THE BLOG
07/29/2016 09:06 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Our Youngest Minds Help Us Solve Our Oldest Problems

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By Rob Curran, Head of Customer Experience, Wunderman UK

In 2005, Steve Jobs stood in front of a captive audience of students at Stanford University and told them to “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”. I like this quote. I’ve heard it again and again. I’ve heard it cited in meetings, and pitches. I’ve seen it held up as an ambition for businesses and start-ups. But when push comes to shove, I seldom see foolishness truly celebrated, or embraced as an ingredient for creating great products, services or experiences.

Creating great experiences is so often about embracing a multitude of radically diverse inputs. Hunger and foolishness are vital to this process, which is why at Wunderman we try to create unusual creative environments, ones where these qualities emanate naturally. It’s a principle inherent to our Collision methodology.

We’ve found that the best customer experiences are necessarily borne from diverse and divergent environments. They’re exposed to everything that can be thrown at them - idealism, bravery, deep subject matter knowledge, pragmatism, healthy scepticism, and disparate modes of thinking. We want differing inputs to be contested, wrangled and debated. Consensus and similarity are almost useless to us when designing something truly powerful. Difference is the aim.

In our experience, to create this you need people who are both naturally idealistic and embrace non-traditional creative environments. Through trial and error we’ve found that when it comes to experience design, young graduate product designers have been particularly effective when it comes to finding compelling, unusual, and strikingly different answers to even the most traditional of client briefs.

And it’s not just about giving these graduates a chance to help – it’s about handing over complete control from creative conception to experience production. They haven’t worked in the industry for twenty years so they don’t have any of our bad habits, they don’t know our methods (and they invariably come up with new, better ones) and more importantly their ideas don’t have any limits.

We regularly run ad hoc experience design sessions, where the entire agency is invited to tackle a customer experience challenge. We call them 404 sessions - Fixing the broken links in customer experiences. We pick a customer experience challenge, do on-the-spot guerrilla user research, then collectively create solutions and prototype them.

Of course, some of the most innovative experience ideas to come out of these sessions have been conceived by our HR department and finance teams. We've long known that good ideas can originate from anywhere and anyone –but we've found this to ring particularly true in experience design.

But it’s not just about solutions; it’s down to process. Companies wanting to progress and stand out should constantly be looking to create new methods and push existing ones to breaking point. They need to look at new ways of getting under the skin of their audience; find alternative methods of conducting ethnography; of visualising the services, products and experiences they offers customers. We try to never a let a single project go by without tangibly evolving our methods, making them more sophisticated, more experimental, and more scientific.

Crafting new methods and evolving existing ones becomes less of a challenge when you have a diverse set of minds working on a brief. Having a healthy disrespect for industry standards is paramount to achieving a disruptor status, as well as making sure your teams know that no method or process is sacred. Often, intentionally embracing unusual perspectives is the only way to remind ourselves of that.