Give A Man A Fish

For a business owner seeking to shift their business from a service based model into that of an experience based model can be very difficult and expensive. Most see this change as been daunting and confusing. The only course of action is to hire someone or some organization to help them create their business as an experience.

There are so many issues with this type of thinking, least of which is understanding the process and intention of the final design. What decisions were made outside of the client’s view that determined the final design, most owners will never know. This is the challenge of hiring a Experience Designer or design firm. Most live inside their world and allow very few inside.

“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he never goes hungry.”

This is the real challenge for a business. You hire a designer or firm to create you an experience because they hopefully understand what the Experience Economy is all about and how to create a complete package. The reality is that they normally provide the physical elements, the stage of an experience with some narrative direction as how to engage customers or communicate the experience.

For many years being involved in the design industry around architecture and environment design, I have always question the idea of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach to a solution for a client. That process where a lead designer asks a lot of questions about what does the client want the experience to be, who’s their demographic target or the ever what’s the budget? These maybe important questions, but they do not include the client in the real development and intention of an experience.

The worst part about the traditional approach to Experience design is this. Once you hand it over to the client, its their responsibility to make it successful. It maybe in the short run, but as time moves on, not understanding the intention or how to manage an experience eventually ends in failure. Experiences are not a one and done process. They are an ever evolving performance of customer engagement.

It’s time to teach the man to fish.

Over the past 10 years I have attempted to teach what experiences are through the traditional methods of teaching the principles, the frameworks and even the philosophy of Experience Economy. I taught what an experience should be, what it wasn’t and the complexity of all the moving parts. I was teach a class on business modeling with limited success. Until…

As the pandemic started and everything went digital, I had to re-evaluate the idea of Experience Economy workshops, and lesson plans. Everything I had designed in an educational framework was not going to work like it should. Truth be known, even with in-person workshops, the content was too much for the average small business owner to retain.


It took a few weeks of self reflection, but I realized that people learned best when they can create for themselves what they want as long as they knew how to do it. To make it stick I had to completely redesign so that the content was engaging. Yes, I had to apply what I was teaching to my own method. Learning about the Experience Economy and Experience Design had to be an experience itself.

What I started with is what people already knew about their own business, the core function or service they were providing to their customers and build on that. By doing it this way, everyone had a comfort level with the business aspect, all I needed to do was guide them from seeing their business as a service and how it could become an experience.

Thus, the ERY Method was born. A design methodology that took whatever the service business was and repackaged it inside an experience. Literally taking the service or action of the business and have each owner shift the core action into the main focus of the experience. Once the intention was shifted, the fun of learning and applying could begin.

Take the service, the verb of the business and change it to create something of interest, something uniquely different.

If you ask any business owner what they do, the typical answer falls into three basic responses;

  1. We (verb) (noun) for our customers. Example: We bake bread for our customers.
  2. We (verb) our customers (noun). Example: We fix our customers cars.
  3. We (verb) (noun) to our customers. Example: We serve food to our customers.

The key part of the ERY Method program is this very sentence structure and the focus on the verb. You see, the service is the action or verb that business uses to provide goods, the noun, to their customers. By taking the verb and applying some humorous word play to the verb, participants begin to explore a different focus of engagement. This becomes the core to understand how a business can shift from a service model to that of an experience.

Lets take a look at those previous statements and see what happens when we playfully shift the focus of the verb to similar verbs associated with the service business.

We bake bread for our customers.

By playing with the verb ‘bake’ we can explore other verbs associated with baking like, mix, knead, rise, blend, etc.. By refocusing on an alternative verb, we also rethink what the business could be doing to engage the customer differently. Let’s play with the verb ‘knead’ and see where this takes us.

We knead dough for our customers.

Notice that the goods or noun may change also as the action may focus on another stage of the goods. What images come to mind when we stop thinking of baking and begin imagining a place that focuses on kneading dough? What could the customer expect to be happening? It could imply that the goods or dough is customized for each person taste preference. Suddenly we are engaging the customer in something that is customized for them personally.

Personal and customizable is a key principle to all economic experiences.

The physicality of the place most likely would be impacted as well. The focus of the space would be more for storing dough rather than shelving loafs of bread. Mixers may become the main fixture in the shop and work stations become customer stations. Suddenly we can see bread being treated like coffee at Starbucks.

Even the naming of such an business would change. With the ERY Method, the focus verb like knead works through the ERY Method and unique terms begin to emerge that adds to the theme of the experience.

Theming is another key principle of experience design.

Verb = knead, the focus action

Verb+er = Kneader, the performers

Verb+ery = ‘Kneadery’, the place

Even now, as you read this your mind is creating possible imagery around what a Kneadery could look like from the outside to entice customers inside to how the shop would look on the inside. Could can begin to imagine how the Kneaders would engage customers differently within the space. You could go as far as beginning to think how each packaging could be uniquely printed to provide each customer with their own “brand” of dough.

This is not the end of the fishing lesson. There are many of the key principles and frameworks woven into the process, but woven in at the right time to increase the playfulness of learning, exploring and creating of an experience. An experience that each owner understands the intent, the design elements and how to engage their customers differently, creating a place, a destination that is much more than a service business.

By teach each business owner what an experience is through creative ideation, they can begin to engage designers differently. The can control more of the process and understand all the decision that are being made to create the experience business.

It’s time to blow away the smoke and shatter all the mirrors so that small business owners can begin to shift their businesses from the typical service model into that of an experience that creates greater demand and increased value.

To learn more or how a workshop can be created at your next event. Please reach out.

KevinDulle at Earthlink dot Net.

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