Ahead of next week’s AdSchool Digital Strategy & Experience course, we chat to presenters Harry Steinhart and Ivan Schneiders of Leo Burnett Melbourne about customer centred design, the creative process, and combining tech and creativity for the ultimate human experience.

TCC: How is the evolution of human-centered design having an impact on the creative process?

Ivan: The best example of operationalising HCD at scale I have seen is Commbank. The customer centred ethos is actively endorsed from the very top of the business. There’s investment in understanding the problems real people face, independently of the products and services the organisation offers.

Watching Google trying to shift from a tech-driven company to a design led, customer-centred, 800-pound gorilla is very impressive. I think of the Material Design Framework, the Design Sprint methodology, and Think with Google, and you get a pretty good picture of just how effectively they are using data (to understand people) and human centred design to transform lives and behaviour.

Ultimately, it’s the companies that are looking for statistically significant human problems to solve that are the most interesting.

TCC: You have a background in behavioural science – can you share any examples of how you are applying this in your design work?

Ivan: It’s a way of thinking about design itself, a perspective, based on the fact that the only way we access reality (have experiences) is via our senses which send signals to our brains where we subsequently (or arguably simultaneously) attribute meaning. Behavioural science is an incredibly broad field, from sociology and anthropology to psychology and the specifics of decision science and behavioural economics.

In a recent example, a set of people were ignoring warning letters that their health was at serious risk. These people had been sent multiple letters warning them and offering to remedy the risk for free. Thousands of them ignored the letters. We created a new set of letters with a variety of behavioural interventions applied. One was dealing with a problem known as probability neglect (the tendency to disregard probability when making a decision) and normalcy bias (the belief that because something has never happened before it will never happen again). We applied several behavioural interventions to the letter. The simplest was something called social norming; we added a sentence that read “9/10 people have had this problem fixed”. The most famous example of this was in the UK where a team sent 100,000 taxpayers with unpaid tax a variety of letters some of which included the sentence “Nine out of ten people in the UK pay their taxes on time.” These recipients were four times as likely to pay and the program increased revenue by $3.38 million in the first month.

A second example is closer to home. My daughter wanted to stop squeezing some pimples but keep absentmindedly doing it. Frustrated with herself she came to me and asked for help. I said, ‘Ok if you squeeze a pimple in the next two weeks you will have to donate $5 to Donald Trump’s election campaign’. Needless to say, her face was soon spotless, and the habit was broken. The $5 was not the key; it was the social and identity implications of supporting a someone as culturally and politically repugnant to her as Donald Trump that made it work. The second part was the time-period. Breaking a habit takes time, but make the time too long or the price too high, and she would give up. These are called commitment devices, and they can help with everything from dieting to saving money.

TCC: What single best practice case study can you reference that combines human experience, creativity and technology?

Harry: Can I give you two?

The ‘Aland Index’ created by the Bank of Aland in Finland. This innovation enabled customers of the Finnish bank to understand the impact of their spending on the environment at a time when the state of pollution in the Baltic Sea was on the collective conscience. The index calculated the impact of each (biodegradable) credit card transaction based on a vast amount of data and offered the information to customers in a simple, “carbon footprint report” at the end of each month. The campaign was a brilliant demonstration of the banks commitment to the things that matter to their customers and the world at large and I love that it used complex digital technology in an incredibly human way.

Another great example is the 7/11 Fuel App created by some talented colleagues of ours at Leo Burnett. The app enables customers to find the cheapest fuel price in their area and lock in the price for 7 days. It addressed a real human tension around the constant fluctuation of fuel prices and redefined the way many people shop for fuel. It’s also wonderful example of the power of technology and innovation to positively impact brand perceptions.

Ivan: STIKK is quite an interesting example. They provide an app specifically designed to help people change behaviours. It’s a tool for creating custom commitment devices. Their starting point is human challenges, and they apply a science to solving these in very creative ways.

TCC: Brisbane course presenter Rob Hudson says there is no such thing as a ‘digital’ expert anymore – do you agree/ disagree and why?

Ivan: Agree. There’s plenty of people with an enormous amount of expertise in areas of digital, but it has become far too pluralised and fast changing for any single individual to be an expert on it all.

Harry: Agree. In fact, these days most agency strategy departments are made up of both generalists and specialists as Rob suggested.

TCC: What is your advice to the next generation of digital thinkers?

Harry: Get to know the fundamentals. While you need to embrace new technology, the need to understand human motivations and behaviours is as important today in the development of digital strategies as it always has been.

Ivan: Make your passion learning. Master the art of asking, not answering.