2020 CX Report

The CX Report gathers trends on how business happens in the computational era by examining the tech stacks for marketing and products in the context of digital transformation.

“Employee experience is what makes your CX human, Publicis Sapient Chief Experience Officer John Maeda says in a new annual report.”

—THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Watch The 2020 CX Report In 13½ Minutes

This version is a super-condensed summary of the CX Report. You can watch the 82-minute extended version delivered LIVE over here.
  • The Internet has become exactly what Bowie predicted in 1999.
  • Computational thinking is the new systems thinking for business.
  • Digital marketing loops spin way faster than digital product loops can spin.
  • The 4th Industrial Revolution has invisible smoke stacks everywhere.
  • Silicon Valley is people and not just robots. We tire. Machines don’t.
  • Nobody’s in charge of customer experience because everyone is.
  • Your Employee Experience (EX) is what makes your CX human. Literally.
  • What’s experience? It’s a try-out, an experiment, and it can be perilous.
  • If we all speak machine, then we can all avoid Big Tech’s blunders.
  • Computational experiences are made by those who know how to speak machine.

If your customer experience feels like your org chart, that means you’re successfully running at scale. As a business (and as a human), the more important thing is to consider the implications of “the other CX”: Computational Experiences. They’re powered by Moore’s Law, they’re made by the few who know how to speak machine, and as humanity accelerates towards a “Kardashev 5” scale of digital transformation we should be both excited and terrified.

—John Maeda

2020 CX Report

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Computational Experiences Are Made By Those Who Know How To Speak Machine

👋🏽I am so glad you’re interested in the new CX Report. It’s made to be consumed on video, but I’ve included a PDF towards the bottom of this page. Please keep in mind that the PDF is not something easy to read — because I made this for YouTube instead of for PowerPointers. Because that’s the way folks do it these days as “video first.” Well, they’re on TikTok or Twitch I know, but I can’t dance or play videogames so you’ll have to YouTube with me.

  • What kind of tooling differentiates the marketing tech stack and the product tech stack?
  • How do you speak machine? And how does that change product development?
  • Tech companies excel at Light, Ethical, Accessible, and Dataful experiences, or “LEAD.”
  • Why do we need to consider Society Centered Design and Responsible Innovation today?
  • Is the speed of digital transformation correlated with gender pay gap imbalances?

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On Distributed Work and Remote Work

The March 2020 pre-release Appendix to the CX Report covering Distributed Work versus Remote Work is available here.

  • Remote work isn’t the same as distributed work.
  • Placemaking forms the grounds for work-making. 
  • Ch-ch-change is always an emotional journey.
  • Collaboration is better than just cooperation.
Woman who is a newscaster sitting across from man at a table.
The human dimension is becoming evident within the technology industry. Finally.

Silicon Valley is people and not just robots. We tire. Machines don’t.

—John Maeda, Bloomberg Technology May 8, 2020

#cxreport20 Responses via CX Mailing List and Beyond

1) Computational thinking is an emergent property of systems thinking that’s been recast for this new era, 2) CX is a function of EX (Employee Experience), or CX = f (EX). *

—Ijeoma Azodo, M.D.

John Maeda uses the Kardashev Scale to represent the evolution of business in the digital world. This opens the possibility for greater scale or greater inequality.

—Jose Coronado, VP Design Operations

LEADという4つの視点からの企業評価。個人的にはEのEthicalとAのAccessibleであることが一番重要。

—Miho Tomiyama, Experience Designer

1) Org structure in large companies drives CX, 2) In big orgs people only touch pieces without ever seeing the big picture or being incentivized to do anything about it, 3) CDP promises to solve some of this and it’s still early in the hype cycle.

—Jeremy Finch, Proprietor

1) ただの体験でなく “Computationalな体験” を理解する必要がある。 2) CXはスピードや学習だけでなく倫理性や公平性(L. E. A. D)も含む。3) コンピューターと会してカスタマーの声を聞く時代になる。

—@jimataro (in Japanese), Strategist

2020 CX Report Summary

Old Apple computer atop desk with complex camera setup in a makeshift video studio.
“Video-first” means using my basement as an adhoc video production studio in the new age of all-remote …

Computational thinking is the new systems thinking for business.

—John Maeda, CNN Quest Means Business June 26, 2019

In 2020, This Is Where We’re At …

Customer experience looks like an org chart quote.
Overheard in all organizations bigger than one person …

Our customer experience looks like our org chart! Even down to our departments and roles. How do we fix this?

—every successful Fortune 1000 company

The possibility for unintended consequences at a Kardashev scale greater or equal to three is high. And it can happen at a level of complexity that we won’t be able to easily fathom. 

