Experiencing Innovation: MIT’s Approach to Design Thinking


Written by Matt Miller | Group Creative Director at Periscope

The word, “experience” is used a lot today in marketing. But experience design isn’t new. Long before Pine and Gilmore published The Experience Economy in 1999, designers were innovating how we engage with products and services. Everything around us has been designed by someone — every service or interaction we have with a company has been designed to operate in a particular fashion. In other words, every brand is an experience brand.

The question marketers face is whether or not the experience of their product or service is compelling. And, just as importantly, how can it be improved?

Having focused my career on designing brand experiences, I was curious to learn how a design thinking methodology might apply to the work we create at Periscope. So, I enrolled in a program on the innovation of product and service design at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Working on retail accounts like Google and Target at Periscope, I chose to focus my MIT project work on the retail industry and was paired with an international team of students from Mexico, Ecuador and Peru. It was a lesson in collaboration with remote work teams and it was our goal to use technology to improve the customer experience at the point of sale.

And while developing and pitching our prototype to the faculty was a bit daunting — like being on Shark Tank for academia — several key learnings stood out that apply to designing brand experiences for our clients:

What, not how: It’s easy to start chasing ideas and concepts that don’t solve the real problem because we haven’t taken the time to understand what currently is and is not working through the lens of our audience. Focus first on clarifying what needs to be solved before trying to solve it.

Get it all out: If you’re going to find that breakthrough idea, you have to get everything on the table no matter how silly it may seem at the time. It’s often through the combination of thoughts from disparate ideas that lead to innovation.

Embrace failure: This goal is to test your hypothesis and incorporate those learnings, not to avoid mistakes. If you’re afraid of failure, you won’t reach far enough to discover something truly innovative.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, innovation most often doesn’t occur through a lightning bolt moment of inspiration. It is the output of a systematic human-centered process.

Every brand delivers an experience. But brands that deliver experiences which win the hearts and minds of their consumer, attendee or key stakeholder find opportunities for innovation within that experience, whether it takes place on a screen, in a physical space or through live interaction, to create a more relevant, meaningful exchange.