Remember back in the mid-2000s at the start of Web 2.0? It was epic: Web 2.0 completely changed the web experience from a static representation of content (and shopping carts) to a fluid experience that actively engaged audiences.

In the context of Web 2.0, design meant accommodating user-generated content, with online audiences able to participate in communities—even, later, from their mobile devices—that integrated social media into the online presence of companies.

This affected how companies positioned themselves to their customers, as well as how they marketed themselves to different audiences. It gave them a different way to interact with and learn from both their customers and prospects. Companies had vast new channels (or maybe just more specific segments of one), and could change processes over time to adjust their businesses to exploit them.

And so came the evolution that moved us from the transactional world of online commerce to building loyal, interactive communities that allowed businesses to engage in two-way conversations with their customers and to target markets through digital channels—always accessible, always on.

Where To Now?

When the term Web 3.0 started floating around, it struggled to get traction. Various definitions evolved, many focused on technology developments. Many were ambiguous or opaque, and none became dominant. 3.0 remains an ill-defined, amorphous concept, and it hasn’t proven too helpful to businesses.

Now there’s a new, much more productive and helpful paradigm: transformational design. Is it 3.0?  4.0? I’m not sure. But I am sure we’ve come far enough now that instead of companies adopting technologies to incrementally improve operations, digital technologies are transforming businesses from the ground up.

Transformational design changes how buyers interact with sellers, and how consumers relate to brands. The principles of transformational design offer a roadmap to how businesses can adapt to a changing competitive environment in the new world of digital brands and digital connections. Call it TomorrowLand.

Magic Band, Magic Brand

Realizing the potential of delivering scalable, personalized experiences takes more than design thinking, however. It also requires a deep appreciation for the transformative impact of integrating algorithmic decision-making in rendering user-specific experiences.

Consider The Walt Disney Co.’s Magic Band. For a year now, visitors to the Magic Kingdom have been able to build their own experience of the parks, from arrival to departure, before they get there. Airport pickup, ride schedules, restaurants. Before you arrive, your Magic Band arrives—along with a proposed route through the park already mapped out, based on your preferences.

Strap it around your wrist. At the airport, wave your band and get automatic pick-up. Luggage? Routed to your room at the Disney Hotel. Tickets? On the band. When you’re in the park, the Magic Band tells the company where you are and what you’re doing. Because your route is planned, you needn’t wait in long lines. Before you arrive at the restaurant you chose, the wristband tells the kitchen you’re near, and enters your order. When you sit (and wherever you sit), the food finds you. The band is linked to your credit card, so your food is charged to it. Your other purchases can be tracked on it, too. Presto!

Easy. Fun. A kind of magic—and it feels like it’s all about you. Disney has altered the paradigm for how it serves its patrons in a way that’s directly linked to the experience of the brand, re-imagining the “Disney Magic” for the 21st century.

A Win-Win

TS463242501_webBut it’s not all about you. Disney is also managing demand against capacity. If Disney knows who’s coming, and where they are, it can predict usage, staffing, managing its queues for rides, and even order food. The company makes its parks more efficient: delivering services accurately and on time. It’s creating a better relationship for its customers, imbuing experience with a sense of delight that creates loyalty. And it’s helping ensure that the company is enhancing top-line revenues. While the Magic Band puts the user at the center of the experience, the overall set of technologies and business model shifts are much more transformational for both Disney and its guests.

This is moving from design to digital thinking: it created one of the first commercial, scalable transformational design experiences. For users, it’s seamless and frictionless. A Magic Kingdom where they are the king. For the company, a different type of magic—which didn’t come easy. Through an exhaustive process of observation and data analysis, of ideation and rapid prototyping to testing, adaption and reiteration, Disney saw a new way to connect its customers to its services, while allowing them to continuously review and improve their experience by gathering and analyzing data. It took five years from concept to completion—and the work is ongoing.

The Magic Band revolutionizes the user’s experience of a brand, and for the better: an example of design thinking for a business focused on high-touch—but with fewer hands. Design thinking is based on understanding what emotional, psychological, and behavioral factors comprise users’ experiences. Transformational design is based on carefully drawing upon the interaction of these factors to adapt, evolve, and reconfigure user experience at scale.

Making Magic: Digital Transformation

Digital thinking guides the transformation of business operations by examining how digital technologies—hyper-connectivity, smart devices, big data analysis—can improve user experience. Design thinking applies a human centered lens than can leverages these technologies to change how businesses serve their customers—from the ground up.

Transformational design prompts us to think differently about how technology can glean peronsonalized, contextual insights to positively address the needs of individual users at scale. Thus, companies, like Disney, are rethinking how their business operates, from the ground up, to tailor their brand experience to each customer. In the case of Disney’s Magic Band, it can create delight. And in the case of Cognizant’s work at ICUs around the world, it can help save lives. (But more detail on that will have to wait until my next post.)

Until then, please let me know your thoughts.

Theo Forbath

Theo Forbath

Theo Forbath is Global Vice President of Digital Transformation at Cognizant. With more than fifteen years’ experience as an innovator in global... Read more

  • Tom Garofalo

    Good article!

  • Michael

    Would be good to understand how it deals with changes. Are you able to throw any light onto how it would deal with a delay to a flight, change in food order or even a change in the route around the rides?