Value, Meaning and Engagement: The 3 pillars of great experience

Nathan Kinch
Nov 14, 2016 · 11 min read
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We tend to do a lot of thinking about experience and something we often find ourselves asking is, “what is a truly great experience?”

We believe that our daily experiences should be greater than the sum of their parts.

The end-to-end experiences that enable us to get stuff done should really deliver us value, meaning, and engagement.

What do we mean by value?

People choose to hire or fire products and services, within their situational context, based on what they are actually trying to achieve. This is the thing they really care about, the higher purpose for which they choose a product or service, or as we’ve come to know it, the Job to be Done.

For an experience to be valuable it must enable people to achieve the objective they set out to achieve. This is experience efficacy.

Experience efficacy creates value.

How about meaning?

In our view, truly great experiences — the types of things we rave to our friends about — should have some significance in our lives.

Whether it’s something we do 100 times a day or something we do once a year, beyond the efficacy of the experience, the way it makes us feel and the emotive response it evokes should be memorable.

These types of experiences that create a lasting impact in our lives and are what we’d define as ‘meaningful experiences’.

Isn’t engaging basically the same as meaningful?

Not quite.

When was the last time you were excited about the product or service you were choosing to hire?

Maybe it was when you were bored one Saturday morning and you chose to hire the cinemas by going to watch the latest blockbuster. It had your favourite actress in it so you were genuinely excited about the solution you’d hired for your boredom. Throughout the movie, there was a constant feeling of suspense — you couldn’t quite sit back, you literally felt like you had to lean in towards the screen.

This type of experience is engaging. It entertains our senses, fills us with a rush of endorphins and leaves us with a smile on our dial.

Truly great experiences can achieve this. In fact, depending on the context, truly great experiences can engage and satisfy the 5 senses.

So if great experiences have to deliver value, meaning and engagement, how do we design for these outcomes and how do we measure if we’re successful? Given our profession, this is the critical question we’ve come to ask.

The objective of this article is to showcase one way that you can quickly determine how effectively you are fulfilling the 3 pillars of great experience.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll assume value and experience efficacy are one in the same. This could be argued, as both meaning and engagement are things we likely value, but let’s leave that debate for another time and keep this simple.

Value = experience efficacy.

To explore this appropriately, we need to highlight a clear example as the way we measure efficacy is context dependent.

Using the Jobs to be done approach we’ve defined a main job, deepened our understanding of related jobs, and begun to map out the personal and social motivations of a group of people who actually have the goal of going on a once in a lifetime type holiday to the Amalfi Coast.

Main job

Soak up the sun in the Amalfi Coast with someone I love

Related jobs

• Find a place to stay during the trip

• Find the best way to get to and from the destination

• Ensure I have the right to enter the country

• Share the experience with people I love

• Fund trip (i.e save money)

• Prepare wardrobe

• Decide on specific activities

• Find places I can eat at safely

Functional (main job)

• Discover hotel and flight options

• Find the best price

• Share my information with the hotel, airline and/or travel company

• Afford the trip (i.e earn and save money)

• Gain entry to the country (i.e. obtain Visas etc.)

• Gain access to local currency

• Prepare wardrobe

• Learn some basic Italian

• Determine a list of restaurants that can safely cater for my allergens

Emotional (main job)

• Make lifetime memories with someone I love

• Experience authentic cuisine (hopefully) and culture

*Intrinsic motivation


• Treat myself to a dream holiday

• Relax and re-connect

• Catch up on my favourite book series

• Get a tan

• Add to my Polaroid collection that I’m preparing for when I have kids

*Extrinsic motivation


• Show friends and family back home how fun and diverse Europe can be (not all great beaches are in Australia)

• Have stories to tell next time I head out for dinner with my friends of colleagues

• Take that perfect profile pic

Job Story

When I’m scrolling my social feed and come across the most stunning picture of the Amalfi Coast I’ve ever seen, I decide to myself I need to take the plunge and get myself there. At this moment I want to start planning my ideal trip immediately so that I can get on with life and truly live the experiences I’ve dreamed about.