Old computer signifying old ACLU content on "scary pizza."

“Government programs and private-sector data collection are destroying our privacy, pushing us towards a 24-hour surveillance society.” —ACLU (2004)

For that reason, it’s important to know how to speak machine. Computation according to How To Speak Machine can be learned in 6 parts. It takes inspiration from Bowie by describing it as an alien-like material.

Overview of How To Speak Machine book consistent with what's at howtospeakmachine.com
There are three set of properties that computation embodies as “alien-like” materials that are entirely unnatural. As a result, when you build things out of computation there are three unique considerations.

The 4th Industrial Revolution has invisible smoke stacks everywhere.

—John Maeda, How To Speak Machine

Blue Pill or Red Pill?

The reality of how digital technology intersects with society is profound. By learning how to speak machine, and how to speak human, you get to transform this new, alien world. 

Are you comfortable with Kardashev 1, 2, 3? Or are you trying to get to Kardashev 3, 4, 5 — and feel inexplicably uncomfortable?

Two pills where one is blue and the other is red
The blue pill or red pill is a reference to a popular 90s film, The Matrix, which speaks to the power of computation when it gets to control your reality. The blue pill signifies “not knowing” and the red pill signifies “waking up to reality.”

Blue Pill World (Kardashev 1, 2, 3)

You’re somewhere between Kardashev 1 and Karadashev 3 in your digital transformation journey.

Blue pill is about the easy path
—For the exhausted CMO, the newish CTO, the wired CCO
—You’re good with Kardashev 1 or 2, and need to get to 3
—You know how to speak un poco machine
Customer experience accountability as a drawing
Illustration of how everyone is in charge of experience so it doesn’t benefit the customer.

Traditional CX refers to a “customer experience,” but you only become a customer after your purchase something. But CX usually refers to the entire experience. 

Two interconnected circles of buyer experience and customer experience.
The left side says “brand” a lot, whereas the right side uses “reputation.” It’s useful to think of “brand” as an asset class that increases in valuation when the product is good, and it gets drawn down when the product is bad.

“If you were to pick the main accountable owner(s) of ‘Customer Experience’ in your organization, which would it be? Choose as many as you like.”

Customer centricity
Artistic rendering of the survey question to illustrate how everyone’s in charge of customer experience in an organization.
Graph of "who should own the customer experience"

From the 2020 CX Report Survey (938 cleaned samples with 20% self described as product or biz owner, 71% self-described as design or research, and 9% self-described as eng or tech). Results are displayed proportionately, and arranged as to reduce bias towards the Designer/Researcher bias to the survey.
Responses to who should own the customer experience from around the world and in depth https://cx.report/2020/05/16/1000-perspectives-on-who-should-really-own-customer-experience/

From the 2020 CX Report Survey (938 cleaned samples with 20% self described as product or biz owner, 71% self-described as design or research, and 9% self-described as eng or tech). Results are displayed proportionately. Open survey responses showed that there’s an interminable debate around who owns CX.

If you only see one solution to a problem, then you don’t really understand the problem.

Understand the problem over the solution.
I believe in this.
Blue pill summary as explanatory text below as readable text.
The key conclusions of a Blue Pill view of the world that might be useful to you on your journey here.
  • Nobody’s in charge of customer experience because everyone is.
  • Computational thinking is the new systems thinking for business.
  • All modern experiences are made with computation in some form.
  • What’s experience? It’s a try-out, an experiment, and it can be perilous.
  • The 4th Industrial Revolution has invisible smoke stacks everywhere.
  • The cloud connects us all together in an infinite loop of engagement.
  • If we all understand the cloud better, then we’ll avoid Big Tech’s blunders.

Your Employee Experience (EX) is what makes your CX human. Literally.

—John Maeda, 2020 CX Report Red Pill Section

Red Pill World (Kardashev 3, 4, 5)

You’re somewhere between Kardashev 3 and Karadashev 5 in your digital transformation journey. Kardashev5V makes you a little nervous.

Red pill is the hard way.
—For the new gen CIO, the besieged CDO, the techie CXO
—You’re shooting for Kardashev 3, 4, 5 
—You know how to speak machine
In just 9 years, storage increased 1024X — like turning a dime into a $100 bill.
COVID-19 is the C-suite member who’s pushed the most digital transformation …

The underlying advantage of the leaner, faster, meaner production treadmill is the possibility to acquire tremendous amounts of insights on users at scale.


The battle for the future is not just about the ownership of data, but the fact that we don’t really know how consumers (or companies) don’t know how to manage the many levers that can controls who looks at what aspect of our lives.

