At XLACollab, we focus on creating the conditions that underpin your commitment to creating a memorable experience. People often ask me, “how are the best experiences actually produced” for employees, suppliers, or customers? At XLACollab, we do not design the actual experiences. Of course, we have opinions, and “in matters of opinion, we are always certain,” but experience design is beyond our purview.
Experience design is a vital but adjacent field to experience management. Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore made the discipline popular in their magnum opus – The Experience Economy. Design is an art and a science. It has its own experts.
Mat Deurden is one of those experts. Matt is Associate Professor at Brigham Young University and a thought leader in the experience design movement. To explain how what we do at XLACollab fits into experience design, I have built on Mat’s recent interview on BYU TV. He laid out five core ideas when designing an experience.
1. A staged experience, starts by creating an intentional design to produce great memories. This applies to all settings, the experience could be in a business, a school, or even a family gathering.
2. Always work backward. Start your design by imagining the stories you want people to tell after the experience has passed. Try to gauge the ‘audiences’ wants and needs before you set off on your design journey. Their wants and needs are the empathy that fuels the experience,
3. Create breadcrumbs along the way that mark the path during the experience. At XLACollab, we call these out as the XLAs. Experience Level Agreements that underpin your staged experience.
4. Ensure that your experience has a beginning, an end, elevation, and a cadence with transitions. Feel free to lean on the experts in staged experience, Disney. Design the preamble to the experience as well. For example, this could be getting in line or pre-registering for a ride before the ride itself. It could be the way you invite people to a gathering. Consider also how the experience ends. Are there mementos, for instance? The ending solidifies the experience in the mind of the audience, so follow Covey’s advice and ‘begin with the end in mind.” For each of your design ‘breadcrumbs,’ an XLA can play a role. An XLA aligns operational, sentiment, and cultural data to ensure that you meet your commitment to a staged experience. An XLA is particularly important when the staged experience is at scale and repeated.
5. When an experience is recurring, like a Thanksgiving dinner, or a yearly conference, break up the narrative. One of the things we cover in the Experience Management courseware is Experience Anticipation. We need to consider this concept when staging experiences or building XLAs. Sammi Kallio, CEO of Happy Signals, explains, “humans are self-programming sensors.” This means that while we continually adjust our interpretation of an experience, we always approach an experience with an expectation. Sometimes this is based on our previous experiences (at a coffee shop or a hotel), sometimes it is based on our brand expectation (a brand-new Apple gadget). People thrive on novelty, but they also desire continuity. So never throw everything away. You should maintain the continuum but do not be afraid to tweak the rules or the space where the event is staged. “Variety is the spice of life.”
With Mat’s five rules, you can harness your creativity and create experiences that matter to any audience. By adding XLAs, you guarantee the audience’s staged experience. This way, you can create the memories that make an experience treasured.