Why you should play videogames (to learn about good experience)

July 15, 2015 By Mark Hurst

If you’re involved in creating a user or customer experience, you should be playing videogames. Seriously. At least enough to have some fluency about what games can do.

Think about it: playing a game is totally optional, with no real-world outcomes hanging in the balance. Thus games are an especially pure expression of experience design.

The only reason people are going to play, and keep playing, a game is if the experience is good. Or as Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, said in 2006, “Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun.” (Iwata passed away last week – read his NYT obituary.)

Thus if you study successful games, you should be able to glean some insight into the design of good, effective experiences.

At my Gel 2015 conference a few months ago, I invited two speakers to explore this idea – of learning about good experience from the example of good games. Even if you don’t play games (and you should!), you can learn a lot from these two talks about creating good experiences.

andy-baio-gel20151. Andy Baio, writer, host of XOXO
To share his love of videogames with his son, Andy Baio conducted a remarkable experiment: he encouraged his son to play several decades’ worth of videogames… in the order that they were released. In his Gel talk, Baio describes why he ran the experiment, what games his son played, and what they learned along the way.

paul-murphy-gel20152. Paul Murphy, CEO, Dots
They’re doing something right at Dots. Paul’s New York-based game studio has released just two iPhone games – Dots and Two Dots – both of which have enjoyed wide popularity. In his Gel talk, Paul discusses what inspires the experience design at Dots, and how other teams can be similarly inspired.

As for what games you should play, one good resource is this good iOS games list (reminiscent of my old Good Experience Games list, but actually up-to-date). I particularly recommend Osmos, Tiny Wings, and Dungeon Raid.

P.S.: I’ll post separately, but Creative Good is working on our own iPhone game: Brooklyn 1776, an iPhone game that will allow you to play through the Battle of Brooklyn – a crucial early battle in the American revolution. Read more about Brooklyn 1776 here.

Watch the Gel 2015 videos:

Video of Andy Baio, writer, entrepreneur, host of XOXO

Video of Paul Murphy, CEO, Dots

Customer experience in large orgs: Lou Shapiro, CEO of Hospital for Special Surgery, at Gel 2015

June 29, 2015 By Mark Hurst

How can a large organization create a good experience?

As CEO of America’s top-rated hospital for orthopedics, Lou Shapiro (see video) knows a thing or two about creating a good patient experience. His team at Hospital for Special Surgery, several thousand people strong, works together to consistently create top-rated patient outcomes.

Below, watch Lou speak at our recent Gel 2015 conference about how HSS does it.

What’s the key to creating a good experience in the large organization? Lou argues that, at HSS, it comes down to culture. Somewhat reminiscent of Danny Meyer’s talk at Gel 2007, Lou describes the importance of…

• hiring the right people
• setting strong expectations for including customers
• following up to ensure the culture is emphasized repeatedly
• and making people accountable for their actions that affect the customer experience.

Any team, large or small, can learn from this excellent talk. Watch it!

(See also: more info on Hospital for Special Surgery)

VIDEO: Nancy Lublin, CEO of Crisis Text Line, at Gel 2015

June 10, 2015 By Mark Hurst

I’m excited to announce the first video from Gel 2015, our annual get-together of the Creative Good community from a few weeks ago.

Nancy Lublin was one of the audience favorites from Gel 2015. In her talk (see video), she described her latest project, Crisis Text Line, which allows people in crisis to text privately and anonymously with trained counselors. (Lublin was previously CEO of and founder of Dress for Success.)

Lublin’s team is admirably innovative: using what’s available to users – in this case, their built-in texting app – in order to help them through a difficult or dangerous situation. CTL also uses data and analytics to further improve the user experience – for example, shortening wait times for people who display critical needs.

Note that this presentation includes explicit references to traumatic events.

(See also: more info on Crisis Text Line and

Every product manager should learn this skill

May 19, 2015 By Mark Hurst

I was happy to be interviewed by the “This is Product Management” podcast to discuss what every product manager should learn: namely, how to include customers.

Listen to the interview here.

Stories I mention in the interview (taken from my book Customers Included, 2nd Edition):

• how Ford failed by using a rapid-iterative design method, and task-based research, without first fully baking in what customers wanted – and didn’t want – in the product

• how a Google product failed by using the public launch as, apparently, the first time customers were truly included

• how a public park in New York City was brought back to life by the simple process of (a) spending time with customers, (b) finding out what they want, and (c) giving it to them.

• how to quantify the cost of ignoring customers, using the example of Walmart’s failed initiative to declutter its stores.

Including customers is not difficult. Every product manager should learn how to do it right. (If it seems obvious and common-sense, ask around to find out if teams you know are making time for including customers!)

Next step: Send this interview to anyone who needs some encouragement. If you’d like to dive in further, you can read the introduction and first chapter of my book right now on this page.

And if your team could use some inspiration on this topic, invite me to speak at your company, on my 2nd Edition book tour.

Just launched: Customers Included, 2nd Edition

April 15, 2015 By Mark Hurst

I’m delighted to announce the brand new 2nd Edition of Customers Included, which I’ve been working on for months. I’m also starting a 2nd Edition Book Tour – you can invite me to speak to your team or event, presenting on all the fully updated material and case studies in the 2nd Edition.

All attendees of my Gel 2015 conference (starting in one week – still time to sign up for Gel!) will get a copy of the book at Gel. But you can order multiple copies for the team: bulk discounts here.

Customers Included coverWhat’s New in the 2nd Edition

Fully updated for 2015, this new 2nd Edition of Customers Included includes lots of additional material:

• New case study about the Toyota Sienna (big launch that succeeded with careful customer observation, instead of a quick MVP) to round out my discussion of The Lean Startup

• New case study about the OXO measuring cup, including quotes from my interview with Alex Lee, president of OXO (showing the difference between asking customers what they want, and finding out)

• New case study about managing change, inspired by a story from the U.S. Navy in 1904 (based on Elting Morison’s classic case study “Gunfire at Sea”)

• Updated the Google Wave case study to include a discussion of Google Glass

• Updated the border fence case study to discuss the problematic launch of

• New interview of Alan Cooper, inventor of personas, to round out an updated discussion of personas

• Updated several case studies with recent news (i.e., Ford dropping Microsoft from its MyFord Touch system … and Netflix recovering, finally, from its 2011 mistake)

• New images in several chapters bring the case studies to life.

Order Customers Included, 2nd Edition:

How to get the book:

Kindle ebook
Bulk discounts for multi-copy orders

You can also invite me to speak at your team or event on my new 2nd Edition Book Tour.

Meantime, hope to see you at the Gel conference next week!