Adam explaining something to workshop participants. A wall with sticky notes and other artefacts is visible in the background.

The power of theater in design: an interview with Adam Lawrence

April 25, 2023

Professionals working in the field of experience management represent an array of skills and knowledge: designers and managers, researchers and engineers, data-driven and creative folks, CX, UX, EX… the profession has many faces. We are thrilled to have a leading figure of the global service design community share some of his background, his knowledge, and a few insights into his work: please meet Adam Lawrence!

My current job / my role / how I call myself

I am Experience Director and Founding Partner at WorkPlayExperience, Faculty and Co-Author at This is Service Design Doing, Adjunct Professor at IE Business School, Co-Initiator of the Global Service Jam, Senior Facilitator at Co-Creation School, and Artistic Director at Theater im Tiergarten.

My professional background

I combine backgrounds in psychology, industry and theater, helping organizations be more successful by giving customers and employees what they need. 

Some people call that design.

How I got into service design

After working in several industries and in theater, I started writing about aspects of theater we see in the business world. Those aspects range from obvious things like lighting and costume to more subtle aspects like dramatic arcs, roles, and timing. 

People told me, “What you are writing about is called experience design, or service design.” 

Other people called it innovation, or customer experience work. 

Coming into that world from theater (and not from product design or graphic design) was exciting, as we were able to introduce many new methods to the community, as well as learn theirs.

I think when working in the CX field, you need to have relevant experience with…

I think you need to understand that measuring a thing will never make it better and that some of the most important factors in experience are not quantifiable. 

We need to combine quantitative and qualitative methods to not only spot opportunities but inspire our teams in their search for improvements. 

Nothing is more important than getting out of the building.

Tools and methods that I use the most

My most powerful tools are drawn from theater. It’s important to remember that most of a theater is backstage, so I mostly use techniques from the rehearsal room – and from improvisation – to research, ideate, prototype, and implement change in organizations. I also use them to empower the teams that do it. 

Also, I always carry a rubber chicken. If you don’t know why, try it.

People I like to learn from

I learn the most from the Global Jams community and the Applied Improvisation Network.

My tip for newbies who want to start working in service design

Go to a Jam!

The most important skill of a service designer

There are several main skills of a service designer. Skill at prototyping and especially research is critical – but the most important skill is facilitation. 

We don’t design for people anymore, we design with them. 

So keeping a project team of diverse people working together productively and positively is a critical competence. 

The two most common mistakes when working on CX / service design projects 

1. believing the answer is in your team; 


2. thinking the path to the future is a straight line.

The most important CX milestone

The most important milestone in an organization’s design or CX maturity, is when they understand that there is more than one type of problem, and that “changing the business” and “running the business” need different behaviors and mindsets.

A topic that is close to my heart

I am passionate about the importance of implicit factors in design. 

Many of the most crucial factors in our work cannot be expressed in words or captured in a PowerPoint slide. They live in experiences, in stories, and in prototypes, and we need to communicate them by doing and building.

You can connect with me on these channels