Campfire 79: The Science Of Extraordinary Experiences & Customer Happiness

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Last night saw the return of the Zak: neuroscientist and WXO Co-Founder Paul Zak returned to the WXO Campfire for an enthralling, yet highly practical talk that shared his SIRTA tools for designing extraordinary experiences – based on his measurement of 50,000 brains.

The full write-up will be coming soon – but for now, here are a few top takeaways, links and questions that emerged.

We also want to hear from you – what were your top takeaways? How might you use Zak's approach in your own work? What questions did it provoke? Add your comments below!

  • Immersion is characterised by two key qualities: “spotlight attention”, where a person is fully present in the experience, and “emotional resonance”, where they are emotionally engaged by it. He captures the electrical signals associated with these two characteristics at high frequency and reverse engineered the data to answer the question: if this experience was immersive, what happened to make it so?

  • A study of neurologic immersion during Superbowl commercials revealed a surprising truth: if we want to see impact, liking is the wrong measure. Immersion is where the groove’s at, as even a bad experience can have value. In fact, when it comes to YouTube buzz there was actually a negative correlation with liking an ad, and a positive correlation with being immersed in it.

  • Zak's SIRTA toolkit covers 5 bases, namely:
  • Staging: creating a comfortable environment people can immerse themselves in.
  • Immersion: creating an emotional narrative congruent with your experience.
  • Relevance: creating a relevant connection between your experience and the individuals experiencing it.
  • Target: finding your superfans and putting them to work.
  • Action: providing a call to action at a peak immersion moment.

  • In short: Staging + Immersion + Relevance + Target + Action = Extraordinary Experience

  • “The dirty secret in neuroscience is that averages aren’t very meaningful – it’s variation that’s interesting. If I compare lots of people, that gives me a baseline that I then remove. I want average immersion to be higher, but I also want to think about the tails of distribution – who digs it, and who does it fail for?”

Follow-up questions to ask yourself (submit your thoughts below!):

  1. What is the neurologic basis for extraordinary experiences?

  2. What design principles increase the likelihood of the extraordinary occurring?

  3. Why do people crave repetition of the extraordinary, and how does this affect their happiness?
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