23 May 2007

Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path on delivering value through experience

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Jesse James Garrett
Jesse James Garrett, president and founding partner of Adaptive Path, gave a very good presentation on business as a design experience at MX San Francisco, an Adaptive Path conference focusing on how design has emerged as a strategic force in business. The presentation is now available on video.

Jesse James Garrett is the author of The Elements of User Experience (New Riders), and is recognised as a pioneer in the field of information architecture.

Experience strategy (aka design, innovation and a bunch of other things) has been written about a lot over the past couple of years. On the business front, Bruce Nussbaum has been the great champion covering design voraciously for BusinessWeek and really bringing it to the attention of executives all over the world.

Yet, as much as BusinessWeek covers the space and as much as Steve Jobs is respected for his design prowess, we still don’t see great examples of what I’ll call “capture-the-imagination-innovation”.

Apple has received millions of media impressions praising its achievements, executives admire Jobs, and if you extract various pieces of various articles written about him and his beloved company, you’d have a playbook for how he achieves his successes.

Despite all this, we still get products that are driven by technology and features, not by experience and imagination or vision. Most products created are not driven by a dream, like the one George Eastman had when he went out to create a photographic apparatus that could claim “you press the button, we do the rest”. At one point, the camera required a 19 step process to operate.

At that time, the complexity of photography was finally reduced to a simple interaction, and somehow we’ve managed to make it complex again, beyond just pushing the button, when you consider the settings for example, which could be helpful, if they were only easy to set.

That aside, Jesse James Garrett reminds us about the power of having a vision or a dream first, then figuring out how to make it real.

He also addresses the need to approach “design” with a systemic approach and ask questions like “What does it take to make a product we can’t live without?”

He talks about Microsoft word, VCR’s that had so many features and functions that getting it to record something was often difficult, and even TiVo. Though not directly, he’s basically speaking about the concept of divergence and not convergence (though his brief references to the iPhone could take exception to that).

Furthermore, he talks about the process and focus on delivering value through experience and not necessarily through technology or features. Those should only support a well-defined experience, which means that once you’ve defined the dream, once you’ve seen the light, you can be guided to build a product that you might consider a person… something with character and something that you have an emotional attachment too.

Designers have dreamt for a long time. The hurdle to seeing their dreams through is often a lack of discipline for selling that dream to the client combined with a client driven by fear and a lack of vision.

We have a long way to go on the road to “capture-the-imagination-innovation”.

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