Design legend Tim Kobe redefines user experience in business approach and architectural design

It’s called the experience masterplan and it’s not just about understanding human behaviour

Tim Kobe, founder and CEO of Eight Inc., at the PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit 2019

Architects spend day in, day out to design offices that would communicate the commercial establishment’s brand, accommodate their specific needs, and help them stand out from the competition. 

Yet somehow, some consumers tend to flock to one establishment more than the other, no matter the amount of time spent designing the architectural concept.

The same goes for property developers and enterprises in general who relentlessly try to develop a bullet-proof business approach, but still have a number of competitors that they can barely outrival.

The underlying question is, how can one stand out?

Tim Kobe, founder and CEO of Eight Inc. and creator of the first Apple store concept, spoke about the idea of designing human experience at the PropertyGuru Asia Real Estate Summit last November.

The design legend talked about redefining the term user experience in business approach and architectural design, encouraging architects and business owners to focus more on the human outcomes that people engage with and how they create value instead of simply categorising consumers into psychographics and demographics.

“Certainly in the property sector, there’s a lot of opportunities to create value by differentiating yourself,” he added. 

Glass cube entrance to the Apple Store in New York, USA, designed by Eight Inc. PavelLPhotoandVideo/Shutterstock

Having worked with the late Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. for several years, Tim shared that they consistently focused on the “idea that design is not just a way that something looks and feels, but it’s actually what it means for people.”

“And that focus is one of the reasons that Apple has been very successful and certainly one of the reasons that Steve had such a passionate following.”

Aside from understanding human behaviour, he emphasised how crucial it is to focus on providing human experience to develop a design concept that will elicit a response, adding that businesses should come up with an experience masterplan before developing an architectural blueprint. 

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When done wrong, businesses unknowingly create something called return on exchange, which means that regardless of the business’s industry, the value of creation — conversions of sales, adoption, foot traffic, or any of those metrics — are more valuable if they focus on consumers’ experience with the product.

Prioritising human outcomes does not necessarily mean that businesses should not focus on the business outcome. In fact, “the business outcome is the result of a properly framed posture between the companies and their customers,” said Tim.

The value of human experience is more crucial nowadays when all the businesses are simply releasing newer, more upgraded versions of the same old products, following a mass consumption model, without thinking about human outcomes.

“The secret to value creation is better human experience,” emphasised Tim

Here are some key takeaways from Tim’s keynote presentation at the summit:

  1. “People care about what makes their lives better.”
    As demonstrated way back in 2001 during the launch of the first iPod, this revolutionary device that could store a thousand songs in your pocket changed the way people listened to music and is still iconic to this date. 
  2. “For businesses striving to achieve human outcome, differentiating oneself is key.”
    Research revealed that there’s a huge disconnect between people who assume that they are developing a differentiated product and what consumers perceive. Most businesses claim that they are creating a unique offering when in fact, it’s just a different version of their competitor’s product, driving down the brand’s value. 
  3. “A lot of times, the things that we know we think are a great advantage can sometimes be a disadvantage.”
    The idea is to have the courage to do something, such as Steve risking a lot of his finances to create the first Apple store, which was, of course, a success because Apple’s core values have created a loyal and passionate community.
  4. “Think about remaining relevant and connected.”
    If you’re creating a new product in the real estate market, you have to consider how and why it is relevant to the consumers. In this rapidly-changing era, however, staying relevant can be a completely different challenge, which can be addressed by developing an experience masterplan.
  5. “Be careful what you wish for.”
    This is because 50 percent of purchases are based on word of mouth marketing, which are mostly driven by direct experience so businesses who neglect to prioritise experience are essentially missing out on potential customers.

Ultimately, return on experience is better than return on investment. If businesses focused on human outcomes, they would end up with better conversions, better sales.

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