Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

What Makes a Truly Great Experience?


I’ve been working with IBM over the past several years on everything from the future of work to cognitive computing to social business to smarter commerce. Most recently, IBM and I have partnered on something a bit more experiential. The Commerce, Mobile and Social team at IBM selected X: The Experience When Business Meets Design as the company’s latest title for its monthly book club.

As part of the club, IBM hosts a series of activities for employees and the general public. There’s one segment in particular that I wanted to share with you. In what IBM refers to as a “close up,” the team and I discuss a number of topics that explore personal and professional inspiration. The conversation was ultimately re-imagined as a very cool infographic. The discussion yielded far more content than they could use use in one image. So, I’ve included the entire conversation below along with the original infographic.

I hope it helps…

In your own words, close your eyes and think about the last time you truly had a great experience with a company as a customer – what company was it and why?

Eyes closed. Memories activated. Ah.

The last truly great experience was when I visited Disney World in Orlando. I was presented with a MagicBand with a personalized box adorned with characters from the Invincibles. I opened the box carefully as if I were unwrapping a Christmas present, slowly, savoring every moment. Everything about the arrangement, presentation, it was all reminiscent of Apple.

Very thoughtful and very intentional.

But it didn’t stop there. I downloaded the app. Connected my account. And suddenly my MagicBand was my “magic” wallet, hotel room key, park admission, FastTrack pass, et al. The idea of a completely integrated and value-add experience that continues before, during and after park tickets is beautiful.

As I put the box down, I glanced across the room and saw a bath towel shaped so cleverly as a silhouette of Mickey Mouse and I thought, “perfect.”

Disney Magic Band
The Disney MagicBand Box Opening

On the same topic, what’s your earliest memory of a great customer experience?

I’m not going to lie. When I search my memory for the answer, I sort through so many years of bad experiences, it’s difficult to find what I’m looking for. Honestly, I remember for my first enchantment, which is easily Disneyland. Interesting considering question #1. Of course Disneyland is part of Disney’s experience ecosystem and it comes as no surprise.

I just remember everything from the sign, “The Happiest Place on Earth” to the fun tram that moved people from the parking lot to the entryway to the friendly characters who went out of their way to make every kid feel special. Of course the rides were incredible, but I really remember it being the first time I truly felt special outside of my family. I never forgot it and I’ve since returned at least 100 times.

Disney Tomorrowland3
The new Disneyland Tomorrowland

For a book that took years to write, was there a singular moment that you enjoyed most during its construction?

The book was very difficult to write and produce. Everything about it was meant to be experiential and innovative. The amount of research that went into creating an analog app was as difficult as it was revealing. Developing original frameworks, imagery and content based on all of the inspiring stories from the brands and people featured in the book was also moving.

But the one thing that stands out was the moment I reached out to former Pixar artist Nicholas Sung to help me with storyboard work. I was introduced to his work through the “Snow White” project at AirBnB. He helped shape that chapter significantly and then we had the idea to storyboard the journey of the person reading X. It was brilliant. It brought the book back into the fun and amazing zone and reminded me of why I ventured down this path years ago.

A panel from “The Story of X” created by Nick Sung

As an expert in disruptive technology, were you constantly getting in trouble in school or were you always on your best behavior?

One word…yes. I thought I was a problem child. I was constantly asking “why” when it came to process and existing standards. I was always labeled as a trouble maker and it was demeaning and debilitating for many years of my early life. I was (and still am) a day dreamer. I tried to conform and for the most part I did. But I also felt that in the process, I lost my way. I recently read a study that said something along the lines that if your child talks back, it’s a sign of future success. I’m not saying I agree with it nor am I saying that I’m successful, but I can say that I’m much happier finding new and better ways to do things while also finding ways to unlock new possibilities.

In the spirit of futurism, what’s the next book we can expect from you?

Wouldn’t you I like to know.

For years while writing X, I also studied innovation, culture, startups and also enterprise innovation centers. I’ve written many reports and articles and even created several infographics on the subject. That just may be my next big things…how to build a culture of innovation to survive digital Darwinism.


Experience is everything…


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