Follow the Mountain Bikers

AN ATYPICAL CASE-STUDY: THE MOUNTAIN BIKERS

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It could be normal to think that the word co-creation was born in the 2.0 era, when other words with the same root, like “creative”, started to be protagonists of the web and innovation scene. Nevertheless it was fist used to describe something else.

Gaurav Bhalla, in his “Collaboration and Co.creation: New Platforms for Marketing and Innovation” explains that the fist industry which benefit from the Co-creation was the Mountain Biking: “Mountain biking started as a fringe recreational pastime among a few teenagers in the hills and mountains of Marin Country, California, in the early 1970s. Today, it is an Olympic sport, a $ billion global industry, and a form of recreation for millions around the world.” (G. Bhalla, 2011).

Bhalla says that it was the shared passion and the obsessive tinkering of lots of bikers who created a new market, because they needed something else from the daily bikes. The mountain biking pioneers experimented and tried different roads and paths with their old bikes; this drove them to figure out which problems occurred during their experiences, and finally brought them to the solution.  As a matter of fact, “In their willingness to network, collaborate, and share, the mountain bikers were acting as both customers and producers of mountain bikes.” (G. Bhalla, 2011).

If you are interested in the history of the mountain bike here is an interesting and useful video.

FROM PARTICIPATORY DESIGN TO THE BLUE OCEAN

ImageFirst of all it is necessary to understand what is the meaning of the words co.design and co-creation.

It is really difficult to find some definitions of those concepts in the search engines, even if they are also seriously discussed in academic design circles.

 

A comprehensive definition of co-creation could be found in an interview made by the IBS Case Development Centre  with Gurav Bhalla about his contribution to the article “Rethinking Marketing” for the HBR. Bhalladefines co-creation as a representation ofinteraction between one or more firms, and one or more actual or potential customersSecondly, the innovative thinker says that this interaction is willing, purposive, and intentional.  Thirdly, this interaction is managed, either by the firm, or jointly by the firm and its customers.  Fourthly, the output of this interaction results in value for both the firm and for its customers.  Lastly, the value created for customers may or may not be unique, and is derived through a variety of experiences, such as suggesting ideas, refining current value, designing new products, improving current designs, fixing defects, and consuming new products and services.

According to Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders & Pieter Jan Stappers and to what they write in their Co-creation and the new landscapes of design, Co- design could be defined as “collective creativity as it is applied across the whole span of a design process”, and it is seen as “a specific instance of co-creation”. Basicly its meaning is referred to the creativity of designers and people  who, even if they have not been trained in design, could work together in the design development process. (Sanders and Stappers, 2008)

The origin of co-design could be found in what for 40 years was named participatory design, which grew especially in the north of Europe: during the 1970s inNorway, Sweden and Denmark the Collective Resource Approach started to engage workers in the development of new systems for the workplace, with the intent that it could improve the value of industrial production. The approach put together the expertise of the systems designers/researchers and the situated expertise of the people whose work was to be impacted by the change. The approach, thus, built on the workers’ own experiences and provided them with the resources to be able to act in their current situation(Bodker, 1996)

ImageFor years many studies and researches about participatory design could be discovered: in September, 1971, was organized a conference named Design Participation, held by the Design Research Society in Manchester, England. Within the proceedings of the conference, in his conclusion Robert Jungk (futurist and social inventor) told that the participation had to be included not only during the moment of the decision, but it should be a part of the moment of the idea generation (Sanders and Stappers, 2008).

Last Friday at the Design Thinking lecture of MACE, we talked about the Blue Ocean Strategy, which “is about doing business where there is no competitor. It is about creating new land, not dividing up existing land.” (W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Blue Ocean Strategy, HBR, October, 2004). According to that, what a better resort to explore and to create new markets than following up the needs of the users/ consumers by working with them?

As the guru Bhalla claims, the mountain bikers first discovered what Kim and Mauborgne underline: in overcrowded industries, differentiating brands becomes harder both in economic upturns and in downturns.and, as a consequence, co-design, and co-creation in general, should be the key.

Living the Experience Design

Finally we started working with our Young Enterprise teams.

As we are designing a very simple series of objects – I will not tell you which kind of they are, I will call them “k-tools” – we decided to have our first official meeting in a location which was perfect to have a User Experience. We are designers, but first of all everyone of us is a user. To be precise, in that case I was the user ^_^, and the other team-members were the observers.

