Designing Happiness

Much has been said about the Experience Economy over the past 20 years. Some professionals talk about it as the next economic era and the logical progression of value. I agree with this thinking and have come to believe this is greatly due to the shift in consumer demand and the rapid change of goods. The race to have the latest is quickening. No longer is it about keeping up with the Joneses, it’s about try to keep up with ever-changing goods in order to achieve happiness. Somewhere along the line in history, consumers have been directed to buy more and newer goods in the promise that consumers can buy happiness.

Take a look at any advertisement on television, digital screen or a photo in a magazine or on a billboard. Its filled with smiling happy people holding the latest and greatest version of a thing. They all look happy that they have the newest thing. Manufacturers are changing models, product mixes and even design faster than the normal consumer can keep up. Why?

There seems to be this condition called Hedonic treadmill. The feeling of happiness after buying something. Unfortunately, that happiness fades quickly, especially when the manufacturers are producing newer versions of goods at a faster rate. This speed of change only shortens the Hedonic adaptation cycle and shortening that sense of being happy.

So what are consumers to do to overcome this treadmill? It begins by understanding the Hedonic treadmill and what actually helps create happiness in a consumer. It means looking at why buying things is not the answer to achieving happiness and looking to what does. In a recent article by Dr. Brooks on this subject, he states that experiences offer more value over things. Happiness can be achieved through experiences.

So, as designers who developing experiences for as economic offerings, it is key to focus on how the experience creates happiness in the consumer. In other words, design with happiness in mind. To achieve this, designers will need to keep in mind that experiences are personal and unique to each individual and that customization is at the heart of every experience, because each person experiences events differently and for different reasons. Also, positive experiences create lasting memories, memories people share.

Change Through an Idea Prism

There has been a lot of talk online and at various conferences these past years about change with management and culture. Most of these conversations have been around a single change or a single possible outcome. In my idea of change it is never a single event or single target, because change is more fluid and variable than most target.

Over the years of working with teams on change, be it for teams, management, brands or even physical representation, I have observed when groups focus on one single outcome or definition, they overlook so many more possibilities. The range of ideas become broader than their vision.

To help explain, the graphic below shows the idea of planning change in three key phases.

change-ideation-sm

At the start lies the current state. Unchanging and ever decaying for stagnation is decay. So many people have this idea that if they just do what they have always done that time will resolve any issues. The reality is that they are correct, unfortunately, the solution will probable be something they don’t want. When you do choose your course, one will be chosen for you and that choice is rarely in your favor.

Begin by determining ‘Why’ you need to change. What happens if you don’t change and everything around is? Create a clear explanation why staying the course and letting outside forces dictate your change. My guess is you will soon realize the old adage ‘Change or Die’ begins to ring in your ears.

Okay, you finally have a reason to change. Great! Now move that through a process of creative ideation. Look at various ways of how change can happen and determine what are positive and negative advantages to these changes. If you look at the change delta as a prism, the idea is to disperse all the possible variables to create a range of possibilities. It is these possibilities that can help create the possible change you can accept or are capable of performing.

These variations become the ‘What’ states of change. Like light through a prism, each variation of color does not have a distinct separation from its neighboring colors. There is a blurring between each band. This is true of ideas and change. There is no clear defined path or hard outcome. Change creates variations of complexity and it is your ability and capacity to determine how complex of a change your can create.

So, when you hear someone talk of change management or culture change, find out if they are talking variations or single outcomes or changes. If it is a single possibility then use the prism of ideas process, commonly called ideation, to create multiple options and find which solution works best for you or your business.

Avoid the static and the stagnate states of daily life, always plan by seeing your goals and mapping the journey to them.

Keep the Book “Look” a Secret

One of my mentors, James Gilmore, just completed and sent for printing his latest book called “Look” on observation skills. I think this will be a great tool for designers and planners. Can’t wait to get my first copy.

Look Gilmore sm

So keep it a secret. It becomes available on Amazon in August 2016. Here’s where to get it. 

What is the Experience

“We have a great customer experience.”

Okay, I know we all have heard this response from a lot of companies expressing what makes them different than the competition. Maybe we even caught ourselves say it. The phrase ‘A Great Customer Experience’ has become the hot buzzword response statement of the year. Yet, each time I hear this I find myself wondering and wanting to ask this question…

“What is the experience you’re staging for your customer that is so great?”

Let me be clear about one thing, a true experience is not an enhancement of services to support an offering, rather, the experience is the offering which is supported by goods and services. If the experience is the offering, than what type of customer experience are you staging?

Pine and Gilmore identified two dimensions of an experience. The first dimension is that of customer or guest participation. At one of the spectrum lies passive participation and at the other, active participation.

The second dimension of an experience is the type of connection or environmental relationship that connects the customer to the event or performance. At one end of this spectrum lies absorption, viewing from a distance. At the other lies immersion, becoming physically part of the experience itself.

Combining these two aspects helps to define the four primary types of experiences customers can partake of. In the upper left lies the passive absorption of Entertainment such as listening to music, watching a performance or even reading for pleasure. In the upper right lies the active absorption of Educational Experiences. To the lower right lies the active immersion of Escapist Experiences where customers are actively involved. In the final quadrant to the lower left lies the experience of the Esthetic such as viewing artwork in a gallery or museum.

Combinations of any two of these experience realms can create six additional blended experiences. The real differentiator for a great customer experience is the ability of hitting the sweet spot between all four realms into one blended experience like Walt Disney has achieved with the theme parks.

So, the next time you hear someone say they have a great customer experience, ask them what kind of experience(s) are they staging for their customers, because Disney never said he had a ‘Great Customer Experience’ only great experiences.

The Edge of Change

The world we live in is a funny place. Conversations, styles and even perceived needs are cyclical. What is old is new and new, well, that’s so this morning. Every thing changes. Everything. Those things, people, businesses that don’t, well, that’s so in the past. Change is the only constant they say and I find it to be true. Change up, change back, change around, change out, change into, etc… We have so many perceptions of change that the adaptations seem endless.

Change comes in various sizes and increments. Some changes are dramatic while others are subtle. No matter what, change happens to us all each day. The real goal is to try to guide change as best we can, because change never happens as we expect. It always has hidden surprises or consequences.

But what is change? When does something or someone change? I guess that answer lies in the eye of the observer. Only those closely watching can see the change happening, but for most, we see the event after the change. But what if you could plan change in some fashion. This I have asked for some time and here is what I have created.

Based on the idea that yesterday and today are unchangeable, if you avoid any theoretical ideas of time travel, that only leaves the future for change. And, if change only happens in the future, than you can guide the outcome given you can determine all the factors affected by change. And so, here is my model for change.

Change Deltasm

This is my Delta model for change. Even if you stand at the very edge, change will occur. Time always moves forward and you must move with it. But you can decide how you want the change to happen and what you want the change to create once you understand why you want or need the change to happen.

As the model indicates, change should be an improvement and performed of a duration of time through some given process. Also, you must determine any and all pitfalls and obstacles that may hinder you crossing the gap of change.

So the steps:

  1. Why is there a need for change? “Why”
  2. How will this change occur? “How”
  3. Who can help you achieve this change? “Who”
  4. What improvement will change create? “What”
  5. How long will the change take? “When”
  6. And where do you want to be when the change is complete? “Where”

Map the change before you act. Take you intangible idea and make it a tangible plan.