I introduced Claudia Lieshout, Principal Design Research, Philips Experience Design, The Netherlands, in a previous Medium article on female leadership at Philips, and on our past professional experiences. Claudia joined Filiberto Amati, MBA, and myself in our cycle of research dialogs on the future of (business) events, including internal teamwork, e.g. workshops, mentoring meetings, or other enterprise gatherings of people, bringing her 25 years of insights and ideas from trend research in aesthetics and cultures for High Tech development with a people-focus and a future orientation.
Trend research at Philips Experience Design is focused on professional healthcare and personal health, as the challenges of the Dutch corporation are in how translating High Tech and digital roadmaps can be translated into wellness, personal care, remote care and clinical solutions. Examples are future scenarios and reports on the future of cardiology or the future of oncology, that are very specific themes for trends, as opposite to earlier approaches like CultureScan, the global cultural trends and aesthetics program that tied together the interests of Philips business units, from Consumer Electronics to Lighting to Semiconductors, that have been progressively spun off or sold to third parties, becoming TP Vision or Signify or NXP or Nexperia. In this respect, Philips Design trend research changed from the early or mid 2000s, to nowadays. As a resident Principal Design Research leader, Claudia identified at an early stage healthcare trends like telehealth, of which Philips engaged in early experiements like Philips Healthcare Telemedicines Services, an early 2000’s start up in joint venture with SHL of Israel. Telehealth is an example of what digitally accelerated through the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, with a critical bottleneck being the seamless access to data, with all the necessary regulations, protocols and procedures required. This will be an issue in the future, e.g. with the various hypothesis of vaccination passports where EU and national authorities will need to come to decisions in the next weeks. Virtual ways of working in healthcare and beyond, with increased access, has been accelerated and will not be reversed after the end of the crisis.
Coming to major events, the ECR, the European Congress of Radiology, a professional event planned in March 2021, was held in fully digital mode, where Philips had a customisable booth, where the experience was designed to be asynchronous and highly individualized. The ambition was to imitate a real life presence, however -just like at the Dutch Design Week 2020, where Philips Experience Design represents the future of healthcare at the World Embassy of Healthcare, through a student program of Design Futures probes. The latter presented even more of a challenge than a professional event like ECR, because the interaction and exposure to prototypes, models, and concepts had to be redesigned for online sharing only, hence transferring the actual immersion in experiential experiments like Design Futures probes are, to the PC or mobile display of virtual visitors attending the DDW 2020 online only.
Shifting from external events to internal company events, the latter covering internal interactions from client workshops to teamwork meetings, Claudia did share her experience of a sudden transition from meetings in presence to virtual gatherings in Teams and in Miro. The latter were especially important for trend research co-creative sessions, where Miro proved mission-critical to enable a relatively smooth, yet organizationally radical digitalization of dialogs and relationships. Even at the time of our interview, in Spring 2021, when Asian studies of Philips Experience Design already re-opened for work in presence, Miro does not seem bound to phase out or disappear, being a fundamental eTool for future trend research or the mapping of ecosystems. Additional tools might be systems like Mural or Airmeet. The development of digital solutions for this kind of qualitative, Design Research was an ambition of the 2000’s generation of trend researchers, that now -due to the pandemic crisis- found its natural outcome in the universe of applications available for online collaboration, from social media like Pinterest, to what above mentioned names, perhaps the most successful and visible in the market at the moment. This is particularly important for the trend research and Design Research functions at Royal Philips NV, being the professional healthcare sector peculiarly complex in terms of quantity, quality, and diversity of stakeholders involved, who fundamentally work (also) from the perspective of managing events with a start and an end, e.g. MRI scanning examinations or other given procedures that are planned in hospitals, as a necessary experiential complement to the actual clinical and medical focus. Here, the specific journey of each stakeholder is key, from surgeons to technicians, to patience, whose experience is very different. At the moment of deep re-modeling of the business models and fundamental processes of healthcare, from virtual care to remote handling of patients, our increasing fluency and proficiency with digital tools will only result in a faster and faster adoption of online collaborative tools. This, of course, provided technology corporations and start ups will manage to put people at the centre of their development, and enable naturally intuitive interaction for individuals and teams by superior UX Design.
Technologies that shape tomorrow’s medical field, from AR to VR, are transferable to the domains of future business events, beyond the hypothesis that we are experiencing fads or gimmicks, like for example 3D TV’s were in the 2000s: “At a heart team meeting, multi-disciplinary teams can use AR to study and discuss a 3D model of the patient case, examining the case collaboratively. In the pre-operative planning phase, the physician can make a detailed plan using AR modelling, evaluate a virtual heart — what we call a digital twin — test whether the valve is positioned correctly, and simulate the functional performance of the valve to predict the clinical outcome of the procedure. Through AR glasses you can see the catheter moving, adjust it and perform instant measurements. The digital twin uses AI and modelling techniques for precision diagnostics and treatment, using big data sets and complex calculation models for which we need simple tools that make the use and interaction simple and intuitive. AR/VR is a natural fit to provide advanced visualization and interaction tools to a digital twin environment”. From her own trend research, Claudia added that creative leaders like Larea Lesmes and Fredirk Hellberg are known for creating spaces, objects and events that straddle the physical and digital spheres. They have now been tasked with helping a number of clients construct fully virtual journeys. They say there is no going back to reality as we used to design or manage it. Education will be key, beyond what we regard today as academic curricula. From this viewpoint, in her capacity of Advisory Board Member of the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries, Trend Research & Concept Creation in Lifestyle, Tilburg, The Netherlands, digital trends will be increasingly relevant, with gaming as key domain, e.g. as seen in recent Balenciaga fashion collection launch hybrid event. Gaming will lead in terms of determining trends and offering opportunities to transfer and transform trendsetting design solutions, into different and diverse sectors, from healthcare to events. By way of paradox, the event industry, the event sector, and the event practices might be an actual reference, if not a blueprint, to rethink the healthcare experience and workflows of the future. Events as platform might offer the opportunity to mediate between technological roadmaps and users, or better, people like the rest of us. the gamification of education will also play a main role in creating the new membranes and the new metadesign solutions that will enable conversations, cross-industry pollinations, and ultimately innovation by design across various and varied domains. Gamification might be tomorrow’s approach of choice to address such challenges, from pain management through VR goggles to the motivational dynamics of prevention, revalidation, or chronic care. Innovative overlaps will occur, by necessity, and accelerate human focused change towards preferable futures. Another important sector to watch, in order to understand the future of the event industry but also of education, is the museum sector. With digital acceleration and transfer of shows and events to online repositories, the abundance and the magnitude of asynchronous content available might trigger a paradox, in visitors postponing and procrastinating their experiences, or not be willing to pay a ticket to access the online venues. An example of how these risks might be managed might be seen in a recent show by the Boijmans Van Beunigen Museum, Rotterdam, “De Afbreek Economic”, where the time of attendance and the modality of interaction carefully balanced, by design, the attention time that visitors might be ready to devote in terms of active engagement.
Digital natives will increasingly demand new competences and new skills, whereas it is known for a fact that, for example, healthcare professionals might require a wider portfolio of disciplines, including digital and administrative tools that are at the heart of the neoliberist provision of care. Within this complex landscape of innovation, the task of trend research leaders like Claudia and of foresight professionals, is to first and foremost rethink the role of facilitation, in line with a recent report by Paolo Martinez for the IAF. By paradox, the return to an office life, with in presence meetings and events, might be the new challenge to manage, as habits and rituals will need to be reset, from our old ways of life before 2020 to the radically digital experiences of the last year, to a new hybrid everyday that awaits us in the next months and years ahead.