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Thierry Lageat - The Experience of Life

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Thierry Lageat is the Co-founder of Eurosyn, a Sensory and Consumer testing agency. Eurosyn tests prototypes and improves sensory experiences for a wide range of companies, everything from Chanel to Ferrari to Nestle. In 1994 Thierry was the first in France to use sensory science for non-food products, including within the auto industry. In addition to his 25-year career in sensory science, Thierry also founded the Hoo-Ha Festival in 2008 which aims to shake up disciplinary boundaries and create new connections within the sensory science community.

Transcript (Semi-automated, forgive typos!)

John: Thierry, welcome to the show.

Thierry: Hi, John. I'm very happy being with you in this show. And so are you ready for a French lesson? Let's practice French, bonjour. Meet an English with a French cute accent.

John: Very good. Awesome, Thierry. I know this is gonna be great. So let me just start by asking I'm curious about Hoo-Ha. I definitely want to get to your experience with nonfood, but just kind of for the listeners who maybe aren't familiar with you and your accomplishments can you just tell us a little bit about this festival, I think it will be an interesting topic to start with.

Thierry: Yeah. You know, I've been working in this field for almost 25 years, and I love my job. The three I loved meet people to connect with different people. So I can consider myself as a lucky guy. And as we work on a large range of companies and we have created this seminar. I did lots of seminars for years, you know, but twelve years ago we have funded this a very different way to do some seminars by meeting people from different companies, different world, creative people, artists and instead of staying in meeting rooms, you know, as our field is talking about designing meaningful experience. Lots of people are staying in their office. And I would like you to test the sunglasses on beach or to go in under the water to test the sun's noting mask, you know. So I decided to create some evidence in many countries so and to leave a very unforgettable experience. Then we mix people from different companies. They are coming, but they don't know what will happen. We did have more than 50 stations in 20 countries. And the last one was in South Korea in February. In December last year, we did a pair and suspicion in Brazil, in Rio. Yes. That was a crazy experience. And we were also with a different designer coming from automative, sports like Nike and Puma. And by the way, by living a strong experience, people are or so can share and explain what they do in their daily job. This isn't our sources, these kind of example. I remember once we invited some chef, very well-known chef in France. We had a chef in Eiffel Tower restaurants. And so we had created a pop up restaurant in Denmark, you know, Hagen, and invited people to join us. And people didn't know before to come what will happen. But it was we had some people coming from different countries in Europe, you know, working in the field, you know, sensory field or consumer research. But also some designers. And it was amazing and nobody can forget this experience, you know, with these three chefs and also some musicians coming. We had some German bands who joined to play music. So, yeah, it's a different way to to feel and to share, to connect with people and then coming to connect. We already create a very strong connections. And my first hands, you know. In the US we did the, I don't know, maybe 10 sessions, maybe less than 10 sessions. In New York, we did also some private sessions for P&G twice. And the last time we did was in L.A. We had a surfing session and also we had a spacing in Tesla. So, yes, it's crazy. It's part of my job, you know, to have fun. To to allow people also, all my clients to enjoy because we already do a funny job.

John: Yeah. That's fascinating. So let me just ask, who do typically attends these? I mean, are these scientists, executives?

Thierry: You know, it depends. It's like a music festival because, you know, I started my career. I can say that when I was seven years old. I hear the Bee Gees and I say, yeah, I love this music. So I started playing music and what I tried to do is like going to a rock music festival and summer festival, you know. Sometimes lots of people are coming and can be between 200 or 300 people at the same session. For instance, I remember that one of your previous speaker was Dag people from Germany.

John: Oh, yeah.

Thierry: We had a session and an amazing session in Mexico with him and lots of people were coming. We were, I think 200 people but what I prefer is to be only 15 people, 10-15. I mix people as they can come from different companies like for pet food, food industry, cosmetics, electro-reproduce, car industry. We have some people from marketing designers. People also from evaluation like sensory evaluations. The aim is to talk about innovation. And we design meaningful and better experience in providing the consumers. And it's best under the fact that people need to design new produced but I was telling you that they stay in their office. And say don't observe users and just by living an experience, you learn a lot, you observe people, you interact. People who come to my event will see this as job differently.

John: Yes. This is great because, I mean, I see sensory science as the science of the experience of life. That's kind of the way I see it, you know and a lot of what you're saying really resonates with me because it is true that you're not going to get the experience of life sitting in your office. And so it is really exciting to get outside of the office and see what's out there. I guess these are the big picture changes, not just, you know, okay, we can do tetrad tests and make small adjustments to product. But if you're gonna do a breakthrough with some sort of big thing, you're going to need to get out of the office and you're going to get some new big ideas.

