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Here’s What Went Down At The Agents of UX: LearnUp Review

I am an information sponge. I like to learn everything about everything. But, today, when there is so much information out there, it’s kind of hard to digest it all. You’d have to make sense of chaos!

Now, an option would be to take a course on the subject of the day. However, there are a couple of disadvantages: the time commitment and the expense (unless it’s a free course.) We are all busy people, nowadays.

Of course, it would be awesome if there was a way to learn in bite-sized chunks. And there is such a way! If you’ve been following us for a while now, you’d know it. The LearnUp! Invented by Venturesity so that everyone can skill up in a short period of time.

Those among you with good memories would know that, about a year and a half ago, I participated in a cool LearnUp. And how it gave me exposure into a domain I didn’t know of before. I don’t have time to recap, but you can read all about it here.

This last Saturday (October 8th), I decided to get my hands dirty again. You see, I’m not really much of a coder, and most of the LearnUps we’ve had in the past year were to do with coding.

The LearnUp I went to was a bit different. You see, Paras Pundir is the guy at Venturesity in charge of organizing these LearnUps. He decided to branch out into the domain of UX design. The community he is trying to build up is known as Agents of UX. It caters to people who are in or interested in, the UX domain. The LearnUp commemorated this community’s launch.


Just before registering, I asked Paras if I needed to bring my laptop or install any special software. He said that everything would be provided for, and that there was no need of a laptop. This intrigued me. A LearnUp without a laptop! What would we do? Sit around and tell stories?

As it turned out, that wasn’t far from the truth!

The LearnUp was about the art of Storyscaping. Sanya Malik, a co-founder of Healthmonk, conducted the session. According to Sanya, storyscaping is “a powerful tool for communicating the methods and outcomes of Experience Design.” Basically, it leverages the art of telling stories to engage with customers and help them connect with your brand.

The LearnUp started at 11:00 a.m. I got to the venue on time! A minor miracle, considering Bangalore’s traffic! I estimated that there were about 30 attendees. Quite a good turnout.

There were a few problems in setting up the projector. Sanya used this time for introductions. In keeping with the theme, she asked everyone to tell a story about themselves. This way, we got to know more about our fellow attendees rather than just their background.

Sanya addressing the crowd.

The demographic of the attendees was quite varied. There were a few college kids learning about UX principles. There were also a few young startup founders looking for tips to push their brand. And there were also people like me: interested bystanders. (On a side note, I must say that Sanya did a good job in keeping up the interest of the varied audience.)

Once the projector issues were sorted out, the LearnUp officially began. Sanya opened with a video titled The Scarecrow. It was an animated short put out by Chipotle Mexican Grill that sells predominantly tacos and burritos. The video was mesmerizing and at the end, we were asked to share our thoughts. I won’t go into details of our analysis here as it would take as too far afield. But suffice it to say, that the short was thought provoking. See the short for yourself:

Sanya then talked about some of the strategies brands employ to ensure that customers would return. One of the tried and tested ways is … cheap pricing. Sell your stuff cheaper than the other guy!

The drawback to this approach is that this doesn’t motivate brand loyalty. If someone with deeper pockets comes along and sells his/her stuff cheaper than yours, people will migrate to that brand.

So Sanya introduced the idea of storyscaping. A way to ensure that customers keep coming back to your brand. The idea is to place your customer at the center of the story making him or her feel like a hero.

Sanya provided several real-world examples of brands doing this. One particular example that stood out for me, was American Girl: a company that sells customized dolls. Even though their dolls are expensive, up to $600 at times, the brand is doing very well! In fact, there’s a whole industry based around the dolls including boutiques, clothes and accessories.

After this, it was time for another activity. I soon realized that this was Sanya’s M.O.: talk about a few concepts and do a hands-on exercise centered around them. A perfect way to get people to learn.

This time, we had to split into groups of three or four. We had to use the marketing slogan of Coke (opening happiness) and to attempt to convince people to stick to Coke.

People Ideating
People ideating about “Opening Happiness.”

Now, this was a bit hard for me as I am a Pepsi fan, but it was interesting to work on this activity regardless. Attendees at the LearnUp came up with several cool ideas. One that I distinctly remember, was the story of a parched traffic policeman directing traffic during the midday heat. A kid took pity on him, and gave him a free coke “opening happiness”!

Once this fun, but educational activity, concluded, Sanya moved on to a topic of what she called an “organizing idea.” This organizing idea is a statement that holds the brand’s story together. (As I mentioned before, the name of the game is to create a whole brand new world/story for your customers and make them feel like the hero of it.)

True to her style, Sanya introduced another activity! We had to complete the following sentence to define Fitbit’s brand purpose:

“On the hero’s journey to ________[insert consumer need], we, as the mentor, provide a gift of _________[product/service] that magically ________________ [insert offer, single-mindeded differentiator, value prop], thereby creating a journey that _____________[experience benefit].”

(As a fun exercise, could you complete this for Venturesity? Comment below! By the way, best entries win prizes.)

Sanya then wound up the session by having us work on a case study. We had to define an organizing idea for Activia, a hypothetical company involved in improving the health of people. (Similar to Healthmonk!) We then had to present our case.

With that, the session concluded. I must say that this was all that a LearnUp should be: a mix of theory and practical activity. Sanya, you did a good job and managed to maintain the interest of such a diverse crowd!

If this has whetted your learning appetite, attend our next LearnUp. It is tentatively scheduled for 5th November, and focuses on product management. I will probably attend, and I hope to see you guys there!


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About Author

Bharat Ramakrishna

Blogger. Part-time mathematics enthusiast. Loves esoteric and quirky things. Bibliophile. Has a wide range of interests including playing chess and pool, juggling and creating puzzles of fiendish difficulty. Grammar Nazi.