The Design of Engagements – III Srinivas Venkatram
Why must institutions be concerned about the “design of engagements”? The main reason is the challenge of “invoking people at scale”.
It is possible for a single individual to be highly engaged with the tasks and activities in front of him/ her. It is even possible for a leader to inspire a team to be highly engaged and involved with their work. But how to achieve the same behaviors and attitudes on a large scale, across thousands of people? How to measure such behaviors? How to create systems and processes that ensure that these behaviors are repeated predictably across time and circumstances?
Clearly the challenge of engagements is not at an individual or team level but at an institutional level. This is also seen in practice. In a hospital system, you have several committed doctors and likewise, several committed hospital staff like nurses and attendants. But you also have several cases of utter callousness to the patient, a focus on procedure at the cost of human concern, an inability to identify the non-medical challenges faced by patients and to address them effectively. You could set up processes to ensure delivery of several services to patients, but you may not be in a position to deliver superior ‘quality of engagement’ or predictable levels of interaction and responsiveness to the patients within the hospital.
The problem would get even more complicated if you were a government running several hospitals, with staff at fixed salaries, and catering to thousands of patients of all kinds and multiple
locations, all being administered by a group of government officials. This challenge can be reframed in another way. It can be called the ‘richness versus reach’ challenge.
The richness versus reach challenge says that as you start increasing
businesses, the richness or quality of the interaction falls proportionally. This has implications in any human activity involving a large number
thousands? several hundreds of thousands?) of individuals. Government services, banking services, education, healthcare, customer services, call-centers… the list is endless.
An immediate reaction to the richness versus reach challenge is ‘technologization’ – can the technology be used to standardize interactions, or even better, eliminate the human element in interaction? The best example of this is the standardized delivery of several routine services in banking through ATMs and online banking services, which reduces the number of such interactions dramatically. This is true, but it is largely true where processes can be automated, ideas need to be communicated, or where the interactions themselves are very limited/ scoped due to their standardized routines. But this is not true when the human interaction has a creative element, or an emotional element, or a problem solving element,
or an element of counseling to the customer, or where the user/ customer’s involvement in the process can directly impact outcomes (e.g. education).
This is the potential value of ‘design of engagements’ – an opportunity
interactions and ‘designed engagements’ to deliver breakthrough user/ customer outcomes