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April 24, 2013 | Tom Ballard

EC Conference Follow-up #1: Experience Design

Enterprise Center-tekno(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of two follow-up articles on presentations made at the April 17 “Technology Transfer Conference” hosted by The Enterprise Center in Chattanooga.)

Have you heard of experience design? We admit we had not before hearing a presentation on the topic at last week’s at The Enterprise Center’s “Technology Transfer Conference.” We found the concept intriguing and decided to do a follow-up story on the presentation by Jared Spool, Founder of a company named User Interface Engineering.

Describing experience design as the business world’s secret competitive advantage, Spool elaborated by telling the attendees that “design is no longer just about the visual, but about the business. Experience design is all about creating intention inside of gaps that happen.”

In a previous post on, we noted that Spool used several examples to underscore his points.

He said that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was losing money in the 1970s about the time that Cirque du Soleil decided to enter the same business line. Most people scratched their heads, unable to understand the logic of entering a challenged sector. Spool explained that Cirque further confused the skeptics by eliminating circus animals.

What people did not understand at the time was that Cirque determined that “animals were the biggest expense a circus has” due to transportation and care. So, in a strategic redesign, it eliminated that expense, used the monies saved to invest in better performers and performances, and actually was able to charge a premium over the previous cost of tickets.

“Cirque now makes more money every night than all of Broadway,” Spool said in a reference to New York’s famous theater district.

Hospitals using GE Healthcare’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) systems regularly faced challenges with children. The youngsters were afraid of the big machines and had to be sedated in about 80 percent of the cases.

To overcome the resistance, GE Healthcare created its Adventure Series of MRIs. Spool said it is the same basic machine, but presented in an entirely different way – a pirate ship – and a totally different experience, Youngsters dress in a pirate uniform, not a hospital gown. They walk to the MRI on a surface that is described as a dock. They are asked if they want to see some mermaids. Most answer “yes,” and they are told that they have to get in a boat and go through a cave (i.e., the MRI tunnel) to see the mermaids, but they also have to be still to avoid scaring away the mermaids.

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