We use the concept of “process” constantly in the world of business. We speak of building more customer-friendly delivery processes, enhancing the effectiveness of our sales process, and creating professional development processes for employees that are engaging and grow skills.

One of the things that first struck me about behavioral economics is its potential for helping us create more robust processes by better accounting for and even leveraging human irrationality and fallibility. Only recently, however, did it dawn on me that I was absolutely wrong to believe this. One simply can’t apply a set of theories so grounded in human experience to a concept based in 20th century industrial thinking.

Put differently, we need to start recognizing that processes are mechanical and schematic. Building a process is a matter of establishing workflow and linking disconnected cogs. Processes assume that the “work” being done is inanimate and easily subjected to human manipulation, and that the goals of the process can be accomplished through the proper application of theories of efficiency.

The reality, however, is that this idea of process is increasingly irrelevant to the work that most of us do. Our “processes” are not mechanical in nature but rather deeply human. The “work” that is being moved around is in fact the attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and decisions of other people. Success is defined as successfully influencing, through a series of interrelated activities (that sometimes seem superfluous or wasteful), these decisions and behaviors.

When we come to recognize this, we quickly realize just how inadequate the idea of “process” is for 21st century work. Processes don’t impact people. Well-designed experiences do. And designing experiences that profoundly impact people requires an unrelenting attention to the details and nuances of human psychology and subjectivity and a massive amount of creativity that simply aren’t required when building a mechanical process that systematically complies with the laws of nature and physics.

How would your world change if you stopped talking about customer-facing processes and started talking about customer experience, if development experiences replaced development processes?

It’s time to ditch process. Let’s embrace experience.

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