Human to Human: Perspectives from Our People Part 5

In our Human to Human blog series, we dive into the human side of Sparks Grove to learn more about our people behind the business. In part five of our series, we are speaking with Tara Bates, head of the Integrated Production practice at Sparks Grove.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges relative to experience design in today’s world?

We work on complex projects with integrated teams of deep subject matter experts in insights, strategy, design and technology. Producers are those orchestrating the players and setting them up for success, so it’s our job to ensure the right people are in the room–physically or virtually–at the right time and are linked together as they move forward. This includes not only firm employees, but also our clients’ employees who are on a project with us. One of the most important differences between producers and project managers is how much we focus on the people, bringing them together, giving them the tools and resources they need, and creating the safety and space to be completely transparent and explore new ideas. This deep attention to the human side of the project creates a true one-team mentality, and makes the team more effective and resilient when obstacles inevitably come up. It’s challenging, but that’s also what makes the work interesting and allows us to bring diverse thinking to each solution we develop.

It’s also important that producers keep pace with innovation. For instance, while it is not our role on the team to know how artificial intelligence can enable ordering products online, we do have to understand what it takes to build a product which uses artificial intelligence. Integrated Production allows us to be innovative in how we build.

Q: What do you need in order to overcome those challenges?

Our clients come to us for help in making their organizations more human-centered through experiential touchpoints. These requests naturally come with guardrails such as budget or timing. The great thing about Integrated Production is that we think around those guardrails. Using data and critical thinking, we take a project’s natural limitations and figure out how to solve the business need.

Q: As you think about recent trends and client engagements, how would you describe human experiences being delivered to customers, employees and communities?

I’ve seen an uptick in interest in experiences that aren’t delivered exclusively through digital channels. In some ways, the pendulum is swinging away from digital and automation. We see customers, employees and others craving more personal, more human experiences. And we see companies being more willing to take a step back to look at how digital and analog can work together to create meaningful experiences. Human experiences are about feeling something; asking things such as “Do I feel special?” or “Is my life a little easier because of this?” or “Do I feel more connected as a result of this experience?

That’s what makes being in Integrated Production so fun. There are so many products and experiences being made and they’re being delivered in so many different ways, that there is no set format to follow. Producers aren’t afraid of the unknown; it’s about figuring out the delivery process to get to a successful outcome.

Q: Designing for human experiences is about making an impact and changing lives. If you could change anything in the world what would you do? 

I would change the way we value our senior citizens. I feel as a broader community we slowly stop valuing their contributions at a certain point. They have so much to give us, especially to the younger generations. Without a connection between them, the two generations can become disconnected. It’s something I’m passionate about–how we view, engage, value and learn from those older than us.

Q: What do you hope to see in the future for your area of practice overall?

Integrated Production may be new to some clients and others in the firm. I hope to continue helping them see how Integrated Production can be of value to them on whatever complex project they’re undertaking. There is always a need for a Producer when a project pulls from a multidisciplinary team, whether you’re tackling that project internally or working with a partner. The Producer is there to own the project’s movement. Most importantly, it’s about the people. The process and tools we use are important, but it’s really about getting the right people together and being okay with pushing into the unknown together.