Thierry: Exactly. And also LinkedIn, I'm on LinkedIn and also I connect to a lot of people. So first session, I did link people, they helped me to set up some incredible session in their countries. So it's a seven hour session in China, Japan, South Africa. And also, you know what, it is very important to say it, because we do it for free, we do it for free. It's just for fun, you know. It's not a question of business. It's more a question of connection. And to bring some lots of energy from this event. You know, it's a lot of pressure to organize these events. But after a while, it is like a reward. Most people in my events when I say it's finished now, but I don't want to leave.

John: I can relate to this, that's for sure. My favorite things, I love to organize dinners at conferences, this kind of thing you'll get together, you know. I love the sound of like a room full of people that you organize having fun together. That's one of my favorite sounds in the world.

Thierry: Yeah. For releasing your podcast, they can just find some details also on LinkedIn on my profile. But again, we do it just for fun and for free. But it was hard because I also invite some artists like a performer, chef, musicians, because you know what, this is also something very important in our DNA at Eurosyn. We think that it's not easy to talk about an experience. It's not easy to talk about comfort, passive quality. It's not easy to design a new breed when thousands of people are involved for kindness. So sometimes we think that it's very important to invite a poet like your shift for artist because design creates something to tell a story. You know, like a culinary heart or music, a song. This is something which can create a very strong experience. But they can design their own song. So there's many people involved in the process. You know, I remember I was invited once by P&G in Cincinnati and they told me, yeah, you are free to invite who you want for a reason. And I invited some people from the field with a very new methodologies, you know, to show better I also invited a songwriter from a small country, but he was very famous. He was playing in a Summer Festival in Europe. And I invited him to join us for this event. And we were supposed to do it for only two hours but with his game, which was amazing. It was a standing ovation because he was explaining how he was able to create a song. He share his rules to create this. And the people were amazed by his performance. And we had a standing ovation as he hit because composing a song is like designing a produce you know. And yes, this is the DNA of Eurosyn. That's why it's very funny, you know. And do a very crazy job.

John: Yeah. Well, let me get your thoughts about this. As you mentioned a few things I think that are, you know, kind of really worth, kind of drilling into, one is art and the other is design, right? I mean, how do you see art and design and these other kind of influences, how do they interact with sensory? I mean, I personally think the design is very important. I think it's actually I mean it's kind of strange because it's so much in the public consciousness. But I still think we can do more being aware of design. There's been so much power. So can you talk a little bit about your interaction between design and sensory and how you see that in a source of?

Thierry: Yeah, maybe we can make just a little, I can tell a few words, you know, my own experience because 25 years ago, yes, you mentioned that I was the first guy to test, to use sensory methods, you know, for carrying this friends. And it's changed my life forever because I was not a sensory scientist from a high school and I specialize in the new product development. How can we innovate faster, and also share Cookman tool of, you know, between marketing and R&D design to move here and to specify in a better way, which is what kind of experience we want to be included in your product. And then after a while, you know what, we work a lot for classic industry. We do a lesson. And we test like for cosmetics, food industry but we had this opportunity to use sensory methods for unconventional applications. Like what equipment? For instance, the sensory finance playing on crickets or soccer. Testing some sunglasses on the beach or so working, I don't know about this new smell of the car but based on all of these amazing and crazy applications, we learned a lot. And after a while now, what we can see is that some artists are include also in automotive industry to help to make a good storytelling. So, you know, it's a way as a fact is that designer where they want to design a new produce. They are very intuitive and the difficulty to share their ideas, we have people from marketing or R&D. So we can help them that's why we have developed the Eurosyn. We can help them define of great perception to find the good parameters. Lots of our criteria related to sensory, to the experience, you know user experience and help them to specify in a better way, say intended experiences. They want to reach their produce and then now artist are coming in. I can tell you a story about an example. We work for a car industry and so now we do a lots of application on sound design. 20 years ago we were working on how can we remove bad sounds from the car.

John: You mean, the sound of the door. Bad sounds like wind noise or the sound of the door when it closes. Is that what you mean?

Thierry: Yeah exactly. When you close the door, but it can be also some sound of like a warning signal.

John: Oh right.

