It is important to know what kind of Customer Experience you would like to build for your customers. But it is even more important to know what you are not going to do for them.

Photo by Aga Szóstek

When Dave Snowden explains the difference between simple and complex systems, he tells this Childrens’ Party Story. It goes like this (it’s just a 2 1/2 min video and it’s truly worth watching):

The core statement of this story is that in order to manage an emergent coherence among the kids, you need attractors and boundaries. It is also worthwhile to remember that at the kids’ party you only manage what you can manage: the attractors and the boundaries but not every detail of the emergent behavior of the party attendees. The last lesson from this story, as told by Dave, is that you can use probes to create physical or virtual representations of attractors and you can also allocate resources to promote both attractors and boundaries (otherwise called the constraints).

and the Complexity Theory

Jorgen Bang Jenssen, a former CEO of Play telecom in Poland, in one of our conversations, said that a strategy statement is as much about what a company wants to do for their customers, as it is about what it is not going to do for them. Jorgen’s words nicely resonate with the concept of attractors and boundaries, don’t they?

As I keep on working on the different ways to define the design vision I am frequently puzzled by the lessons from Complexity Theory. I am convinced that experience design is about creating platforms where people can live their experiences rather than designing a detailed experience for them. Again, in the words of Dave Snowden, it seems that creating a design vision for Customer Experience is not that far from organizing a children’s party. That it might be smart to think about it in terms of attractors and boundaries.

What can become an attractor or a boundary in CX strategy?

The Strategic CX Model by Aga Szóstek

Defining the attractors for CX strategy can easily follow from the Strategic CX Model I have proposed a few weeks back. If you consider motivators such a engagement, uniqueness, exceeding expectations and providing meaning to be the elements that loyalize customers, using them to first define and then create the attractors for the vision seems like a good idea.

But I am more stuck on how to define the boundaries. How to say, which lines we are NOT crossing? What boundaries we are setting for both ourselves and our customers? Again, following Snowden, I am turning into his definition of the difference between the robust and resilient systems:

“A robust system can be designed in terms of end goals, a resilient system has to be designed in terms of what we don’t want to happen (a negative motivation but a strong one) and a direction of travel that minimises the risk of catastrophic failure, but is designed to induce early failure from which we can learn. With exaptive processes such failure can also be designed for innovation.”

Perhaps this definition could help to define what boundaries are. That they are the negative scenario(s), which we don’t want to execute at any cost. Like, for example, creating a never-ending array of wow factors that only lead to the increased of the positive adaptation effect. I am worried that I am simplifying what Dave tried to say but the idea of stating that a company defines as much what they do as what they don’t, seems like the right direction to consider.

Measuring CX strategy

Jorgen has also once said that if you don’t measure something, you are not going to be able to execute it at your organization. So, the other topic that is keeping me awake at night is how to best measure CX on the strategic level. I have already discussed the imperfections of the Net Promoter Score measurement, which is probably the most accepted measure for CX today.

As I keep on thinking about CX, I am more and more convinced about two things:

— Firstly, in order to become actionable and motivational, the CX measurement must consist a number of measures that reflect the attractors and the boundaries incorporated in the CX Strategy.

— Secondly, the measure needs to follow the philosophy of Wabi Sabi as a quality measure for CX. CX is not something that will happen according to spec. It is the best effort from the organization that is shaping an experience towards an a priori defined direction (a travel destination, as Snowden says).

Why am I thinking that? Because the perception of experience is subjective and personal. Like a definition of a perfect weather. You might think that perfect weather is +23 degrees Celsius with steady wind. That would be the a definition of my husband who is going sailing. For my mum in law, the ideal weather is +32 degrees and full sun as she loves to sun-bath. I prefer +25 with clouds, so I can sit in the garden without suffocating from the heat. None of us likes freezing rain though. So, there are certain qualities of the weather that makes it preferable but it cannot be precisely defined by spec suited for everyone (at least not all of it).

Funny enough, the most perfect things are, in fact, often imperfect: the song “Like a rolling stone” by Bob Dylan, that was claimed to be the ultimate best rock song or having a system failure at my bank and being served by the nicest lady ever despite it that created a unique experience for me.

There is one more thing about having spec. For sure it will not be an inspiration for any employee to have a CX strategy set in terms of formally defined deliverables. And in order to bring CX strategy to life employees need to be inspired.

So, how to create a vision that is inspirational and the measurement that reflects it in a form of attractors and boundaries rather than a recipe for predefined action? This is the question, a good answer to which, I am sure, would push the CX agenda in many organizations of today.

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