Alex Nisbett on the London 2012 Spectator Experience

Alex Nisbett from Live|Work in London gave an impromptu presentation that closed out this morning’s sessions. He spoke on the design and delivery of the London 2012 spectator experience where he worked as a PM and covert service designer.

The presentation included dozens of examples of touchpoints and crowd control assembled with practically no budget. Much of the experience had already been locked down years previously in signed contracts for the Olympic games and it wasn’t until late in the process that the team was given input on the spectator experience.

He and his team realized that it was important to focus on the entire journey, including the 40% of each day spent waiting in line. He also communicated some useful tips for operational planning and for getting buy-in for service design within the organization by focusing on weak spots that were at risk of failure. This became more like error testing than a traditional design process and focused instead on building clear feedback channels and concise reports so that the experience could be improved on a day-by-day basis.

Near the end of the talk, Alex acknowledged that ultimately the spectator experience isn’t the focus of the Olympics. You’re really there for the sports, to watch the athletes. That’s when this clicked for me as a service design talk.

You can frame it in terms of process and outcome theory. People may complain about the process but that’s nothing compared to the complaints that arise from a failed outcome. And if the service outcome is successful people will excuse some process errors but not vice versa. Ultimately the London Games realized the goals set by the city.

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