I acted like I was at my home, even if I wasn’t, because as we have to be strong in problem solving, fist of all we have to see the problems to solve. In this spot we had to visualize which problems I had to face during the whole experience, and which k-tools I should need to simplify my experience and make it better.

We found the meeting really useful, and we came up with with many problems as well as many solutions for each of them.

I went home and started to find information about the Experience Design: I found a massive number of documents and slides.

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What is Experience Design? Here are some definitions.

“Experience design (XD) is the practice of Experience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions.An emerging discipline, experience design draws from many other disciplines including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architecture and environmental design, haptics, hazard analysis, product design, theatre, information design, information architecture, ethnography, brand strategy, interaction design, service design, storytelling, heuristics, technical communication, and design thinking products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user exExperience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions. An emerging discipline, experience design draws from many other disciplines including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architecture and environmental design, haptics, hazard analysis, product design, theatre, information design, information architecture, ethnography, brand strategy, interaction design, service design, storytelling, heuristics, technical communication, and design thinkingperience and culturally relevant solutions. An emerging discipline, experience design draws from many other disciplines including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architectureand environmental design, haptics, hazard analysis, product design, theatre, information design, information architecture, ethnography, brand strategy, interaction design, service design,storytelling, heuristics, technical communication, and design thinking” (source:  Wikipedia)

I found many definitions of User Experience Design, referred to the digital design, which is not our issue for the Young Enterprise project, but it is necessary to know what it is to prevent some kind of misunderstanding.

User experience (abbreviated as UX) is how a person feels when interfacing with a system. The system could be a website, a web application or desktop software and, in modern contexts, is generally denoted by some form of human-computer interaction (HCI). Those who work on UX (called UX designers) study and evaluate how users feel about a system, looking at such things as ease of use, perception of the value of the system, utility, efficiency in performing tasks and so forth.” (source: UXdesign)

Nathan Shedroff wrote a book about Experience Design, and in its introduction he tells that “In particular, the elements that contribute to superior experiences are knowable and reproducible, which make them designable.” He also writes that “Many see it only as a field for digital media,” (but that is UX, AN) “while others view it in broad-brush terms that encompass traditional, established, and other such diverse disciplines as theater, graphic design, storytelling, exhibit design, theme-park design, online design, game design, interior design, architecture, and so forth.” 

Nathan also describes some rules about ED, which are Time/Duration, Interactivity, Intensity, Breadth/Consistency, Sensorial and Cognitive Triggers, and Significance/Meaning. (source: http://www.nathan.com/ed/)

I verily agree with Nathan, I found his words strongly instructive and formative. The Experience Design is the key to the Contemporary Design, if it is digital or not. Understand by the six steps the needs and problems of the customers/ users is the only way to prototype and brand.

But there is something more. By googling “Experience Design” I also found the Experience Design Manifesto , which is extremely interesting and innovative.

It declares that “The ultimate aim of all creative activity is to bring happiness to people’s lives. Happiness is an emotion that comes in result of positive experiences and affects human beings.” It gives also some rules sbout the Experiences which, to foster happiness, should:

  • Make people feel confident of themselves.
  • Make people feel they can do something better. Empowers people to do something in a better way.
  • Improve people’s lives helping to solve existing pragmatic problems
  • Make people have an enjoyable and fun time during the experience, thus making life worth to be lived.
  • Surprises people in a magic way, bringing delight to the eyes and making the mind wonder.
  • Create an emotional connection between everyone involved, the experience itself and the one supporting the experience (a brand or a person)
  • Make the world a better place to live
  • Strenghten relationships between people that live the same experience”

Admittedly it could be argued that those rules were not much related to reality, but the results of our tem meeting and my experience was indeed connected to many them:  “Improve people’s lives helping to solve existing pragmatic problems” is the one more appropriated, because we found a lot of practical problems, and our solutions are all bound for solving them; “Make the world a better place to live” could seem the more abstracted rule, but if it is considered that the new tendences of design are all leant to eco-compatibility, environmental preservation and recycle-sensitive solutions, it could be found as one the fundamental points.

If an “experience designer must love and care about people and the world in which we all live.” I am really proud to be it.