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  • Writer's pictureIvaylo Yorgov

CX inspirations: the value of deliberate trade-offs

In previous posts (here and here) I offered you 10 insights from photography that can inspire your CX practice. This same line of thought got me thinking about the very basic operating principles of photography and the trade offs photographers make to take a great shot.

First things first, what does photography mean? The etymology of words often times offers the best definition – phōtos=light and graphé=drawing (both from Greek). Simply put, photography means ‘drawing with light’. So to take good photographs you need two skills – you need to know the principles of drawing, i.e. composition, colour theory, etc., and you need mastery in controlling your medium, i.e. light.

At the very basic level, mastering light means controlling how much light reaches the sensor of your camera, also known as exposure. A good analogy from everyday life is how much water do you put through your kitchen tap; this is not about the quality of the water or its temperature – just the quantity of it. Controlling how much light reaches your camera determines how light or dark your photos will be. Enough with the background.

Many ways to skin a cat

Controlling photographic exposition teaches you a great lesson about CX and, honestly, about life in general.

One, there are many ways to skin a cat (and you need to switch between them constantly).

There are three ways to adjust exposition in photography: you can change how quickly the camera takes the picture, you can change how wide your lens opens, and you can change the ISO.

The thing is, every one of these methods has its drawbacks. What you do in reality is consider them jointly and come up with the optimal combination. Not the ‘single thing you need to do’ but the combination of things you can affect. And not the perfect combination but the optimal one.


You can increase the amount of light that reaches your camera by decreasing the speed, i.e. instead of snapping a shot in 1/1000 of a second you can take a full second. The problem with that is that a 1/1000 sec shot gives you a crisp image of a moving object (think sport photos) while a 1sec one will give you the line a moving object makes.

You can increase the amount of light that reaches your camera by opening your lens. The problem with that is that a closed lens gives you images with clear focus from front to back (think landscape photos) while an open one will give you a focus at a single point and blur everywhere else (think portraits).

Or you can play with the ISO which is a digital enhancement really. The higher the ISO the more sensitive your camera is to light (odd, I know). The problem with ISO is the higher you go, the more grain you get in your photos.

You see, photographers know some hard truths about life very well. There are no perfect conditions and we need to make trade offs. To add insult to the injury, these far from perfect conditions change quickly. In short, you are working in a world in which sometimes everything is against you, and you also need to constantly evolve. Does this remind you of something?

What are you optimizing for?

Given the options photographers have, how to they decide which combination of speed, lens opening and ISO to use? Given the options you have in your CX practice, how do you decide what to work on? I strongly believe the answer resides in this question: What are you optimizing for?

Going back to photography, for a good landscape shot for example having the whole thing in focus is vital, hence you know that you cannot play with the lens opening – it needs to be closed. This leaves you with two things to adjust. Typically, you also wouldn’t go above a certain ISO level, so there’s a ceiling to that as well. This leaves you speed. Now, if there’s a lot of light, it’s all good. If there is not a lot of light you start decreasing the speed. Problem is, if the speed is too low you need to hold your camera very very still (think biathlon athlete at the moment of shooting); you need a steady hand and controlled breathing. To facilitate this, you can use a tripod to put your camera on an voila, you have your great shot.

This whole process resides on knowing how to work with the camera of course. What is more important, it relies on you knowing what kind of photo do you want to take. This is the starting point and the choices you make depend fully on this decision. If you are taking a landscape photo, your lens would be closed. If you are taking a photo of your friend with the landscape as a background, you can utilize the best portrait taking techniques and your settings could be completely different.

So what are you optimizing for? There are multiple ways to achieve the same thing (or a good outcome). Which levers you pull would depend fully on what exactly you are after.

What about CX?

What does all this mean for your CX practice? My take:

  1. Know what you are after. How do you want your customer to feel interacting with you? Vibrant? Energized? Relaxed? You name it but make sure you have it. Annette Franz offers great advise on this: The question is, what are you optimizing for? Be deliberate.

  2. Consider things jointly. There is no one-thing-to-do-to-deliver-amazing-experience. And no, you probably can’t offer the best-in-class on all CX dimensions. There are many ways to skin a cat. What I think is your best shot is to look for the optimal combination – the one that brings you the closest to your goal. Run scenarios. Check how things work together. See what happens if you increase the price and improve the design. To make things more complex: what happens if you decrease the price, cut on ad spending, and invest in better design? Does this work better than increasing the price, boosting ad spending and spend less on design?

  3. Evidence-based. A thing I didn’t tell you before is that there are formulas that can guide your choice of speed and lens opening to let a certain amount of light reach the camera sensor. What is transformed into a button on my camera is the laws of physics, i.e. knowing that 1pt increase in speed results in Xpts increase in amount of light. In CX terms, to select the right combination of actions and initiatives to work on, we need to know what works and what doesn’t.

We all have to make trade offs all the time. Let’s make sure they align with our goals and are supported by evidence.


I’d love to chat with you about this. Reach out to share your thoughts or post them in the comments.

My best wishes for a great day ahead!

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