Architecting an Experience

“Scholars really have nothing to teach you. But from the soft touch of the eyelashes of a woman you will know all there is to know about happiness.” ― Omar Khayyám

What is an Experience?

Experience refers to the nature of the events someone or something has undergone. Experience is what is happening to us all the time — as we long as we exist.

  1. Experience, used in the present tense, refers to the subjective nature of one’s current existence. Humans have a myriad of expressions, behaviors, language, emotions, etc. that characterize and convey our moment-to-moment experiences.
  2. Experience, used in the past tense, refers to the accumulated product (or residue) of past experiences e.g., after many hours of training and practice building furniture out of wood, we now consider him to be an experienced wood craftsman.

These two emphases of the word experience (present and past) emerge from a critical connection and philosophical issue:

To what extent do one’s past experiences influence one’s current and future experience?

The idea that past experiences influence future experiences was termed continuity by John Dewey. All experiences, argued Dewey, impact on one’s future, for better or worse. Basically, cumulative experience either shuts one down or opens up one’s access to possible future experiences. In this post, I am not addressing the philosophical issue of experience.

Here “experience” is no more used in its sense of knowledge, nor has anything to do with knowledge. But again, in this sense it is about the person finding himself in some situation, and being aware of it. But if “encounter with kind shop stewardess in a messy & noisy mall” is cited as an example of experience, it doesn’t refer just to something about the subject but about the whole situation (encounter with a kind stewardess) which includes the fact that the person was aware of it, and somehow affected by it (e.g. felt safe and calm).

Again, in this sense it can’t be that the experience represents anything — as it refers to the whole situation. It would be weird that the experience (in this sense) represents the stewardess or the encounter with the stewardess — the experience is the encounter with the kind stewardess, and “the experience” in this case refers to the situation which includes the stewardess itself. Notice that the individual is presented as participating in those events, and because the person participated, and was aware of them those are experiences of that person. Even more, the experiences as events are something that more then one person can participate in.

There are two kinds of knowing — experience and understanding — and the confusion between them is the cause of all sorts of trouble for any thinking person. Experience is the knowing of things. It appears to our senses simply as what is there without us doing anything. It is immediately and directly present to awareness with no mediating activity. Because it is immediate it cannot be denied. I can see a ghost in the attic and I can deny that it is a ghost — but I cannot reasonably deny that I saw it. We can only deny our understanding of our experience, not the fact of having it. Understanding is the knowing about things. It comes to us in the form of the inner language of thought. Did you ever go to sleep someplace other than your own bed and then wake up and not immediately remember where you are? For a few seconds you are disoriented. You are experiencing the room around you, but you do not have access to any understanding about the room. Inevitably you remember that you are in friend’s guest room. Suddenly your mental picture fills out with a contextual understanding that surrounds your being in the room. Something that in architecture we call it DCI which stands for Data, Context and Interaction. Now you know a great deal about the room. You know that you are spending a weekend with your fried. You remember that down the hall there is a stair case that will take you to the main floor of the house and that your other friend is sleeping in a room across the hall. Etc. Your experience ‘of’ the room is filled out with your understanding ‘about’ the room.

There are plenty of experiences which are emerging in technology, product management and business; here I have put together some of the well-known experiences.

Time Experience. There are a number of what Ernst Pöppel (1978) calls ‘elementary time experiences’, or fundamental aspects of our experience of time. Among these we may list the experience of (i) duration; (ii) non-simultaneity; (iii) order; (iv) past and present; (v) change, including the passage of time. It might be thought that experience of non-simultaneity is the same as experience of time order, but it appears that, when two events occur very close together in time, we can be aware that they occur at different times without being able to say which one came first (see Hirsh and Sherrick 1961). You can read more in here on time experience.