In this example, there’s a huge amount of potential complexity; and in most cases, various different solutions would be ‘hired’ to fulfill the main job.

However, with the rise of the personal information economy (PIE), we’re going to use an example of a person-first technology that can orchestrate a large amount of this on behalf of the person intent on heading to this stunning section of the Italian coastline. In this case, the person with the holiday goal will be Bianca.

Nathan currently leads product and experience at Meeco, one of the earliest and leading PIE innovators, so he’s come to know this market and the capabilities of first-person technologies pretty well.

For illustrative purposes, we’re going to use Meeco as the thing Bianca hires to help her fulfill her goal of living one of her dream holiday’s.

Let’s just say the experience looks something like this.

*Bianca — first person

1. I’ve just decided it’s time to stop talking and start doing. I’m going to book a trip to the Amalfi Coast. I’ve been using this app Meeco for a while now and decide to see if I can get the trip organisation underway. Basically Meeco’s an app that helps me control and connect my digital life, share my digital life with people, brands, and ‘things’ of my choosing, and because I’m sharing on my terms I get experiences and outcomes that are more ‘me’.

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2. I select the + which kicks off a chat. I answer some simple questions back and forth with the bot.

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3. The result of a few messages is a goal being created. From this goal I can do things like connect my bank account to make saving for the trip easier and less obvious so I don’t have to change my behaviour. I share the details with my husband, Nathan, so that we can organise this stuff together, and also add things like my airline preference or whatever helps me get all of the things I need organised nice and quickly.

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4. Over time I add more detail, or re-use information I already have access to in Meeco. By doing this I receive offers that are relevant to my goal. Eventually my trip is booked and I’m ready to go.

With the illustrative context and experience set, let’s get back to the 3 pillars of great experience.

How might we measure experience value?

*Note: Designing for the 3 pillars of great experience will be covered in detail in a separate article.

Recently we’ve been using a fairly simple scoring mechanism that enables us to (somewhat subjectively) quantify the value, meaning, and engagement scores of a given experience. We use this not as gospel, but as a proxy for how our ongoing efforts are progressively improving the experience people have with our offering.

We start this process with qualitative research — measuring people’s perception of value, meaning, and engagement through a Likert Scale (0–10).

In order to achieve this, we need to associate outcomes, actions or behaviours with our definition of value, meaning, and engagement within a specific context (i.e. the experience people have when trying to fulfill a job).

For Bianca, she may ‘realise value’ once the trip is booked, paid for, and she has enough money saved to fund ancillary activities. Although the job is technically not yet fulfilled, the criteria for the job to be fulfilled has been met, and therefore the product she hired to fulfill her job has been effective (within this illustrative context).

To measure value, we would therefore try and ascertain how satisfied Bianca was with the experience from her first interaction, up until the point her trip was fully booked and her automatic round-ups helped her save enough spending money to have a really good time.

Given the mechanism that’s enabling this, we may choose to try and focus on the efficacy of the conversations she has had with Meeco, the simplicity with which she could link her bank account, and the simplicity with which she could curate and/or approve offers that came her way for key things like flights, gluten and lactose free dining options, and hiring that vintage Alfa Romeo for a quintessentially stylish drive around the Amalfi coastline.

Using the Likert Scale (0–10), we may ask a series of questions such as:

1. How satisfied were you with the speed of the conversations you had?

2. How satisfied were you with the quality and clarity of the conversations you had?

3. How satisfied were you with being able to link your bank account and make automatic contributions to you goal?

4. How satisfied were you with the relevance of offers you received?

5. How satisfied were you with the total time it took to achieve the key components of the goal you set?

*Note: By measuring both the importance of something and the satisfaction with how it’s fulfilled, there’s an opportunity to potentially garner new insights into underserved, yet highly valued Problems Worth Solving (PWS).

An example can be seen below.

