Experience Design: A Methodology for Smarter Decision Making

By Steve Marshall | Chief Growth Officer

I’ll bet we’ve all encountered a moment in time when a problem or opportunity arises that’s in search of a solution. Heck, it happens nearly every day in my world.

What’s a business leader to do?

I’ve found that tapping into the powerful business process of Experience Design is often of tremendous help.

What is Experience Design?

Experience Design is the merging of strategy and design principles focused on the necessity to understand human need, expectation, and behavior to positively influence the creation of high-value products, services, and events and their ultimate success in the market.

Experience Design is a methodology that enables organizations to be intentional about the creation and delivery of utility and value – physical and emotional. It’s also used more broadly as a process for evaluating and solving business problems.

We’re an advertising agency that’s focused on helping clients in highly competitive, rapidly evolving industries like transportation, solve problems through creativity.  We’re set up well to facilitate the experience design process for our clients because we employ individuals with diverse backgrounds in business, operations, research, analytics, brand marketing, sales, strategy, and design, but it’s possible for anyone and any organization to leverage this practice to improve outcomes. 

We anchor our methodology on the following process:

Step 1: Listen and Absorb

Seek deep, multi-dimensional understanding before you assume you know the expanse of a challenge or opportunity. Think about all the elements that impact the situation at hand. It’s really important to have broad stakeholder representation and input in this process.

Step 2: Seek Understanding and Alignment

Challenge your assumptions by continually asking yourself, your team, your customers, and others who aren’t vested in a particular approach or outcome, “what matters and what doesn’t” and “why”? Push those involved to think about, document and study multiple different ways a problem or opportunity can be explored or solved. This is the foundational essence of design.

Step 3: Explore, Create and Test

Adopt an agile, collaborative process to explore and test strategic and tactical ideas and solutions through rapid prototyping, design, and iteration. It’s important that you create things that can be shared and reacted to – user journey’s, product and service concepts, copy, designed content, artifacts, even technology applications. These outputs will help you evaluate assumptions, validate insights, innovate, and prioritize next steps.

The focus required throughout the experience design process should:

  • Ensure stakeholders are aligned
  • Raise the probability of successful outcomes
  • Lower overall solution implementation costs

Note, if your team is untrained in the practice of experience design, professional facilitation is invaluable to achieving these results.

Here’s a snapshot of how we facilitate the process with our clients:

Kickoff Meeting(s):

We start by listening to the goals, challenges, and opportunities an organization or team is faced with, and we ask probing questions to truly understand the complexity of the situation, who’s involved, emotional connections, and to learn what pre-work has occurred. We’re also evaluating the opportunity to qualify whether we’re well suited to deliver value.

Once engaged we collaborate on workshop agendas, content, and desired outcomes and we build a facilitation plan. Some meetings happen in a day, others happen over multiple sessions. This depends on the scope of the engagement, whether workshop participants have gone through the process before and the availability of stakeholders to be totally available to participate.

Next, we discuss, recommend, and review internal and external stakeholder types and titles and organize workshop invitations and final attendee lists.

Workshop Session(s):

The workshop agenda kicks off with a robust group discussion on the company’s – mission, vision, and values – the True North – and annual strategic planning, business goals and performance documentation. Most of the time this necessitates pre-read materials.

We then dig in using a variety of human-centered design exercises to evaluate the challenge or opportunity through various lens that most often impact success – people, culture, business, operations, and technology. One often unexpected benefit of this approach is that it aligns attendees on a shared understanding of the root causes of a challenge and the value that can be achieved by solving it.

Armed with this foundational overview, performance data and insights, and stakeholder discussion, we begin exploration and mapping of the structure for design tests and prototypes based on value and impact. This is intended to be a fast and collaborative process because our goal is to create artifacts that constituents can provide feedback on to enable further iteration.

Throughout the engagement and during the workshop session(s) we document and share outputs, learnings, and updates to assumptions, plans and goals so we can ultimately establish program or solution plans for implementation. Naturally, test and learn methodologies require ongoing measurement and program iteration to improve and achieve success.

There are no silver bullets when addressing organizational challenges or prioritizing opportunities, but an experience design process will always help deliver more informed decisions and actions.