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If you’re looking to start a business these days, simply adding bells and whistles to a product isn’t enough. People aren’t looking for individual items anymore, they want to have a full-service experience that will not only solve their problem, but excite and delight them at the same time. Apple, Google, Disney, Airbnb, and Amazon are just a few companies that provide this experience — so how do they do it?

X: The Experience When Business Meets Design is a new book that takes on this very question, advising companies to look beyond technology and creative marketing gimmicks to address the mindset and behaviors of customers. These expectations have been changing dramatically, thanks to the proliferation of tools like smartphones, online shopping and reviews, and more. What Brian Solis, the book’s author and principal analyst of Altimeter Group, a Prophet company, hopes to convince you of is that it’s all about being human — stop treating customers as just a dollar figure on your sales sheet and start building experiences around individuals.


“Experiences are more important than products now. In fact, experiences are products,” Solis writes in X. “They’ve also become a lively topic of consumer comment for all the world to hear. People increasingly share their experiences with companies and products in our connected economy, and we can either be active participants in creating and nurturing desired experiences or spend more and more time trying to react or make up for bad experiences. What’s more, consumer demands continue to evolve. We’re just getting started.”

Throughout this 246-page book, readers are taken on a journey to discover how to piece together the components around establishing a strategic experience, discovering what Solis calls “moments of truth.” X also cites examples from recognized brands such as Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Disney, Cisco, and Apple — all of whom have undergone similar exercises to figure out how to best provide a long-lasting experience for customers.

That age-old adage “X marks the spot,” might sound cliché, but it holds true when trying to figure out the human connection. X is that sweet spot businesses should be looking for after they’ve moved past the “pray and spray” mentality of thinking that the latest digital strategy will get them customers. It’s about moving the marketing, sales, engineering, design, and business departments out of traditional silos — something that Solis has labeled a “Circle of Rife” — and getting them to move forward together to achieve a specific goal.

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So what’s the formula for getting to X? Solis developed the Conversation Prism and a concept called The Social Compass to talk about the moving parts involved. It starts off by looking at experiences that customers have individually and those that are shared.

From there, you look at what moment you want to design around: zero moment of truth, when customers are just searching; first moment of truth, when first impressions play an important role; second moment of truth, when people have a more in-depth relationship with your product; and lastly, the ultimate moment, when customers will create content around the product or service and tell everyone (good or bad).

All of this is bundled within a “sphere of experience” that Solis explains will unite every moment and reinforce the experience. “What you want people to share and what you want people to find is not an accident, it’s designed,” he writes. Simply put, this X concept can help you look past technology to get a deeper sense of where your customers are and what problem they want solved.


X isn’t your typical business book — it follows along with Solis’ previous books, including Engage, The End of Business as Usual, and What’s the Future of Business. But instead of focusing on business strategy, X looks more at sociological issues and questions of design. It offers a high-level discussion about what companies need to do to develop rapport with their customers, rather than diving into specifics about how to go about doing that — and why not? Each company’s situation is different and each will need to work out the details for themselves.

No matter whether you’re thinking about customer service, advertising, developer relations, public relations, creating a website or app, selling to other businesses, or anything else — at the end of the day, you need to craft an understanding, something that X promises it can do for you. “It’s about having empathy,” Solis explained. “Innovation begins at empathy.” In other words, see what your customers see through their eyes.

Here’s the kicker: innovation does not mean iteration. Solis illustrates the difference best by showcasing the evolution of the television remote control. It’s one thing to add multiple buttons and change the shape of the remote — that’s iteration. But innovation is when you change the whole television control by incorporating it into the smartphone.


To prove that he practices what he preaches, Solis worked with the design firm Mekanism to create a different kind of book. Instead of the standard format, X was made like a coffee table book and designed to be read as you would a magazine on a tablet device. What Solis wanted to do was challenge the status quo and re-architect the experience for today’s consumer.

Admittedly, the format makes the book somewhat difficult to read sitting on a crowded bus (because of its width), but when your fingers swipe to change the page, as we’re accustomed to doing when on a digital device —  it’s certainly memorable. Instead of a book that’s text-heavy, Solis has reimagined X with a design-friendly layout that’s not really seen in business books.

Solis told VentureBeat that he drew inspiration for his design from teenagers, as their mindset is more geared toward mobile.

The book is divided into “sections,” each one crafted to be understood individually, while contributing to the whole. One of the last sections even puts everything that’s talked about in the book into action so you can see how to best apply it.

X is now available on Amazon or at your local bookstore.

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