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ITX Product Momentum Podcast – Episode 5: Human Experience in Products

As companies implement more technology and automation into their products and services, it’s all too common for them to forget that customers and users are human beings. We should always be thinking of the human side of technology and software, considering how our users feel, think, and how to best communicate with them, to give us an advantage in how to better serve them. In the end, what we’re really selling is experiences.

In this episode, Sean and Joe talk with Kate O’Neill about her experiences with the internet and improving and humanizing the individual’s experiences with products. We look at tactics for introducing more human-focused experiences and how to measure their success.

Kate O’Neill

Kate O’Neill, “tech humanist” is founder and CEO of KO Insights, an award-winning thought leadership and advisory firm helping companies, organizations, and cities make future-aligned meaningful decisions based on human behavior and data. Author of 3 books including Pixels and Place: Connecting Human Experience Across Physical and Digital Spaces, Kate speaks regularly at industry conferences and private events, providing keynotes, participating in panel discussions, and leading creative brainstorming workshops for groups of all sizes. Her expertise has been featured in CNN Money, TIME, Forbes, USA Today, Men’s Journal, the BBC, and other national and international media.

Technology in business

Technology has an increasingly critical role in the customer journey for every company. It has the power to rapidly move your customers towards or away from advocacy, and it is one of the most scalable investments that you can make in your customers’ experience.

Most business leaders view technology as a way to deliver on the three typical competitive dimensions: price, quality, or speed. However, there is another dimension that technology is most powerful in influencing and which could have the biggest impact on creating advocacy – experience. Many companies are behind on approaching their products or services with a focus on human experience.

As humans who run businesses, it’s best to think holistically about how to make technology serve business objectives but also the objectives of humanity. We have to get our firms aligned around the importance and power of customer facing technologies and how that interaction will impact loyalty and ultimately advocacy towards your company. Meaningful experiences are the differentiator with the most transformative and disruptive power.

Meaning comes from a shared understanding

The evolution of how humanity has used tech to serve itself has revolved around solving real problems for real humans in real context. For this evolution to flourish, it’s critically important that there’s a shared understanding between the company, the product or service, and the users. A shared understanding is key.

A powerful example Kate offers is how the model of communication fundamentally consists of 3 parts – what the speaker is trying to communicate, the message itself, and what listeners receive from it. Anywhere there is overlap – a shared understanding between those parts – that is where meaning exists. IF there is no overlap, then the communication has failed. This model is transferable to how we should think about products, user experience design, and anything on a tangible level for creating things people are going to interact with it.

Measuring meaning in user experiences

Meaning is unfortunately nearly impossible to measure. As a result, the measures we often tend to use are proxy metrics for something abstract.

We can create proxy measures that give us a sense of whether or not we’re on the right track, such as memorability (how people retain your brand), advocacy (how often people are referring you), or how often people are going out of their way to provide feedback.

With the proper metrics, you can figure out ways to model what’s meaningful, and figure out the data model that tells you that you’re making the right decisions. These insights can then inform you on how to continue to improve your products and provide increasingly more value to your users.

The first step

The best first step is to come up with one concise articulation of your company’s strategic purpose. When a company understands what it is they exist to do and are trying to do at scale, then they can make much better decisions about the priorities they set and the resources they allocate.

This understanding informs digital transformation efforts because it has to be understood at this top level of strategy before operations can align around it. All things need to be in alignment. If companies want to compete tomorrow, they need to think about their customer’s experience today.

To learn some more tactful methods for providing a human experience in your software products, check out The Product Momentum Podcast – Episode 5: Human experience in Products.


Kate O’Neill (2016, June 3). Pixels and Place: Connecting Human Experience Across Physical and Digital Spaces

Sean Flaherty (2015, October 14). The 4th Dimension of Competition.

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