Grow Framework — Evolutionary: targets either leveraging existing solutions to new users, or, inversely, pushing new solutions to a group of users already targeted by the company.

Opportunities Horizons — Horizon 2: exploring existing solutions outside the company’s portfolio (next generation products) or existing markets still not addressed by it (adjacent growth), these opportunities push out into more uncertain territories.

Third level

3 Approaches to Experience DesignRebuild: goes back from scratch to design a whole new dream-experience. It starts from scratch, removing any biases or constraints from previous journeys. These state-of-the-art innovations are harder to apply for existing solutions and are more commonly done by new disruptive companies.

Ways to Grow Framework — Revolutionary: develops new offerings for new users, going into a more radical and uncertain form of innovation

Opportunities Horizons — Horizon 3: focus on pushing markets’ boundaries and/or exploring state-of-the-art technologies (possibly disruptive in the whole world), at the expenses of highest risk levels.

[1] IDEO (Firm) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2011. Human centered design toolkit. IDEO.
[2] Brown, T. and Katz, B., 2011. Change by design. Journal of product innovation management, 28(3), pp.381–383.
[3] Ulrich, K.T., 2003. Product design and development. Tata McGraw-Hill Education.

I work as an interdisciplinary Service/UX designer & manager specialized in service management for data-driven business and digital transformation.