1: Experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world

The signature behavior of people who routinely achieve innovative outcomes is that they constantly seek to experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world. 

Instead of only reading someone else's market research summary, they go in the field and shop across the category in question.  That way they can get a feel for all the intangibles which are lost in translation, as language, photos, and even video are imperfect mediums.  Honda's innovative rethink of the pickup truck came from Saturday mornings spent in the parking lot of Home Depot.

Instead of taking someone else's diagnosis of a problem at face value, they seek a second opinion, and the deliverer of that second opinion is their own person.  When there's a problem on the production line at Toyota, they don't wait for a PowerPoint to circulate with photos and diagrams of the bug in question.  Instead, everyone concerned walks over to experience the bug firsthand.  And then they ask:  why, why, why, why, and why?

Instead of spending sixty minutes talking about what might be done, they build four 15-minute prototypes to immediately jump to the lessons that only come when you start breaking things.  At the Stanford d.school, we hold "Iron Chef" prototyping sessions where small teams receive a problem statement from the audience (show me a way to run fast on the Moon!), and then they prototype the hell out of it for five minutes.  And invariably they get somewhere interesting that would have been unreachable via conversation and hand waving.

Instead of only reading second-hand source or searching on Google, they go to the place and talk to people and see the sights.  Talking to a person living on a dollar a day is much different than reading about it, as important as that background knowledge is.  Experiencing the Mona Lisa in person is something quite different than viewing it on your MacBook.  In order to understand what was really going on in Dubai, Joi Ito picked up house in Japan and moved there.

To truly start living as a design thinker, experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world.

This is the first of 21 principles.  Please give me your feedback and ideas.

9 thoughts on “1: Experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world

  1. Yes. Completely agree. When I first started working in race cars it was with the intention of becoming a better automotive journalist. The deeper I got into it, however, the more I realized that the interesting part was not talking (or writing) about racing but racing itself. And I never went back to journalism.

  2. I think you’re right. I just started my first marketing class in an MBA program and we’ve talked a lot about focus groups, market research, etc but there is a lot of value in doing it yourself and experiencing it first hand.
    On a side note, this is the reason I hate Facebook…because people talk about experiencing the world instead of actually experiencing it. If you post to your Facebook status saying “Vince is working out at the gym.” well…that’s not quite true. The truth is that you’re updating Facebook and telling people you’re working out at the gym. Anyway, I digress.

  3. Vince’s comment is particularly depressing. To my mind, a marketing class (indeed any class) should focus on the what and why and far less on the how. Being prescriptive about how you find things out can only serve to limit what you find out.

  4. This is a principle with which I identify on a visceral level. It has always felt true and obvious, but if your decision maker doesn’t see it, you will have problems.
    Many years ago when I helped create a corporate identity package for my (then) employer, we were ruled in marketing by someone who did not consume anything outside of hockey. Also, the president and VP of engineering did not watch TV or have outside interests beyond the company.
    Trying to create something that would engage actual customers (i.e. people who live in the world) was a real challenge. I don’t know that we succeeded, but each day was an uphill battle of:
    “This would appeal to the buyer demographic because of X,Y, and Z.”
    “I don’t like it because it’s not blue and also I don’t think anyone uses Amazon.com.”
    If you don’t know what your target audience does, you can never engage them.
    Design of any sort is a participatory sport.

  5. I realize this comment is a long way past the original post, but your points seem particularly relevant at this stage in the evolution of social media.
    As more and more companies are prompted to play an active role in the online spaces that are supposed to matter to their customers (prompted by their vocal communications teams or agencies), we see a heaping pile of dialogue and discussion, but I’m not sure if it prompts appropriate and meaningful action.
    And that is a shame: it seems like we’re doing a lot of talking to hear ourselves speak, but not enough experimentation and learning, especially in environments where our customers can play an active role in the prototyping and improvement.
    Thanks Diego.

  6. All this Internet age makes people from one hand to know everything, but on the other hand they forsaken passion and understanding.
    In the case of Honda’s truck – actually they’re right, if you do not want to be there, buy a driving simulator and stay at home. that’s it:)
    truck rental

  7. One of the fundamental insights that’s helping us re-imagine our lives in a brighter, greener cast is that most of the time, we don’t want stuff, we want specific needs fulfilled or experiences provided; that, as Amory Lovins puts it, we don’t want refrigerators, we want cold beer — if there were a better, cheaper, cleaner way of providing cold brews, most of us wouldn’t shed a tear to see our fridges go. Recognizing that this is true for nearly every product in our lives is revelation number one.

  8. I grew up in developing countries and experienced several of the needs of the countries… however as I have walked away from that I feel I am losing such connection. I feel that I did not really experience the world from the eyes of the needy and I need to go back and empathize with them now!

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