Do you wonder why people spend such huge amounts to attend TED Talks, when all of these are available for free on the Internet?
Do you wonder why people spend such huge amounts to attend TED Talks, when all of these are available for free on the Internet? Because people want to ‘experience’ being in the company of thinkers and doers, and get inspired. That is the same reason that thousands of Indians queue up every summer to watch Indian Premier League matches in their cities. Many of them travel across cities, stand in lines for well over four hours, often in scorching heat, when they could have watched their favourite players from the comfort of their living rooms. They seek genuine experiences, and they are ready to pay anything, risk anything to seek that involvement.
People, rich and poor, are going beyond amassing stuff to seeking experiences, and that is visible among a wide cross section in India and in several other emerging economies. Abhijit Banerjee, co-recipient of the 2019 Nobel Prize in economics, notes, ‘Generally, it is clear that things that make life less boring are a priority for the poor.’ He offers a counter-intuitive explanation of why the poor spend more on festivities, marriages and other social functions, even if they are often deprived of material goods, such as televisions, bicycles or radios. Another explanation is to do with social equity and collateral, but equally, there is the desire to seek an experience and make life less boring.
Is it possible to infuse experience through design in the most commoditized and undifferentiated products? Yes, and the Indian watch brand Titan has made an empire doing so. In December 1987, when Titan opened its first retail outlet at Bangalore’s Safina Plaza, watches were perceived as functional products, dominated by HMT Watches and Allwyn Watches and a few international brands whose watches were smuggled into the country. It was Titan that made us think about watches as pieces of adornment and even collectables. (The same was done later for jewellery, accessories, perfumes and, more recently, sarees.) Since its formative days, Titan has paid special attention to how its watches are displayed and to the overall buying experience. Notwithstanding the award-winning designs of its watches, the
company’s focus has largely been on designing the buying and gifting experiences. Not just these, Titan has also invested in the product repair experience, setting up repair centres within showrooms to win customers’ trust.
On how Titan went about improving customer experience, Bhaskar Bhat, the company’s former MD, notes, ‘Formalising an informal sector and transforming it for the benefit of the consumer is what we have done best. We are sort of bringing order from disorder. We create elevating experiences for the customers.’ As Titan demonstrates, designing experiences could be an enduring competitive advantage.
Problems are becoming multifaceted
With the levelling of the playing field and a desire for standing out, companies are realizing that their problems are increasingly becoming multi-dimensional, and so should the thinking of the problem-solvers. The products, services and experiences have become part of a complex system where there is a simultaneous pursuit of differentiation at the front end and standardization at the back end. It is out of tune to think of any problem as being purely a constraint of science or technology, which was, incidentally, the fundamental premise of the Russian problem-solving technique TRIZ. Every problem would have an element of usability, and not just functionality or aesthetics. Much along the lines of what Steve Jobs professed: ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ When you focus on how humans interact with a solution, be it a product or a service, design thinking takes prominence. While the design was mostly about solving specific problems, design thinking elevates the discussion to the systems level where one needs to understand how different problems interact with each other to shape experiences.
—Excerpted with permission from Design Your Thinking: The Mindsets, Toolsets & Skill Sets For Creative Problem-solving by Pavan Soni, published by Penguin Random House India, price Rs 599. The title was released on December 14, 2020.
(Edited by : Ajay Vaishnav)
First Published: IST