I recently wrote a piece on the “man aisle”, a store layout experience that plays on man’s ineptitude with shopping. Well, now I report on an experience at the opposite end of the gender role spectrum. Harrod’s Toy Kingdom will be the first major gender neutral toy store. We normally think of children playing with toys that match generally accepted gender roles, and for the most part it seems that is indeed how children select toys. We also know that boys and girls develop differently: biologically and politically. The issue for many socially aware people is the political difference. It has been argued that political difference is the primary cause in the disparity between men and women’s position in society and there is a long history of progress to even the playing field.
Scandinavia, perhaps the most socially progressive region of the world has embedded gender equality into its society starting from childhood. In 2010, the World Economic Forum designated Sweden as the most gender-equal country in the world in particular. Consider that Sweden has now introduced a new gender neutral pronoun – “hen” to avoid the he/she distinction. For many people, it can sound somewhat shocking but this movement is becoming more prevalent. One story that has received a fair amount of attention is of a dad in Germany who sometimes wore dresses publicly to help his 5 year old son be more comfortable with himself because the son preferred wearing dresses (story here). These stories are a bit sensational now but businesses would do well to pay attention to this burgeoning trend.
My purpose here though is not to debate the correctness of gender neutrality per se but to show that customer experience can be applied to further social education. An extrapolation of kids growing up in a Swedish inspired world full of customer experiences exemplified by Harrod’s gender neutral toy shop is that they would see personal choice as opposed to socially sanctioned gender roles as the dominant determinant of social position. Therefore, perhaps we can think of the Harrod’s Toy Kingdom as one of the first examples of citizen experience applied in a commercial setting. Customer experience is popping up everywhere and can be used to address the needs of this budding trend head on. Visionaries will recognise the opportunity.
|Qaalfa Dibeehi is Chief Operating and Consulting Officer at of Beyond Philosophy one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Qaalfa is an international co-author of Customer Experience: Future Trends and Insights. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.
Follow Qaalfa Dibeehi on Twitter @Qaalfa_BeyondP