Thierry: You know, alarms. Alarms inside the car. Yes, it's a lot of song better. You know, it's very difficult because it's a complex, car is very complex sound. You can hear a new sound is appearing. It's quite difficult. But now, as I manage to do it better, you know, and it's not about having your silence inside the car. It's about having a real sensory signatures. You can sense if it a Nissan. Manufacturers work on their own signatures. So we are involved in the futuristic projects for car industry like electric cars or self-driving cars. With electric cars, there's no sound anymore. So it can be dangerous for people.

John: My wife has an electric car and it has a very strange sound it makes when it's at low speeds. It sounds like an UFO. Like, you know, that term like alien space craft. I think they could do more research on what sound it should make because it's a bit strange. Maybe they should hire you to fix the sound.

Thierry: Yeah. So a few years ago, I was thinking about how can we invent the sound of an electric car. So to do something with a good storytelling, you need to include the artist. So we were involved in a project which I went to a well known resident musician. And so, I don't know if you understand the shape darkest. He was a guy who was having this idea of story telling about the idea of the sound of a futuristic concept car. Yeah, but our job was to make a sound evaluation and to help some designers to create this different sounds inside the car, about the specializations about the sound. Yes. There are many incredible things which I don't know for car industry. We test some self-driving cars for five years already. So here, I would say that automotive is already in advance compared to cosmetic. In France, for instance, one of the main manufacturer, Peugeot, quite known in US better. When I started working in the sensory field, there was only one man working on comfort 25 years ago. US design lab, they have 250 people. And to see that some people who can do the job, evaluate the sound or make some tests, consumer test. It can be a tactile experience, vibrations, you know, but it can be also about a new series inside a car. How you will talk with a car and searching for a good restaurant in Paris and could interact with you. So there are some new jobs working for car industry people for video games, you know, brand like Ubisoft. New people are coming to help companies to do some good storytelling to an amazing service. Yeah, an amazing experience. So like some people like doing a series for Netflix. Some storytellers are not working for industry. So, yeah, every day I can work on this amazing topics and meet some creative people, you know. I am still like a child. I say lots of energy and I still have some stronger, you know children are very strong and have big dreams.

John: Yes. I have a four year old, so I'm very familiar with that.

Thierry: Yeah. Even if I looks older but I am still a child and that is my advice for people who listen to your podcast, you know, still be a child and try to have fun to your job. Here it was a dream team, you know, we enjoy working together. We work here a lot but we enjoy it.

John: It's fascinating for sure. I mean, there is a huge overlap between UX design and sensory. And I think that's very interesting, I mean, you're really bringing that out. You know that there's overlap. I'm something that I'm kind of interested in, actually I am interested in but I would be curious to get your thoughts on it is why is it that sensory science has not been embraced as much outside of say, food and beverage, you know, personal care? Why is it the case that, you know, only a few really innovative people like you are out there outside CPG doing something?

Thierry: Yeah. You're right. It's also my fitting, you know, I'm intent to a sensory in Europe, you know, or a symposium. And honestly, I'm not comfortable, you know, even if it's a way to meet all my clients from food and cosmetics. So my partner's right because we sometimes we're way better. Yes, there is something funny, I'll summarize my idea in one sentence, you know, still talking after 25 years about non-food produce. You know what, if they're thinking if like you if sensory was just for food industry.

John: Yes. That's fascinating. I never thought about the fact that people say non- food as if that's, that's like non English speakers or something as opposed to, you know, French speakers, Germans speakers, it's like okay there's English and there's non-English. That's fascinating.

Thierry: And you know what, some of my friends were writing a book. Yeah. Which will be published in the US as well are food producers. But I'm a contributor. You have to say that even if we are not better by doing some tests in other topics like, you know, razors or glasses or I don't know, you'll learn a lot and then you can agile and adapt. You know, sometimes it's not, sensory field says that you have to do your testing control conditions. But when you test, I don't know, shampoo. When you test showers hair or a car, you must test this in real life conditions. Yeah, we have developed new methodologies and we tested for 20 years already in controlled conditions. So it's a hybrid of sensory test that we try to do it with the classic and stand out in terms of methodology. But what we do is a, you know, sometimes with a sensory panelist, they can come twice or five times a week. But sometimes with some of the produce we tested at home with your call of panelist, they are testing of produce in real life conditions. But some of them are doing more than 260 evaluations a year. So, women are well trained, even if they you know, if we can not do it in sensory lab, maybe we can do it differently. And that's why, you know, for food industry is not necessary to do it but with the Covid, you know, less of people are wake, you know, there was a posting at some other on LinkedIn, you know, oh, yeah we need to do some tests at home. For me, it was very funny to see this because we have over 20 years of experience in this depends on the test that you're doing. Yes, I don't feel very comfortable, honestly. When I go to this symposium and that's why we organize some of our alternative events to invite our clients to Hoo-Ha sessions as part of the main event.

