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Expanding Innovation: The Beginning of B-2-B User Experience

“We are moving from a post-industrial commodity production and product design focus to social innovation infiltrated design that taps into insights about the prevalent and emerging values and true needs of the user, the people.”

Big industrial players in Finland
have recently noticed an interesting phenomenon building up in the periphery of
their vision. Something different, yet instinctively appealing is turning heads
and vying for attention. User generated innovation. I recently presented in Helsinki to four manuacturing plants on the idea of B2B user experience… Here is a rundown of the events via IDEAN.fi, the company that brought me in.

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From Wikipedia: User
experience
is a subjective feeling;
it cannot actually be ‘designed’. Instead, you can design for a user
experience, trying to enable
certain kind of experiences. The scope of the field is directed at
affecting ‘all aspects of the user’s interaction with the product: how it is
perceived, learned, and used.’

Idean, a Finnish company dedicated
to spreading the value of UX in the realm of automation, paper, steel, and
machinery. More often than not, the doors are opened, steaming cups of coffee
are served, and a barrage of good questions follows. The discourse between
industry and UX is occurring.

User eXperience (UX) contains the must have applicable catalyst for innovation in the industrial context. In a
world where change is quickly becoming a constant, the ability to invent,
reinvent and regenerate oneself is a necessity for survival. Not even (or maybe
especially not) the big and beautiful industrial B-2-B players have the luxury
to disregard that he rules of the game are changing. Staying ahead of the
innovation ebb and surge is crucial, and we believe that connecting with the
forces of change is the key.

But what is changing, exactly? It
is a shift in societal values, attitudes, and the balance of power. We are
moving from a post-industrial commodity production and product design focus to
social innovation infiltrated design that taps into insights about the
prevalent and emerging values and true needs of the people–users, customers,
consumers, buyers, whatever their title or role may be.

Balance of Power
In deed, the balance of power is
shifting from the producers to the consumers. Global values are turning away from purely consumerism focus
to include the interest of global-scale responsibility, mutual profits, and the
power of the local and global conversation. Tomorrow connecting with the
empathy of the citizen, the customer, and client creates success. Issues such as global warming,
shortages, recycling and pollution are coming to the forefront, and industry
players can reinvent themselves as active components of the solution. This is widely understood in industry
circles, but the processes and equations are still missing the pragmatic,
ground swell UX factor.

B-2-B, Meet UX
On a windy and wet Wednesday in
Helsinki, a group of industrial professionals, including high-ranking
officials, marketing and sales wizards as well as bleeding-edge R&D gurus
enter a sleek and modern auditorium. This day is dedicated to an in depth
excursion into the future of user experience, especially in the context of B-2-B
and industry. The natural curiosity and skepticism tinged with positive
vibrations is tangible in the room. Breakfast is served, the industry troupers
take their seats and the show begins. The theme for today is: “Wake-up!”

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Opening the Paradigm
First impressions are critical.
For the companies involved, UX is a relatively new concept, and Idean is
determined to portray an authentic and convincing vision of what UX can really
do. This is why Idean invited Ms Jody Turner, a true visionary in the field of
UX trends to deliver heartfelt and eye-opening visions of future driven
industry approaches and stories from the companies she has worked with. The
goal is to provide an experience that sparks the spirit of sincere inquiry, discovery
and application in each participant.

Jody paints a vivid portrait of a
world in flux, moving towards a situation in which users are (and feel)
empowered and user communities emerge as vital contributors with real tools of
influence. In this world, the governing values are related to global and local
responsibility, interconnectedness, balance, authenticity, and shared profit.
This is a world where traditional top-down management tactics and one-way
marketing communications are seen as only a part of a bigger and more important
movement. Here the emotion of relationship is everything.

The Core
A new culture of pragmatic
transparency and public influence begins here. People (and in B-2-B context, the entire community of
stakeholders) are asking questions about the services and products: Where did
it come from? What is it doing to me/to the community/to the world now? Where
is it going from here? The stories behind products are profoundly compelling
and people are more engaged in their product choices than ever before. To enter
this world, many companies need to realign their purpose, mission or DNA POV
and sometimes reinvent their business structure to better serve their true or
original purpose. The theme is “resilience”, a regenerative approach, and a
norm of agile adaptation to changes emerging.

Applying UX to B-2-B
After the keynote, cross-company ideation
discussions enlivened the meeting rooms long into the afternoon. It was clear
the day opened an important doorway, skepticism was dispelled and the minds
unified with a creative focus. In the context of the B-2-B value chain, who are
the actors that form a community of stakeholders and how do we bring them
closer together? Cross-disciplined inspiration ensued.

The “Wake-up!” is followed by a
second, and more challenging workshop entitled “Act!” This is the “head butting”
part of the equation; when the U and the X create a foothold in the processes for
B-2-B engagement. If we are smart
and play well together, there will be a “next Monday” plan that outlines the
very first steps needed to enter the future.

Edited by Elizabeth Adams.

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Win, win. Minds opened, ideas
generated and commitments forward. We will keep you posted on part two, three,
four and beyond.

About the author

A dynamic social researcher, cultural narrator, future trendhunter and strategic designer, Jody Turner works and speaks globally via her west coast company CultureofFuture.com and the London group Trendwatching.com. Client engagements have included Apple, BMW, StyleVision France, Adidas, Starbucks, The Gap, Unilever Istanbul and multiple others.

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