DXS16 crowd
Digital analyst, speaker and author Brian Solis at DX Summit 2016. PHOTO: Robert Levy

It took Brian Solis, principal analyst studying disruptive technology and its impact on business at Altimeter Group, more than one draft to write a book on the digital experience. 

Yes, a book — as in, pen-and-paper and Johannes Gutenberg of the printing press meets the digital experience. 

That right there gives a hint at the problem, he told the audience at DX Summit during his keynote presentation.

And that 'problem' is this, as he explained: Every time you use an old or established frame of reference for DX you are making a mistake. 

It is similar to using the iconic — and to some age groups, inexplicable — floppy disc to symbolize the 'save' function on a word processing application. Think about it: how many millennials have even seen a floppy disc, much less used one? Unless, of course, they 3-D printed one for kicks.

We Are Accidental Narcissists Now

The digital era has created a population of accidental narcissists, Solis said. "This is why you can't impose your view on customers." They won't like it, for starters, but more fundamentally, they won't even understand it if "you insist on pushing people through old stodgy touchpoints."

Solis knows his stuff, so the irony of writing a book about the digital experience was not lost on him when he started the process. What did catch him unawares, though, was how quickly the reading experience was changing. People now approach reading books like they do using an app, he said, with the most obvious end result being a very short attention span.

When he started the book, the average attention span for reading was six minutes. Six minutes to capture someone’s attention before they turned to their smartphone. When he finished the first draft, that had dropped to 60 seconds.

So he rewrote the book to deliver the information in 60 second bursts and while he was at it, to present the information in a more dynamic fashion instead of using a traditional table of contents.

Legacy Mindsets Hiding Behind New Technology

Anyone who thinks this is ridiculous shouldn't be in charge of customer design or experience, Solis said. "All you are doing then is using a new technology on top of a legacy mindset."

Solis pointed out the advantage that companies starting today have — they start with a blank slate. He challenged established companies to be open to shedding their previous approaches and adopt that new mentality.

Incidentally, Solis added, if you are that person you are probably getting ready to start grumbling about Millennials. Don't. This isn't about different generations.

"Everyone who is living a digital lifestyle now is like this. Each time you pick up your smartphone you are reprogramming your brain."

The digital experience has to be similarly reprogrammed.