John: No, I think you're a really healthy influence in the field for sure. Like, you've got great energy and it's really nice to talk to you. And I think that you're right, you have the bigger picture of you, you know that we're trying to understand, like the science of life experience or measure of experience of life, you know, understand the experience of life. That's really what we are trying to do in sensory, I think.

Thierry: Yeah, you're right. And we learn a lot also by doing some test in a real conditions so you learn a lot. Sometimes we test some produce in extreme conditions. So for instance, last year we did some test in Zoonosis Sweden minus 20 degrees Celsius.

John: That's very cold.

Thierry: And during one week, people were trekking and sleeping in the tent camping.

John: What were you testing, can you say?

Thierry: Well, yeah, it was spot equipments when you go to trek and also the quality of the tents. And if you tested in the real conditions, then you will not feel, you will have a bad idea or wrong idea. So we learned a lot by doing the test in real conditions. And so something else which is a little bit different from sensory, from food industry is that, we did an amazing test for private jets. So we are involved in the design of a new private jets. Yeah, it's very complex environments. Different kinds of very rich people are interacting. Can be Chinese or Asian and they don't have the same expectations. And they also interact with people like you asked your words on the you know, and they can customize their private jets. And this is a very complex environment, doing a lots of different activities. So the designers wanted some help to understand how to have to specify in a better way, which is a good experience. So, yes, we're involved in such a topic and testing several private jets, you know it's like testing surrounds your goods but no there has to be a right private jets. And yes, they lunched this new private jets after two years of studies but something different, prototyping is too expensive. So they look for a new way or a massive prototyping. It develops some movies like Star Wars, you think that there's a private jet is already existing, but it's not existing. And then you can test again and again and digital is a new way to test produce and to, you know, as you can imagine. So they can not create several private jets. So honestly, doing such kind of test can change my life forever in a way I do business.

John: You have some ideas for when you retire, you get your private jet, you know. You know what the key things to get.

Thierry: Yeah but I was quite surprised to see that compared to car industry. The comfort inside a private jet was not consumers 2D's or user experience 2D's which we have done before. And so, yeah, just I give you an example. Before, you know, to board on plane, you are still on the tarmac, let's say, you have paid something like 50 million stirrups before customization of your private jets. And you know what? Just before to boards of plane, you can see the toilets door, yeah, in the private jet. So that's a good experience. Just to give you an example. And also sometimes when you want to cook, we work our zones are gitty, you know, because if you are Chinese guys, they need more space to prepare all these different dishes.

John: I see cross-cultural concerns are coming.

Thierry: Exactly. Yes. Lots of insights, you know, and we are also amazed to see such designers and storytellers where enable integrate all these recommendations we give to them. In different solutions, they provide and we tested again. We saw lots of insights coming from our studies, in our case sometimes you work, you couldn't see a researched when the produce is launched.

John: Sounds fascinating. Alright. Well, Thierry, I could talk to you for the rest of day, I think. So this has been really a pleasure to talk to you. So we have to kind of wrap this up. But let me ask you, so you talked a little back about keeping that kind of childlike enthusiasm, do you have other advice for our listeners, a young sensory scientist starting out? What advice would you give them right now?

Thierry: I would say, try to be curious. This is an advice to stay, everyday, you know, before to come to my home, my office. I spend one hour a day to get some inspiration from my job and to stay curious to connect with a lot of people. To love your job, this is the most important and to have dreams. During the lockdown in France, I have organized a life session. It was called Hadikto. I invited a famous European designers. I know they have high position in the very famous companies, but they have huge dreams.

John: Wonderful. Okay, great. And if someone wants to get in touch with you then so they can reach out to you on LinkedIn or what are the channels through which someone can get through?

Thierry: Yes, I am addicted to LinkedIn, so if you can also indicate my name so people will find me easily. I was supposed to make a world tour again this year. I was supposed to be in India and Japan but with the complex I can't travel. But for sure, stay tuned and I will post some invitation for this events.

John: Okay, I will put links in the show notes so that people can find you as well. Well, this has been great. Thank you so much, Thierry.

Thierry: Yeah. Thank you. It was a real pleasure and thank you very much, John.

John: Okay. That's it. Hope you enjoyed this conversation. If you did, please help us grow our audience by telling a friend about AigoraCast and leaving us a positive review on iTunes. Thanks.


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