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

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, the company that brought me in.

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!"

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.

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