on experience and innovation

Premise 1: experior ergo sum

We live in a world in which everything is about experiences: online or offline, free or paid for, as a client, as an employee or just as a bystander. We experience the world, other people, as well as everything impacting our lives. People want to learn how not to overthink things in order to experience it. A contemporary Decartes would probably write “I experience, therefore I am”, giving thinking, feeling and being alive a whole new meaning.

Premise 2: metimur ergo facto est

Today, innovation is almost always about having or changing certain experiences, if possible measurable ones. I could evaluate a pizza delivery experience with stars or my very private Charles-de-Gaulle airport restroom experience by pushing retro-illuminated colourful smiley buttons. Misusing Descartes for clarity again, he’d probably state something as questionable as “I measured, therefore it happened,“ often putting us in the difficult position of experiential voids. How does one prove anything, without data, pictures, comments or likes.

designing verbs, not nouns

I do not believe in the obvious ratings of experiences by a simple click. Of course, appraisals may help to optimize and to get better, but only if data is collected against clear or defined criteria. Also, evaluation, especially bad one, too often deeply affects the people in the first line and not the responsible designers of the processes creating flawed experiences.
I think that good design-thinking cannot be evaluated with a 3 star review, as it is invisible. Perfectly designed experiences inexplicably and smoothly innovate what or how we do something, without us noticing or being aware of change: Disruption so smooth, you would not know where, how and why to evaluate it. 

When teaching becomes a learning experience 

Even schools, understanding the times we live in, do not ask their staff to teach anymore. They collaboratively elaborate ways to provide a contemporary learning experience. Courses have to be designed differently, probably more smartly. Whereas the learning objectives and the scope of the course may stay the same, the intrinsic definition education needs to be revised. The hierarchy of values, linked to the evolution of education from a commodity, to a service and finally to an experience, corresponds to a fundamental shift in how we experience the world, from the primarily functional to the primarily emotional. Accreditation, an expert faculty or a beautiful campus are not enough anymore to be distinctive and retain learners.

also read  on being, just being

It is about innovation, not optimization

Think of the way we pinch-to-zoom on touch screens. A gesture that was “invented” with the presentation of the first Iphone. Today, less than 15 years later, just watch a gen-Alpha kid not knowing how to zoom differently, pinching even TV screens to get a closeup. This completely artificial experience, conceptualised for a long known feature, thought so differently and designed so smoothly, it is now part of our daily habitus.

Real innovation in technology, in service design or in education is impossible to evaluate in the short term. Being driven from A to B in a car, one has ordered by app, or following a teacher’s powerpoint presentation synchronously on Zoom is not innovation, it is contemporary optimization. 
Thinking out of the box is not good enough anymore. Innovation with a capital I moves into another room in which it creates a completely new box to think outside from.

This article is based on our newsletter “thoughts&coffee” published on 22.10.2021  

read here (also in French)