By Dave Bullock, Director, Innovation & RWDI Ventures
A focus on user experience changed the game. Now, companies who embrace “PX” will gain the next competitive advantage.
One of the biggest changes in the technology field over the last 15 years has been the emergence of user experience as a foundational part of how we develop software. User experience, or UX, pushes companies to have an intimate understanding of the interaction between their user and their product or service.
It is nearly unheard of today to see a successful product launch that didn’t embrace UX as a core part of product design. Companies that excel at UX put that product and user relationship at the forefront because they know it is the key to optimizing a customer’s use of your product, and to creating long-lasting brand loyalty.
At RWDI Ventures, we spend a lot of time thinking about the strategies that will produce the next generation of market leaders. We’ve developed a thesis for something we call “planet experience,” or PX. You likely won’t have heard many others talking about PX, but we believe it will become just as foundational of a strategy as UX for successful companies.
Where UX usually focuses on how products get designed and built, PX focuses on how we build and operate entire companies. It requires gaining an intimate understanding of how a company interacts, impacts, and is affected by the natural environment and changing climate.
The next competitive advantage
The companies that leaned into UX 15 years ago, putting the user’s experience at the centre of product strategy, quickly distanced themselves from the laggards. We believe companies that embrace PX and put the planet first in their product and service strategy will gain a similar competitive advantage.
Just as an awareness of user personas, workflows, decision patterns, and accessibility barriers provided those leading companies with an information advantage, today understanding the connection between the planet and the performance of a new product or service is critical.
Consider the supply chain manager who needs to understand how an extreme weather event is creating havoc on logistics, or the winemaker planning today what grape varieties will grow best in the next decade despite a changing climate. Similarly, wise investors will seek to quantify how much climate change is creating hidden risks in their portfolios, and real-estate developers will only want to consider properties that are resilient to a multitude of new environmental risks.
Over the past year we’ve had dozens of conversations to understand how different industries are trying to uncover the risks and opportunities presented by our changed climate. What’s clear is that in most companies, the desire to understand these issues is there. This is driven both by new influences, such as climate-related financial risk disclosures, and a sense that, by understanding these factors, a sustained competitive advantage will be gained. It’s not a lack of desire, it’s a lack of information and tools.
A PX tool kit
One of the phenomena that pulled UX into the mainstream—and created an entire field of professionals dedicated to it—is the emergence of a robust UX tool stack. Modern product teams tackle UX using a suite of tools that help define user personas, map workflows, rapidly mock interface concepts, design for user accessibility, generate product usage analytics, and quickly test alternative user experiences. Without these tools, it would have been very hard for a product team to get serious about UX.
Today, that ecosystem of tools doesn’t exist for PX.
But as we are building our roadmap of investments at RWDI Ventures, pieces of this PX tool suite are starting to emerge. When we line these ideas and startups alongside each other, they begin to fill in some really important gaps that are blocking companies from understanding their interaction with the planet, and turning that into a business advantage.
As we move forward, we believe PX will be instrumental to creating great cities—something our team is incredibly passionate about creating. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be sharing additional thoughts and ideas on our progress in building out the rest of the PX tool suite. Of course, if you have some ideas on the topic, we’d love to hear from you.