As the late Bill Moggridge (1943-2012) said about the one design principle that truly matters: “… it’s probably about starting with the people.”

“The hallmark of a well-run development engine is a development cadence that is brisk in bringing new products to market without burning out its builders.”

Megan Quinn
“The hallmark of a well-run development engine is a development cadence that is brisk in bringing new products to market without burning out its builders.” —Megan Quinn

To bring back the loop notation I introduced in the report of a rotating feedback loop. It’s useful to consider how it’s a notation for “change” and self-improvement. John W. Gardner called it “self-renewal.”


Making change happen requires energy. When a business or organization is already running super lean, there’s not enough discretionary resources available to initiate or enact change. Old ways work fine. So change doesn’t happen.

The older generation will be in power proportionately longer than what past generations have felt because the “population pyramid” will become the “population rectangle.”


The neatly ordered organizational hierarchy we were all accustomed to has become disrupted by the flattening effect of social media. With new modes of communication have also come new expectations for responsiveness.

This is a hypothesis I have about digital transformation: Could the reason why it’s taking so long is because of the systemic gender pay gap? I’m curious to know if there’s data out there.*

Having estimated child penalties in the full population we are able to decompose aggregate gender inequality over time into child-related inequality and residual inequality.” —Henrik Kleven, Camille Landais, Jakob Egholt Søgaard (2018)
The key conclusions of a Red Pill view of the world that might be useful to you on your journey here.
  • The Internet has become exactly what Bowie predicted in 1999.
  • Speaking machine is a prerequisite to partner with your AI work force.
  • We need to master how business gets done in the infinite loop.
  • Digital transformation doesn’t need to be just about self-disruption.
  • Sustaining innovations are just as important as disruptive ones.
  • Silicon Valley is people and not just robots. We tire. Machines don’t.
  • Your employees are the experience. And they can’t live like machines.
  • Your Employee Experience (EX) is what makes your CX human. Literally.
Lets go humanity-first, folks! That’s the best customer experience imaginable. Check out societycentered.design to learn how to start doing that.
Bonus slide that is still n MVP form that dips into the annoyingly vague word of “brand.”
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Bonus Content

This video shows how easy it is for a CIO-centric view of the universe to miss Shared Customer Insights — well, at least metaphorically.

It’s surprisingly easy to “digitally transform” while leaving shared customer insights out of the picture. A simple metaphorical film by @johnmaeda

If you’re into raw data, I posted the 1000 points of view on who should really own customer experience over here. It’s quite delicious at times.

And ICYMI, the Distributed Work and Remote Work appendix to the CX Report went out in March 2020. Enjoy!

The Appendix to the CX Report describes the keys to working in a distributed manner (which is better than just working remote).

Book Recommendations

There’s a few books I recommend in the report directly, or implicitly. Here’s the list of books in the order that they appear in my video.

PDF Download

👋Hi there! The CX Report is meant to be consumed in video form via my YouTube channel. So it doesn’t work well as a simple deck of slides. Because I encoded the video at 1080p on my YouTube channel, a screen-captured image will do fine for most needs. I guess that’s the challenge of making experiences — they’re best consumed in the format they’ve been created for, which in this case is in video form. That said, the text encoded in this PDF might be useful to those who are visually impaired. Thus I provide this PDF.

A slideshare link is here if that’s something you still use.

CX Report Acknowledgements

Thank you to the 900+ contributors from all over the world!

Tony Ruth is designer and illustrator of the Equity series, the Six Trends series, and the 2020 “Sponsored By Earth” series. Quinnton Harris is photographer and art director for the cover of the CX Report. Sarah Gold is the force behind Society Centered design. The entire thousand-strong Experience team at Publicis Sapient and the changing nature of their professions tells me that a sea change is necessary in how we solve problems, and ask the right questions, for some of the biggest companies in the world. I thank my fellow Publicis Sapient colleagues for their fellowship and support: Wendy Johansson was instrumental in the CX Report Appendix on Distribute and Remote Work; Max Kirby is the Customer Data Platform expert that made me CDP-savvy; Karin Giefer has made me think a lot about how experience bridges strategy and engineering; Adam Morse and his new computational design approaches give me hope; Christian Waitzinger and Ian Wharton have made me think a lot about “brand.” I close with special thanks to the CEO of Publicis Sapient, Nigel Vaz, who has made me profoundly curious about the three words “digital business transformation” — and for the opportunity to teach more companies how to speak machine.

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Related #cxreport20 Info

Got
Kardashev?
Blue Pill?
Red Pill?
Making
Of
13½ Min
Version
The Earth
Sponsor
CX
Bot
» Privacy Policy for CX.Report