the problem, forcing one to look at any-
thing in two opposite ways. And frankly,
it may be the one looking skill most of
us seldom practice.
Your book The Experience Economy is
considered a business classic. How do
you see observational skills as being
related to that work?
Great question. For years, most e;orts
to better understand customer wants
and needs were largely based on conversation, whether via interviews, focus
groups, advisory boards, and the like.
And surely market intelligence was
and still is gleaned from these methods.
But with experience design, a far better
method is to watch actual behavior —
versus talking about it. Of course, this
may always have been the case, even for
the design of goods and services. But
when our book identified experiences
as a distinct form of economic o;ering,
and pointed out that the using of a good
or service is an experience, well, that’s
when observation and other long-standing ethnographic and “design thinking”
methods really gained greater interest,
respect, and practice as business disciplines. The design community jumped
on experiences, and the business community then jumped onto design!
The pursuit of innovation has to
begin with observation. It’s axiomatic.
My dear father once told me of his
seminary professor, Howard Hendricks,
who taught this simple process for
understanding a written text: Observation. Interpretation. Application. Such
also applies to any cultural “text” or
marketplace “text.” What are changing
cultural norms and consumer behaviors telling you? To ascertain that, you
have to first look.
How do you see face-to-face events as a
part of the experience economy?
I really wonder if “face-to-face” is the
best way to think about our present and
future times. Distinguishing between
physical and digital experiences might
be far more useful. After all, the use of
Skype can provide a face-to-face event.
Here is the important point to note:
Time is the currency of experiences.
Look at how people are spending their
time. My business partner’s [Joseph
Pine] book, called Infinite Possibility,
addresses the interplay between the
physical and the virtual, examining
technologies like augmented reality,
augmented virtuality, and six other
time-space-matter platforms. I wrote
the foreword to the book, and in it
ask this: Is what you are doing as an
organization causing people to spend
more or less time with a screen? That’s
the issue for me. And right now, I look
around the world and see a sharp
increase in screen time. Too much
screen time. Multiple-screens-at-the-
same-time screen time. Any event, in
any mix of physical and digital ele-
ments, needs to be staged in such a
way to restore our spending more time
with each other, as human beings, and
not spending time with fleeting, tweet-
ing images of one another.;.
Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.
‘Is what you are doing as
an organization causing
people to spend more or
less time with a screen?
That’s the issue for me.’