Customer interactions and rubber chickens

Why we use theatrical rehearsal techniques in service experience design

If you have ever been to a Work•Play•Experience experience workshop or service design session, you will have noticed that it doesn't look like a normal training day, or even like a normal design space.

It looks a lot like a theater rehearsal - just crazier.


Starting with a bang

The first thing you will notice is that the room is full of odd things, from rubber chickens to toy catapults, from wind-up flipping dogs to Bugs Bunny DVDs. And lots and lots of chocolate. Immediately after you notice this (and just after your first chocolate rush), we will throw you into a high energy warm-up which soon has you laughing and sweating. Today will not be like a normal workday, that is clear. And the usual rules will not apply.

This is a big heap of fun - but that is not why we do it. Our first goal is to clearly break the rules you know, creating a “safe space” which promotes creativity and encourages risk taking. This break with everyday routine is crucial to the success of our work, as it guarantees more innovation, faster learning, more confidence and a willingness to try new personal behaviour patterns.


Once more from the top...

As the day progresses, we keep you on your feet - you will see very few chairs, and the ones you see will seldom be in use. “Doing, not talking” is one of our guiding principles, so there's almost no frontal presentation (we hate Powerpoint anyway) and very little bookwork. Instead, you will find yourself “playing” through “scenes” again and again. And again. And again...

We are exploring alternatives in an iterative innovation structure just like the one used in the most successful software houses. Now and again, we will step in to draw your attention to details of body language, blocking, storyline, microexpressions, subtext and other verbal- and non-verbal aspects. You'll soon be sensitised to your unconscious effect on the customer - and the effect of your service process design - and will see it with new eyes.

Remember, a theater rehearsal is not just "practice". It is a way to actively and accurately model and develop any kind of human interaction. And it works best in a lively, fun-filled environment which gives plentiful opportunity to try new strategies, experience success or failure in a concrete, tactile form, and learn by doing.


No smart answers, just good questions

It feels like play, but "Play" is only 33.3% of our name. We keep the energy level high, and laughter is never far away - most participants never notice that they are working very, very hard indeed. And the rich crop of ideas they develop are their own.

This is crucial. We cannot be experts on every business, so we don't try to be. Instead, we use theatrical tools to get great ideas out of your people - ideas that have been developed and framed by the participants themselves - not by “headquarters” or some unknown “expert”.


How it works

As the day moves towards the final high-energy "BOOM!", you probably won't notice that the design of entire day was based on critical principles of psychology and dramaturgy. The playful atmosphere has promoted creativity and innovation. The deeply satisfying structure of the day gave periods of high energy, periods of reflection and a stream of new experiences. Participants have pooled their expertise and experience, guaranteeing realistic and practical solutions. Their Buy-In is of course much greater, and the ideas have been prototyped and rehearsed already... so they are realistic, practiced, closer-to-home and YOURS!

We really like this way of working, and we think you will too. At the very least, you are pretty certain to enjoy all the chocolate.


Rubber chickens by zoomar at flickr
Sweeties by Amarand Agasi at Flickr

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