The Era of Experience: How the Rise of User Experience Is Transforming Change Management

UX is all about change, and it’s quickly changing the world as we know it

Over the past 30 years, the term ‘User Experience’ (UX) has risen from obscurity and established itself as a driving force behind virtually all our modern products and services. UX design concepts have reached beyond digital interfaces and permeated the meeting rooms of diverse industries. It’s not a small thing; it’s a reflection of a greater trend in our economy and the population as a whole: people are more interested than ever in spending money on experiences over material possessions. This is reflected in the data too; since 1987, the share of consumer spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending increased by 70%.

There is no doubt that the Era of Experience is on our horizon. Making an active effort to embrace UX can be the factor that elevates your product or service to the next level, and this is especially applicable in the field of Change Management. In this emerging era, it is fundamental that change managers embrace user experience concepts.

What is UX?

Like most trends that experience rapid growth, User Experience can sometimes be difficult to define. It’s not a coincidence that the term has grown in conjunction with the Digital Revolution that started in the 1980's. The concept of UX gained traction to address the accessibility gap that began forming during the development of early digital technology. Back then, engineers and developers had one primary goal: how can we make this new technology work? It was an important goal, one that brought forth many incredible digital innovations – and a myriad of painful experiences. Unclear interfaces, primitive graphics, and poor instructions are just a few factors that made using these technologies particularly difficult and inaccessible to most people. It’s only in the last three decades that we’ve seen a real and powerful push among designers towards refining these existing technologies by tailoring them to the user, starting with the establishment of a new goal: how can we make this technology work for humans?

"The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

-Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was arguably the most influential driver of User Experience as a concept in business. His unshakeable fixation with understanding the needs of his users took the market by storm, generating products that fulfilled our consumer wants before we even realized we wanted them. And perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of Apple’s user experience was its focus on creating products with simplicity. The company strove to create intuitively obvious interfaces and a painless shopping experience, empowering their users to pick up their products and play with them effortlessly. For Apple, this was their key to success, and the company went on to change our relationship with technology forever.

How does UX impact Change Management? (And why should you care?)

Change is at the core of User Experience. While UX designers craft experiences, they also collaborate with their users to reinforce long-lasting behaviours. Change managers play a similar role in the organizations we work for.

The rise of User Experience isn’t just changing the way we build and develop our technologies, it’s also changing what we expect from our own life experiences. As our experiences become more efficient – easier – our frame of reference for what a good experience should feel like transforms as well, to the point where encountering a difficult user experience can cause someone to disengage from listening to a message completely. This is why embracing User Experience is vital for those working in Change Management, where generating engagement and empowerment is critical for change adoption success. 

Long story short: having bad user experience when it comes to planning and executing your Change Management activities can mean the difference between the success and struggle of your organization’s transformation. 

How to incorporate UX into your CM workflow

After reviewing the inception of UX, its emergence into our products and services, and its impact on people’s perception of their experiences, we are left with three compelling insights that can motivate us to keep user experience in mind when implementing change:

  1. People search for meaningful experiences.

  2. People often don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

  3. People expect seamless experiences.

Incorporating these UX insights into your workflow doesn’t have to be a big transformation at the start. Success is the result of applying a few simple daily disciplines that, over time, add up to big accomplishments. Here are three UX strategies that you can start integrating into your change management processes:

Strategy #1: User Research

Leading user research is a sure-fire strategy for predicting what people want and need so you can be better equipped to create a user experience that is meaningful to them. It doesn’t mean that you need to create tedious surveys or analyze data, it can be as simple as going out and talking to people, or more importantly, listening to them. Ask questions about their work, what they wish to see improved, and what they think about your organization’s change. Your user research efforts will not only give you excellent knowledge about your audience and the business, but it will also help you build trust and empathy with the individuals impacted by the change. People need to feel like they are genuinely being heard and supported throughout the change process, and leading user research is a perfect way to show your willingness to support them.

Strategy #2: Task Analysis

For UX designers, a good experience is the result of solving many little challenges. It’s essential to identify the small barriers that are making the experience feel difficult, and focus on improving each one. This process, known as task analysis, involves identifying all the tasks that users complete to achieve the desired outcome. By implementing task analysis to your Change Management approach, you can begin addressing areas of common frustration and maximizing your audience’s willingness to engage with your message and change activities.

Strategy #3: Iteration