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You Know About "Brainstorming", But How About “Bodystorming"?

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

"Bodystorm," as the name implies, uses the body to experience and communicate ideas. Most of us have experienced "brainstorming", but we do not know much, nor have we experienced much about "bodystorming."

Thoughts are the language of the brain. Feelings are the language of the body.

Traditional workplaces or corporate cultures don't usually include bodystorming as a part of their practices. Still, it is an effective way to understand your target audience and test ideas. It might also be why your competitors' products, processes, internal and external communications, or business models are more human and efficient than yours.

"Bodystorms" aim to achieve this one thing: to get to the truths behind things and situations by physically experiencing them.

Design thinking has a huge bias towards “action”; knowing something conceptually and intellectually is very different from actually doing it. For example, commenting on an NBA basketball game is not the same as being in the game yourself. Bodystorming expresses ideas through body language; this immersive experience can allow you to empathize and resonate with the users more and discover valuable insights as you interact with your team members.

The film, The Founder (2016), is an example that showed how bodystorming optimized the business process. When McDonald's discovered that the fast-food industry wasn't "fast enough” in 1960 and wanted to change it, the founder took his employees to a tennis court where he used chalk to map out the kitchen and asked them to "make" burgers until they found the fastest way.

Bodystorming uses simple and inexpensive props to simulate scenarios. Role-playing allows participants to come up with solutions by understanding the users’ pain points and finding the core of the problem. For example, participants would experiment with different ways to hand coffee to guests who carry the luggage. Or use body language to mimic a website section designed to guide the visitor.

The video below simulated the process of printing movie tickets at a cinema. Through bodystorming, team members played the roles of the customer and the ticket machine.

Through several adjustments, the cinema was able to use the insights gathered to design a better ticket purchase experience and improve customer satisfaction.

Business, in the end, is not mechanical but human. The online experience cannot replace the offline experience altogether, and “humanizing virtual environment" will prevail. More emerging technology projects now are using bodystorming to improve user experiences. The image below demonstrates the simulation of a file-uploading process. The woman with the suitcase on the left played the role of the user who needed to upload the file; the facilitator in the middle was asking difficult questions (bodystorming is so much fun that participants might get sidetracked that you need a professional facilitator around:). The table and the man behind it represented the interface; the two observers in the back monitored all the details and processes. Bodystorming is an intuitive, efficient and inexpensive way to see a problem.

The image below was taken at a workshop that the VOYO team participated at a Design Thinking Conference. The team members replayed a long-distance traveler's arduous journey departing from Sydney, Australia, transiting through Montreal, Canada, and eventually arriving in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the touch points what a long-distance traveler encounters with various service providers when handling a big piece of luggage. In this image, the woman in yellow played the large piece of luggage; the man holding her re-demonstrated how he carried his heavy luggage. The table in this image simulated the airport counter. Through bodystorming, the team members had a visceral understanding of the pain points associated with carrying bulky luggage during long trips and imagined how service providers can create new offerings to add value.

Scientists used to believe we used just our brain to think. But when problems get tricky, we use our brains and our bodies.

- Christina Wodtke, Pencil Me In

Business with soul comes from connecting with people, and connection comes from empathy, which is never a simple concept. When you need to design better products, services, processes, or business models, work, or collaborate with various stakeholders next time, consider trying "bodystorming" as an alternative!


About the Authors

You can find us on LinkedIn: Jennifer He, Stephanie Hsu

About VOYO

VOYO is uniquely positioned in English and Chinese-speaking markets across Canada and abroad. We are design and innovation driven marketers and business strategists helping organizations grow into more sophisticated brands, whether you are a small business who cannot afford a full-blown marketing and strategy department or a big organization who needs extra help.

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