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In this example survey and PWS Graph, you’ll note this specific component of the end-to-end experience is deemed quite important yet is fulfilled effectively through the existing experience.

Using our proxy, this pillar of our end-to-end experience appears to have quite high efficacy. It can therefore be optimised, but for now, doesn’t likely require re-imagining. (Read more on Problems Worth Solving here).

In any case, we’d then average out the satisfaction scores across the variety of questions we asked to get our proxy for the end-to-end experience efficacy and plot the answers on a simple Venn diagram to help us visualise our current state (nb: results can be seen at the end of the article).

Meaning and engagement can be a little tougher, however. We’ve found NPS or Fjord’s Love Index (if you really want to go to depth) to be a great proxy for meaning as we tend to associate meaningful experiences with those we retain, re-call and re-tell.

In this example, we would likely ask Bianca how willing she’d be to recommend a friend or family member. Once we’d averaged out all of the answers we receive from respondents, we’ll again have a score that we can ‘associate’ with meaning.

Although what we’re capturing is considered a hypothetical construct (i.e. an attitude, an intention, etc.), we could further validate this stated preference to act a particular way by quantifying behaviour — if we have the mechanism to do so.

A simple metric in this context — if Bianca gave her explicit consent for us to track a pseudonym (Meeco does not do this) — is ‘share events’. Again, we do not have to track who is sharing — simply that sharing is occurring. By mapping this quant to the qual we have, we can more effectively determine whether intention matches real life behaviour.

This can then be supported by further qualitative research and quantitative research. We are, however, quite conscious of ensuring we minimise touch points and decrease cycle time. To date, we’ve found this measure gives us the proxy we require.

A simple rule of thumb in this context is minimum data collection for maximum utilisation. Focus on the data that’s relevant to what you’re trying to achieve and you won’t have to try to “catch ’em all” (Pokemon pun intended).

As with value, this score will then be plotted on a Venn diagram with some basic inferential analysis to add context (see results at the end of the article).

For engagement, we will again look to qualitative measures for support. However, this is where quantitative measurements tend to have the greatest value, providing you are doing so with the explicit consent of the people using your product.

By tracking key events that occur, we’re able to build a deeper understanding of how engaging a given experience is (nb: Meeco does not do this as it’s been built on Privacy by Design principles).

Of course you can’t just review the quant and be done with it. There’s a little more to it than that. We start by conducting inferential analysis from the quantitative data that has been collated and synthesised and then support that with further qualitative research to try validate our inference.

In this case, our inferential analysis guides the qualitative technique we employ, the types of questions we will ask, and more importantly, when we will ask those questions.

Within this context we develop a scoring mechanism (again 0–10 for consistency) for the engagement metric we are looking for.

In Bianca’s case we would be particularly interested in how she was reacting to the chat function and the offers she was receiving.

Because Meeco is the platform enabling this example, we’d have to measure engagement through qualitative measures. This means we’d be looking to understand how Bianca felt at different stages of the experience; and would likely conduct fairly informal, contextual inquiry user research sessions to learn about this hypothetical construct (i.e. her attitude).

The net result of this process ends up looking something like this.

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This isn’t gospel. We do, however, believe that truly great experiences deliver value, meaning, and engagement. We therefore want to be able to design for and eventually measure how effectively we have fulfilled those criteria.

The techniques we’ve highlighted are simply a mechanism for us to understand how well (or poorly) we’re fulfilling the 3 pillars of a great experience.

A food delivery example or something with fewer moving parts, might have been much simpler to articulate. However, with the world moving the way it is, personal data is moving into the control of the people. This is a major challenge for some organisations that rely on personal data to deliver their value propositions. In another light, it’s also an incredible opportunity.

The opportunity is why we chose to highlight such an example.

We’d love to hear what you think about how we’re approaching the 3 pillars of great experience. If you’ve got any advice or insights from the way you’re currently working and from the things you’re learning, we’d love to hear them.

Thanks again for reading.

Nathan and Bianca

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