Innovation Part IV: Experience Design (XD)

Translating research into action.

Draft Complete: 7:00am on January 22, 2019 at Starbucks 100 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542

Published: 9:30pm (same location as draft)

Innovation Part Four Book Cover by Daniel DAlonzo

In the previous section, Vision, we talked about how to identify that beautiful, visionary place in the future. Not just any place. A place that you discover at the intersection of your individual purpose, the alignment of your team, and the most unsolvable problems of your customers.

Today, we’re going to discuss how to realize your vision – how to take action – what action to take – the places to uncover insights and begin to architect the ideal journey. We are going to nurture your customer towards her autonomous discovery of SELF as she learns to design her own future.

Experience Design (XD)

Experience Design (XD) is the process of gaining an empathetic understanding of a human so you may co-create culturally relevant solutions that serve her evolving needs. This requires trust. Trust is earned through immersive, qualitative, and ethnographic research. This takes time. It takes me anywhere from three to twelve months. The market has rejected my offering when I attempt to offer (sell) a solution (product) without this critical step (investment).

This scaffolded, phase-driven process to manufacture with authenticity requires us to follow the exercises I have threaded together in this chapter. On their own, these exercises are merely individual tools. However, if you had a box of nails, could you build a home?

Collect as many tools as you can. Fill up your toolbox. There is a time and place to pull each tool. There are no magic pills. No potions. No shortcuts. Only the investment of time into filling up your toolbox.

I intentionally withhold critical information from these notes. We are talking about major concepts – tent poles – I leave it up to you to mold these exercises, make your own tools, fill your own toolbox, and prepare to carve out a place for yourself in the new economy. When the time comes, you will have the toolbox required to tackle the greatest challenges of our time.

After using my tools [so many times] while looking out into the landscape of the emerging economic challenges, eventually, it made sense to order them in a unique sequence. We will begin to review that sequence, now.


  • Mindmap: Brainstorm → Outline
  • Opportunity: Problem → Customer
  • Flows: Taskflow → Userflow
  • Prototyping → Validation
  • Feedback → Fidelity

What’s the purpose of all this? What are the tangible ‘people, places, and things’?

Continue this process to learn how to make culturally relevant solutions co-created with your customer (solutions = events, programs, products, software, platforms, articles, social media, graphics, marketing campaigns, ‘experiences’, etc)


Mindmap: Brainstorm → Outline

After reviewing your MINDMAP with your team, partners, and any other stakeholder you bring into the mix.

Innovation Part Four Mindmap by Daniel DAlonzo

Also, show them that you’re making improvements to your model because of their feedback (this will get you the buy-in needed to turn a vision into a shared vision) – then, turn the MINDMAP into an OUTLINE.

Innovation Part Four Mindmap to Outline by Daniel DAlonzo

Opportunity: Problem → Customer

Refer back to the EMPATHY MAP we reviewed in the previous section, VISION, to uncover the problem and begin to frame it in the ‘right’ away.

You may need to go back and forth between these two as you maximize your learning about the human’s needs while also investing in the process to earn her trust.

Flows: Taskflow → Userflow

Now that we have solid understanding of (a) “what is the problem”, and (b) “who has the problem”, we can carefully nurture and nudge the process (and all involved) forward.

Looking back at the VISION you began to formulate based on your individual purpose and its alignment with your team, we can pitch that – perhaps a modified and improved version driven by the data collected from the PROBLEM → CUSTOMER exercises – into the future. Alongside your customers, of course.

Innovation Part Four Flows by Daniel DAlonzo

NOTE: The vision may be abstract at first, but will become increasingly finite as you climb the mountaintop. Step by step. Day by day. Continuously improving through a commitment to the lifelong learning journey. Learn more today than you knew yesterday. Learn what does not work. Learn what does work. If you do, it is a successful day.

Prototyping → Validation

Let’s review a real world example of how I apply these concepts. Here’s a well-known case study about how I scaled my projects from city to city.

In Washington, D.C., I was able to successfully scale the Impact Project I initially launched in Princeton, NJ. There were ups and downs, of course. It wasn’t an instant success. My initial attempts, in fact, resulted in a big fat zero. Nobody showed up for me. I first attempted to scale my model upon instant arrival to D.C. and it was rejected.

How naive of me to think the nation’s capital was merely waiting for me to show up.

I could have left the city – hibernated in my room (well, I did do this :/ for a while, and I didn’t give up). That’s not me. The ‘failure’ taught me that I would need to rethink my strategy.

Reflecting back, as I am now able to connect the dots, I see that I took a more ethnographic approach. I invested three to six months into learning about the existing city infrastructure, people, places, and things. Then, 9 months later, I tried again. Only after persevering, persisting, believing in in my purpose, and my vision to my inner core was the reason I was able to push through the ups and downs. This is precisely why the first parts of this book are about the SELF.

The design challenge: how might we reconnect with our humanity so that we begin to live our lives – make behavioral decisions – that positively impact (a) ourselves, and (b) the collective?

Here’s what the flow looked like.

Innovation Part Four Prototyping and Validation by Daniel DAlonzo

On Fidelity

As you go through this beautiful process, keep in mind that it is better to get something out there – ‘ship’, as they say – rather than produce your work in a vacuum.

I decided to split this massive project into several smaller parts and publish each part with you as I complete them. I tend to use this example: a freshly baked loaf of bread looks delicious enough to eat all at once, but it is not likely possible. Nor is it healthy. Instead, slice the bread into smaller slices. Eat a slice for breakfast. A slice for din-din (dinner). I found a helpful groove by producing this creative work product by crafting each part (eating each slice) as a single day’s work.

I discovered that I can create higher fidelity intellectual property within two hours per day than while working 10-14 hours per day. Trust me, I fought tooth and nail against this type of thinking. Finally, I made my way over the ego-driven detours, self-imposed obstacles, and adverse challenges I became so skilled at architecting.

I sketch a chapter on paper (anywhere from 10-15 pages including diagrams and notes). The following day (sometimes later that evening, if necessary) I type the work and publish it.

Alternatively, I would have chapters piling up on my desktop – unfinished documents – nothing would get pushed out for you. Nothing would get pushed out for me. If it doesn’t look sexy yet, that is perfectly fine. If you keep asking yourself all these questions nothing will get accomplished. Not to mention, your competitors will be fast at your heels.

There is no time to rest on your laurels.

I had a friend reply to Part III with a comment about needing a graphic designer before I completed my book, or something. If I listened to advice like that, if I internalized that type of bad advice, I would have a series of obstacles and roadblocks in my head preventing myself from finishing.

Trust your gut – your solutions – push out drafts – ship it – get feedback – move on.

Good luck.

Daniel D’Alonzo


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