Seeing Tomorrow’s Services: Recap

Seeing Tomorrow's Services Panel: Photo by Varun

Last night was the Seeing Tomorrow’s Services panel discussion at Adaptive Path in San Francisco. There was a fantastic turnout. Around 100 attendees with many alumni from CMU and UC Berkeley. It was standing room only.

After some introductions, the event kicked off with a presentation about service design from each of the three panelists: Shelley Evenson from the School of Design at CMU, Robert Glushko from the School of Information at the University of California-Berkeley, and Christi Zuber from Kaiser Permanente.

One of the core ideas from Shelley’s presentation was the concept of the “Five Ps” of service design. People, product, place, process and performance. Bob Glushko mentioned another framework that bears looking into: seven contexts of service design.

Probably the main distinction between CMU and the Berkeley iSchool is the focus on frontstage experience versus the backstage system. Professor Glushko made an interesting observation that the frontstage / backstage distinction largely depends on your point-of-view.

The most interesting segment of the panel for me was Christi Zuber’s overview of the work she and her team are doing in the Frontline Innovation Consultancy at Kaiser Permanente. I’d heard about the group, but this was the first time seeing the kind of work that’s coming out of the program.

Their design process is derived from IDEO. Observation, story-telling, synthesis, brainstorming, prototyping, field testing and implementation. She recounted a story about the design of “no interruption wear” at Kaiser, showing several iterations of a prototype garment that nurses could don when performing critical tasks. I liked the formulation of “one nurse, one change, one shift” as a way of carefully testing the prototypes.

She also made an excellent point that designing a service is only part of the battle. Getting it integrated into the organization is by far the bigger challenge.

The final part of the panel discussion was a hypothetical business case that moderator Brandon Schauer asked the panelists to address. It centered around a Bay area electrician wanting to move into “green” technology.

This part of the panel was a bit lackluster for me. Design isn’t a performance art and I reject the notion that designers can formulate solutions to service design problems in isolation. Not without collaborating closely with the business itself. From that perspective the whole approach seemed contrived.

Overall though, I thought last night was a great discussion. Quite a few people live-blogged the panel via twitter #stspanel. Most of the choice quotes from the discussion are archived there.

Update: Added a photo from the CMU Bay Area Facebook group. They’ve posted more photos from the event.


  1. Qin

    thank you for sharing the content, glad that you guys had a great time🙂

    Q




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