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To Inspire, Be Inspired – chicken or egg

15 March, 2010

Last Friday I presented to our 30+ designers and business analysts during two half-day workshops to bring them up to speed with our new integrated world (also restructured world (thank you recession)).

Preparing for the session made me think about a few things I knew I wanted to cover, or at least be ready for if asked:

  • Why service design in the public sector context
  • What is design thinking (you know cos you know but you know you still gotta articulate)
  • Activity is masturbation if it’s not captured. We design to effect change, not for the sake of designing or to just describe change. (Why, oh why couldn’t I think of another word for ‘masturbation’ during the presentation (other than onanism)?! thanks brain.)
  • And thank you Telecom XT for failing. It was the perfect example of why design thinking and service design are of equal importance to the corporate laser-sights about IT and business requirements (and why business analysis is the Yin to service design’s Yang). It was probably a great technology project, but the pain being caused is not because the technology failed, it’s because people can’t connect with their people, people can’t run their business, live their life.

1. Why Service Design in Public Sector context?
Because we live in a largely voluntary and free-state citizens comply with regulatory requirements to keep us off their back, because they’ll do the ‘right thing’ as long as the next person does. So if you want to build trust because things are going to change (governments inevitably change, policies change, ministers change their minds, not to mention society changing) Steve Diller, Nathan Shedroff, and Darryl Rhea said it best in ‘Making Meaning’ on page 136:

“Because meaningful experience depends on repeated, consistent delivery, it typically engenders greater trust. As customers’ trust in [an enterprise] deepens, their loyalty becomes stronger. They adopt a more informal relationship with the [enterprise], one that eases transactions on both sides, making them faster, better and more predictable”

Designers make co-design of what it is to be a citizen possible because we use techniques to engage all the voices in the creative process – which includes helping people find their voice along the way – be they technical, managerial, customer, user, citizen, minister, change agent collaborators, etc

2. What’s Design Thinking
I go back and forth on this, and don’t even really want to be pinned down, but if I was cornered and asked to state characteristics of design thinking I’d say (as at 20.39:15.03.2010):

  • It’s about moving from a current state to a better state; not just changed, or preferred, but better – for humans. What makes it better? – it supports meaning for the user based on what we know people experience and want to experience (i.e. what people do, think, use). And people includes customers, staff, managers.
  • It’s a conscious process to ultimately make something to effect change, therefore needs must be deeply understood, constraints and concrete parameters must be embraced, and innovation can’t help but result
  • It’s about building up ideas – synthesis trumps analysis because it goes beyond looking for patterns from available information and into interpreting quantitative and qualitative information as a means of generating solutions to the problem
  • It’s collaborative, i.e. no superstar genius in the corner beavering away until they shout ‘Eureka!’ and come up with ‘the answer’. And in that collaboration it is inter-disciplinary – not a bunch of designers collaborating, a bunch of designers, customers, staff, managers, users, IT-bods, third-party customer connectors, psychologists, scientists – whoever can aid understanding, exploration, evaluation and definition. In fact, it’s never just about the designer – it’s always about everyone else. The designer is the facilitator of the process.
  • Its techniques are to intended to engage and humanise the problem-solving activity, not exclude or obfuscate – every output from a designer should be meaningful to anyone who needs to understand or contribute to the problem-solving – so we story-tell, brainstorm, prototype, visualise, ask.
  • I’d also point someone in the direction of Charles Owen “Design Thinking: Driving Innovation”  who I was lucky enough to hear explain and debate these when he came to NZ in 2007.

So did I inspire? Who knows – tough crowd. There were nods, and smiles and I hear tell of people saying they ‘really enjoyed the session’ (which to be fair wasn’t just about service design). The proof will be in three months or so when we evaluate where we’re at and if people talk to me about work in the lift up to level 13 (not about weather, or about being in a lift).

However, it did inspire a revelation for me: may I be so bold as to state in building a capability or leading infrastructure change, design thinking and practice has been crucial to change management aspects. Getting to a better state through a conscious process of understanding needs, using a variety of techniques, approaches, communications to facilitate people engaging with their new world in such a way that they are empowered to take ownership of their role. Why we’ve even created touchpoints along the way for people to navigate their way through. Is there nothing design thinking can’t do?!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 18 March, 2010 7:11 pm

    You might be interested to check out (if you haven’t already) the discussion going on over at the Design Thinkers Network. Would be great to see you joining in conversations there. Although sometimes I feel we need to lighten up a tad and as I mentioned there also: let us not forget the legendary comment by Sherlock Holmes – “No, Watson, this was not done by accident, but by design.”

  2. 18 March, 2010 7:28 pm

    Thanks Meenie! I’ve been following more and more of Wenovski’s stuff in the last few weeks since Arne inspired a recent post (including the one you refer to I just didn’t scroll down and see you). Guess I’ll just have to join. Cheers!


  1. Maps, shmaps, pathways, shmathways, etc, shmetc «

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