Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Making Magic

IDEO employee Sandy Speicher recently wrote an article called Design Thinking: A Human-Centered Approach to Innovation in Education which was featured on the Education Week blog. In it, Sandy uses a project IDEO did for the San Francisco Unified School District as an example. Part way into the article she writes:

In one particularly revealing moment, a student told us what she thought about the new lunchtime experiences: "I love this so much. This would be amazing. I just can't believe you would do this for us."

The thought which immediately occurred to me was; That's magic.

Jeff McBride
Back in 2011, I attended the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society convention in Las Vegas. The keynote speaker was a magician named Jeff McBride, who definitely knows how to throw cards.

HFES explained their choice of Jeff as keynote by stating; The theory behind illusions and the tools of the illusionist are similar to those that are relevant to the human factors/ergonomics community. Principles of attention, perception, biases, expectations, and memory are as pertinent to a magician as they are to an interface or systems designer.

Jeff's performance got me thinking about the nature of magic and user experience and magic always reminds me of Disney.

Along with playing the role of Crabby Old Guy in both Product Design groups on LinkedIn, I'm also a member of Doug Lipp's Disney Best Practices group. Doug wrote a book called Disney U - How Disney University Develops the World's Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees

Last year Doug posted a question; Is the Disney Way a process or is it magic? There were several replies, most of which focused on the mechanism and context of the experience a guest is supposed to have at a Disney destination. 

In the midst of a mental mashup of Disney and magic and human factors, it occurred to me that Disney's - and Apple's - brand of magic is what happens when someone unexpectedly responds to someone else's unexpressed (latent) needs, which creates the opportunity for; "I love this so much. This would be amazing. I just can't believe you would do this for us."

Jeff McBride's illusions are "magic" because we don't know how they are done. Disney's customer service is magic because we don't expect it. Apple's Look and Feel delight us by making the process of using technology feel natural. What we bring to the party is a willingness to suspend our disbelief long enough to be delighted when the "trick" happens. Apple, Disney and McBride are masters of their craft. 

As designers, we can become magicians. We can make real magic. Design Thinking; being at Bloom's top two levels of learning; at the level of mastery of the problem. Seeing the unseen, discovering the unknown and inventing the future is what makes the magic possible. Doing so, you discover the unexpressed needs of others, develop the knowledge necessary to respond and consistently act on that knowledge. 

The reason its seems like magic is that, so few typically do it that very few expect it, except, of course, in Magical Kingdoms.

Embrace your Inner Mouse

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