Martin Dowson on We’re Not All Designers but We Are All Designing


Martin Dowson from Lloyds Banking Group in the UK spoke about building an “Internal Design Academy” to train more than 200 people in service design practices within his organization at LBG. He shared his experience across many large organizations, working from both the outside as a consultant and from the inside as in his current role.

The focus for this morning’s group of presentations concerns how to build internal design capabilities. Transforming the customer experience first requires transforming the organization. Martin stressed that senior executives need to really understand the importance of this transformation. Getting that buy-in has been a common theme across several presentations.

Much of the presentation focused on the versatility of the double diamond framework for approaching design problems. Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver. He valued it as a lens for understanding methods and evangelized that design is a problem solving activity that can be applied to almost anything. The principles and approach apply to many types of problems.

He organized his presentation around a key strategic goal and four supporting tactical approaches. Primarily, good business is human centered, design-led and sustainably delivered. Building what he called a guerrilla design movement requires immersion, ongoing support, celebration of internal achievements and challenging groups to evolve and grow.

He framed immersion as distinct from training. To understand the power of these techniques you really need to experience them first-hand. Based on the widespread Service Design Jam structure he set up two-day sessions with 20 people to implement the double diamond and expose them to a design process. This gives team members a safe space to practice these techniques.

He also stressed that ongoing support is critical. You can’t just give people these techniques and send them off into the wild. Build confidence incrementally and make it clear that small wins are okay.

That leads into the importance of recognizing achievement for teams that are new to service design methods and uncertain about the outcomes and since not everyone will get the chance to put this into practice right away, creating opportunities for people to practice their design and research skills.

Ultimately he called for a reframing of the traditional relationship between client and agency. Is it possible to co-design the experience of designing? Can agencies help clients learn along the way? Less of doing the design for clients and more about how teaching clients how to design.

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