“We see in order to move; we move in order to see.” ― William Gibson
Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. Using the world’s most advanced technology, customers never have to wait in line. They walk in, pick up the products they want and leave - no lines, not checking, no waiting. The Amazon Go video clearly demonstrates a minimally interrupted user experience with seamless motion. This is a beautiful flow-based user experience that is constant, convenient and revolutionary. Why isn’t movement and effortless flow a principle element of user experience design thinking? Why can’t we walk into a bank, hospital, university or retail outlets and experience continuous set of flow-based solutions?
To better understand the importance of motion as a key design principle for optional convenience and user experience, I spoke with Henry King, a former CIO and senior consultant at Accenture and Deloitte, who has spent 30 years leading and enabling complex IT and business transformational projects. King is a part time faculty member at the Institute of Design (ID), and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where he teaches Masters of Design courses in innovation strategy and flow-based design. King is also working hard to advise large organizations on how they can keep innovation alive and flowing.
How is movement related to human experience?
Movement and success go hand in hand. We describe someone who’s doing well as being on the move, on their way up, moving and shaking, really going places. By contrast, those who aren’t doing so well are often thought of as being stuck or bogged down, at a standstill and getting nowhere.
And it’s not just metaphorical. As individuals, our relationship to movement really does help to define where we fit in the social pecking order; at one end are those with little or no control over their own movement or that of anyone else. This includes those who are denied movement, like inmates, those who are unable to move themselves, like the severely disabled, and also those who, conversely, are forced to move, like migrant workers. And at the other end are those who can choose to stay or to go, who can summon others to them, and who show off their control over movement through ownership and collection of its most extravagant and luxurious symbols: exotic cars, thoroughbred horses, super-yachts and private jets. And in between are all sorts of subtle clues to rank including mode and duration of daily commute, passport ownership and stamps received, frequent flyer status, and so on.
Beyond social success, we protect the freedom to move as a fundamental human right, and we are coming to regard movement as essential to wellness and to longevity. It’s no wonder that sitting has been defined as “the new smoking”. And, ultimately, movement is life itself. With each dam that is removed in the USA, life returns to the river almost as soon as it starts to flow again. And it is only when we stop breathing and blood stops flowing that we are pronounced clinically dead.
Why should organizations view ‘movement’ as a key principle for design thinking?
So you’d be forgiven for thinking that movement would be a basic design principle of everyday experiences like shopping, working, learning, getting medical attention, travelling, and so on. And yet the exact opposite happens to be true. Organizations of all types take their customers, employees, students, patients, members and guests out of their flow and bring them to a standstill, both figuratively and literally. It’s not malicious of course but rather, from the organizations’ perspective, simply the easiest, cheapest or most obvious way to handle them.
The examples are all around us: every day in America most of the 50 million kids in public K12 education will need to sit still and be quiet before their education can begin, and at least 10 million adults will spend most of their workday at their desks, partitioned off from one another by cubicle walls to maximize their productivity; a good percentage of the 30 million or so visitors to a grocery store will spend time waiting in the checkout line; and the vast majority of the 3 million or so visitors to the doctor’s office will spend at least 20 minutes in the waiting room. With over 560 million visits annually, that adds up to some 270 lifetimes spent in waiting rooms alone every year! And let’s not forget the time spent waiting to check in to hotel rooms, or hanging on the phone to speak to a sales representative or to technical support, or standing in line at airport security or idling at the tollbooth plaza. We may be living in a fast-moving world but we spend a lot of time in it sitting or standing still.
Design for customer experience and relationships over touch-points and transactions - Henry King
And yet it doesn’t always have to be that way. A small number of organizations have learned to value movement and are designing or redesigning experiences to give people back their flow. From Salesforce’s own mobile-native platform that connects our clients to their customers wherever they are to the elimination of waiting times and the introduction of flow managers at Virginia Mason Medical Center; from the no checkout concept at Amazon Go retail stores to the installation of open road tolling on Illinois I-294; each in their own way is replacing the traditional static model that optimizes for organizational convenience with a new dynamic that optimizes for effective experiences.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” ― Arthur C. Clarke
Flow-based solutions, like the examples above, nearly always deliver the win-win benefits of improving the customer or user experience and reducing operational costs at the same time, and often improve their environmental or community impact as well. And, because flow-based solutions are still in a tiny minority, organizations that adopt them are highly differentiated in their industry. All managers who want to achieve these same benefits for their organization, regardless of industry or application, can do so by shifting their experience paradigm and designing for flows.
Organizations that have implemented flow-based solutions are typically among the most differentiated and the most successful players in their industry or market. And yet they represent a very small part of the whole.
This article was co-authored by Henry King. Henry King is a Program Executive in the Innovation, Transformation and Centers of Excellence practice (ITC) at Salesforce. For more information on Flow by Design, a new business paradigm which promotes flows of resources including people, information, materials, products, energy and waste, please connect with Henry on Twitter at @manofstring.