Experience Economy. Economists have typically lumped experiences in with services, but experiences are a distinct economic offering, as different from services as services are from goods. Today we can identify and describe this fourth economic offering because consumers unquestionably desire experiences, and more and more businesses are responding by explicitly designing and promoting them. As services, like goods before them, increasingly become commoditized — think of long-distance telephone services sold solely on price — experiences have emerged as the next step in what we call the progression of economic value. From now on, leading-edge companies — whether they sell to consumers or businesses — will find that the next competitive battleground lies in staging experiences. Welcome to the emerging experience economy.

Employee Experience. Along with the notion of experience economy, employee experience is defined as what an employee received during their interaction with careers’ elements that affect their cognition and attitudes and leads to their particular behaviors. The employee experience is the sum of all interactions an employee has with their employer tangible or intangible. It is the structure and culture of the organization and how the employee perceives the company overall and their role in the company.

Customer Experience. Customer experience is the phrase used to describe the relationship a customer has with a business. Customer experience refers to the total of all experiences the customer has with the business, based on all interactions and thoughts about the business.

User Experience which is a subset of Customer Experience. User Experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products. But the interactions meant here are mainly focused on the digital products. Both disciplines are important and complement each other. Conclusively, the User Experience has its main focus on the product itself, whereas Customer Experience focusses more broadly on the (overall) multi-channel experience that a user or customer has with a company, both online and offline.

Digital Experience. A digital experience is an interaction between a user (customer, partner or employee) and an organization that is possible only because of digital technologies. Digital Experience is an emerging category of enterprise seeking to meet the needs of companies undergoing digital transformation, with the ultimate goal of providing better customer experiences. Digital Experience can be a single product, but are often a suite of products that work together. Digital Experience provide an architecture for companies to digitize business operations, deliver connected customer experiences, and gather actionable customer insight.

What is an Architecture?

Architecture is the form of any system created through conscious design, and it thus has strong human elements both in its process and its product. The term form implies a deep mental model of the essence of some structure. A structure has form; a given form awaits implementation in structure. For example, an image comes into your mind when we invoke the word chair. For most people it’s not a wholly concrete image: it may not even have a color until the question causes you to assign it one. We might suggest that we meant to have you think of a five-legged chair and, although you are likely to have envisioned only four legs, you likely will not protest that such a structure violates the form of chair. Architecture drives to the essence of a system.

The term architecture broadly touches a host of concerns in the built world, which perhaps can best be summarized in the terms popularized by the late Roman architect Vitruvius: utilitas, firmitas, and venustas. As captured by these terms, much of the classic architectural vision speaks of quality of human life. While the link of architecture to fashion and even to esthetics is controversial, commodity and utility (utilitas) are fundamental; so architecture is beauty. Architecture is not without an engineering component that encompasses materials and techniques of construction, as good construction must be durable (firmitas) and architecture arguably is timeless. Last, but certainly not least, architecture should inspire a human sense of delight (venustas). We can distill “delight” as comfort, beauty, or awe.

Because form is a result of design, and not of analysis, architecture lives squarely in the space of design. Architecture itself is therefore not principally about knowledge management, although knowledge management activities such as domain analysis and pattern mining often serve as powerful preludes to architecture.

What is Experience Architecture?

Experience architecture is the art of articulating a clear user (customer, partner, employee, vendor, and etc) journey through an information architecture, interaction design and experience design that an end user navigates across products and services offered by the client or as intended by the designer through a digital experience or none digital. An experience architect is a designer authoring, planning and designing the experience architecture deliverables. An experience architect will encompass variety of interaction and digital design skills of human behaviour, user-centered design and interaction design which is very much aligned with architecture concept called Data, Context and Interaction (DCI). An Experience Architect expected to:

How to Architect an Experience

Based on my past learnings on how I have designed solutions and companies, I decided to build a model on how to architect an experience. The following figure is the first version of what I think can be reused as a model to build and architect an experience for any form of business and perhaps that is why the model is quite generic. In future posts, I will share more about details and how I use my other models, as listed in below, to architect an experience regardless of user, customer, employee, partner and etc.

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Scaling Up, Growth and Digital Transformation guy.

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