First Posted on LinkedIn on 30th April 2020.
A few weeks ago Danny Seals, who has been part of my Personal Learning Network (PLN) for a few years, started what I term an ‘Experience Design Extravaganza’. He put a post out on LinkedIn, asking for volunteers to take part in an unknown experience challenge. Anyone who was up for doing something a little different had to get in touch with Danny and then follow the steps that he had set out in order to ‘crack the code’.
I’m always up for a bit of a challenge and love trying new things, so I was intrigued enough to follow the steps that Danny had set out and, to my delight, a couple of days later he got in touch to say that I had been successful and that my ‘experience’ would arrive within the next week. Eek!
A mixture of excitement, anticipation and nervousness ensued! What had I let myself in for?! ......I had no inkling as to what my ‘experience’ might be and I just needed to wait to find out.
A few days later, to my relief, other professionals started posting:
1) Photographs of the outside of the parcel which contained their experience.
2) Videos of themselves carrying out the experience.
Phew! So by that point I at least had some idea of what I might be doing: I knew that I would be creating something, but I didn't know what. I waited patiently for my parcel to arrive......... then I waited some more! I received a message from Danny to say that my parcel was delayed and would be with me hopefully the next day - more time to see others' videos and, hopefully, get more of a clue as to what my 'experience' could be.......
When my parcel arrived, I quickly took a photograph and posted it on LinkedIn, along with the hashtags, as instructed by Danny:
As my parcel had been delayed, I didn't have much time and got straight to the task of undertaking the experience. (You may well have seen the video with my questionable attempt at painting a mug! If not, you can see it: Here ). There were also four other people who took part in the challenge and you can find their videos at the end of this article, along with others.
A few things that I learnt from the experience:
Following my mug painting experience, Danny gave me the choice to either destroy the item that I had lovingly taken two minutes to paint, or to pay it forward by sharing more smiles and giving experiences to other people. I decided to pay it forward and provide experiences to four of my connections, each of whom was also up for a bit of a surprise challenge.
In the meantime, over the past couple of weeks, I have seen more videos posted here on LinkedIn, each with experiences that have been paid forward, all from the tiny beginnings of Danny's lovely initial idea. The videos have made me laugh, have always brightened my day and they definitely had the intention that Danny set out: 'Sharing Smiles'. It's been a really lovely experience to be a part of.
I decided that for the experience that I was going to pay forward, I was going to do something a little different.
Each of the experiences previously had been where somebody needed to create something and I knew that if I did exactly the same thing, the 'experience' just wouldn't have had the same impact that it had for the first groups of individuals. My lovely volunteers would have perhaps enjoyed making something, but now that they had seen lots of different things being made, I thought perhaps the experience might not 'feel' so exciting, or share so many smiles.
I remembered ordering a 'Boomf Bomb' for my husband's 40th birthday and I also remembered how delighted he'd been at the surprise element, and how much he'd liked the finished product - not that many years on (he made me put the 'not that many' bit in!) , he still has it on display at home. I decided to make something along those lines for my lovely volunteers, making it personal to them and incorporating some key experience design considerations around the outside of the box itself. You can see the results by watching the videos at the following links:
I loved watching each and every one of them and have even been brought to tears with laughter! :)
Massive thanks to Helen, Jo, Asli and Arash for being such great sports - they will, hopefully, all remember this experience always (even if only because they nearly fell off their chair, had extra cleaning to do, had a strange and confusing coincidental experience, or had to creatively edit a video!!!)
Along with bringing smiles and fun, Danny's whole 'Design Experience Extravaganza' has got me to thinking about.....errrm....experiences!
I've been in the L&D/teaching/training profession for a long time now and have worked in a wide variety of settings in both the UK and South Korea: College, University, Community Learning, Workplace Learning, Apprenticeships, Private Training Providers, Private Language Schools, English Immersion Village and Primary and Secondary Schools. I've also worked with a variety of different ages of learners: the youngest being around 4 years old and the oldest being around 74. Whether teaching on a one-to-one basis, in a small group, or a large group, I have always had one question at the very front of my mind:
'What is going to make this experience useful and memorable [whilst achieving outcome X]?'
Along with having designed experiences myself for many years in different settings, Danny's challenge also got me to thinking about how fortunate I've been to have had the pleasure of working with, and to have been able to attend learning sessions led by, some incredibly passionate, creative and engaging professionals. Some of the experiences have had a lasting impression and have definitely helped me to develop my own professional practice.
A few of the people and development experiences that I will remember forever (and why):
I think I'd better stop there, or the list will become a 300 page roll call of people I've loved working with! Suffice to say, there are of course many more individuals and experiences that have had an impact on me over the years, including experiences that have taught me how NOT to do things - I believe that every experience we have, whether good or bad, brings us the opportunity to develop as professionals.
I said I'd return to this: there is always a learning point that can be taken away, even from the smallest of learning experiences. From the individuals and experiences that I have identified above, it seems that for me, factors that can make an experience really memorable are:
What about you?
I'd encourage you to take a few minutes and think about your own memorable experiences and what they tell you about experience design. Our own experiences, both positive and negative, can help us so much when designing experiences for others.
You might find it useful to write things down, as I've done above, identifying people and experiences that have really had an impact on you. Remember to think about what happened before, during and after the experience and whether you feel that the different stages ensured individuals were set up for success, or to have a great experience. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Huge thanks to Danny for starting this whole extravaganza and for making me think back on some of the incredible experiences I've had over the years, it's been a great journey! Huge thanks also to my lovely volunteers: Helen, Jo, Asli and Arash - you all did brilliantly and I hope that you have taken some positives away from the experience - I've certainly loved watching each of you in action!
If you have a little bit of time and/or you want to share some more smiles, here is a list of people who have been a part of Danny's intial and 'pay it forward' experiences and links to their videos (they are listed in the order that I found them on the hashtag #SharingSmiles):
I hope you've enjoyed the read and watching the different experiences, kudos to Danny for bringing so many smiles to so many people :)