Archive for the ‘case studies’ Category

Olof Schybergson and Claudia Gorelick from Fjord spoke about the need for continuous innovation. They started with a disquieting quote from Matthew Bishop at the Economist Innovation Forum who observed that the pace of change will never again be as slow as it is today.

They spent their talk exploring these shifts in innovation and the conditions that drive change, pointing to three aspects that influence customer expectations:

  • Direct competitors
  • Experiential competitors
  • Perceptual competitors

Customers have been conditioned to expect magic but the most profound technological changes over the past decade have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Slow hunches rather than sudden bright flashes. Olof pointed to the development of the iPhone as the synthesis of existing technologies with uncommon execution or Amazon’s development of one-click shopping as an outgrowth of their dominance in supply chain management.

They proposed that the current decade is building on the success of the web, internet and mobile technology with the emergence of “living services” that are profoundly customized for each user and that serve as the antithesis of the one-size-fits-all strategy at the heart of the industrial revolution.

Living services have the ability to learn, evolve and change over time. Olaf and Claudia predicted that these living systems would have wide-reaching effects on our homes, bodies, families, education, work, transport, finances and shopping. I enjoyed the followup question from a biologist in the audience who observed that living things eventually die…

Ultimately, Fjord tied this back to service design with the observation that user centered processes were already at the heart of the discipline. That positions service designers to help organizations grasp the importance of user-centric understanding.

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.


Birgit Mager and Kerry Bodine presented the 2015 awards to kick off the final day of the Service Design Global Conference in NYC.

Birgit helped to launch a service design competition in Switzerland in 1998. But there were not enough examples of practice at the time. The board decided at SDGC14 in Stockholm to launch a new competition for service design for the 30k people affiliated with the SDN.

Award Criteria:

  • Clarity of presentation
  • Relationship between cause and effect
  • Clarity of results
  • Holistic and multi-channel
  • Organizational change

Prototyping for Organizational Change

  • Travellab: Airline Prototyping
  • Thick: Re-imagining Government Services

Results-Driven Service Design

  • Hellon: People’s Pharmacy
  • Designit: Redesigning Breast Cancer Diagnostics

The awards were not just an example of methods, but of the impact of service design. The projects were exhibited in a gallery at Parsons. The winners hail from Finland, Norway and Australia.

Jon Campbell from Continuum in Boston and Dr. Munib Karavdic from AMP Financial in Australia gave a presentation on building a sustainable engine for growth within established organizations.

The number one issue for most commercial clients is getting ideas commercialized and into market. Not generating ideas or developing them, but launching them.

AMP partnered with Continuum.

Disrupt or be disrupted. Industries need to adapt but actions don’t ensure the best outcomes when it comes to impact on the market. Results are paramount. Companies need to focus on the implementation. They underestimate their ability to find or acquire new ideas but overestimate their ability to implement new ideas.

There are a range of ideas. Incremental Change is comforting. Cold Fusion is aspirational which is comforting because the technology isn’t there yet to worry about implementation. In between is the “scary zone” where implementation becomes difficult.

The Implementation Dilemma:

  • Don’t focus on the wrong problem (nice landing; wrong airport). Build the customer case first rather than the business case.
  • Avoid expensive approaches.
  • Organizational constraints.
  • Measures for success based on time and budget

Three critical elements of an innovation pod.

  1. Empowered Team: 5-7 individual full time pulled from the core business. Availability is not a competency. We need the best of the best: business, design, product, marketing, digital. Led by a design lead and business lead who report to an offer owner no more than two levels from the C-suite.
  2. Physical Space: Co-located space for the team members. New governance model for this team. White boards, tack surfaces, posting space for artifacts. Behavioral perception vs space configuration; the space needs to feel different AND look different than their normal environment.
  3. Common Approach and Tools: No handover. Front end design-led core tam carry through to the end market test. Back end business-led extended team is integrated from the beginning.

They also identified some important enablers for innovation pods.

In terms of training, they created a common vocabulary around the project, so that everyone understands concepts like “prototyping.” Not everyone needs to be a designer, but they need to share a common language throughout the organization.

There are also elements to minimize the appetite for new risk.

  • Outline leaderships risk tolerance
  • Place small bets with market tests
  • High fidelity front-end, low fidelity back-end
  • Measure ROL (return on learning rather than return on investment)

Finally, some thoughts on radical transparency and the importance of communication. Check-in sessions and brown-bag lunches. Then distribute those reflections throughout the organization.

Dr. Nick de Leon from the Royal College of Art spoke about service design within the two-year RCA program in London.

There are 60 graduate and Ph.D candidates working on 10 concurrent projects with industry partners across the private and public sector. Consumer electronics, luxury retail, Ministry of Justice, etc. Students take on these projects to build a mutual capacity for design between the designers and clients. People are the raw material of services.

Dr. de Leon framed the role of the service designer as more of a midwife, not necessarily conceiving the ideas, but helping to bring those voices into the world and nurture them. In the spirit of last year’s disdain for tea cups, he observed that the world doesn’t need another chair or another lamp.

RCA is beginning to work with the public sector both in the UK and internationally in order to align policy and practice rather than developing policy in isolation. Design can help to find the right policy, not just the right implementation.

The final part of his presentation focused on RCA’s work in the public sector across the healthcare industry, criminal justice. Like the previous presentation from GE he advocated for the intervention of designers much earlier in the process.

He also emphasized the importance of partnerships with private sector actors to help deliver aspects of public services.

Katrine Rau and Katrina Alcorn from GE Energy gave a talk on how GE is developing the Internet of Things. They started with several familiar household examples but pointed out that the internet can also connect on an industrial scale to things like windmills or jet engines or gas turbines. They call this the Industrial Internet (or the internet of big things).

The devices are consumer, commercial and industrial. Billions of devices. 30 to 90 billion dollar value. Intelligent machines, or dumb machines with new sensors. Plus software and analytics. Finally, people at work use these analytics.

This is a hard problem. 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. For example, two million miles of oil transmission pipelines. Half were installed prior 1970. Important to maintain this infrastructure, but every 30,000 miles of pipeline generates 17 terabytes of data per day when instrumented.

How do you glean insights from the data without overwhelming? How can we anticipate what people might need? There are also performance issues: sometimes it takes 24 hours to crunch the numbers.

The industrial internet stakeholders have very specialized jobs. You have to work with hard-to-reach users. You can’t just guess what they need. Research is crucial.

The technology is also really new. The unknown can be scary. Data security. May require new ways of working. GE Energy uses co-creation to bring together diverse stakeholders to overcome some of these issues. This is most useful when the solutions are not clearly defined and the stakeholders aren’t yet in alignment.

Co-creation helps to:

  • Ensure we’re addressing the right problem
  • Clearly define solution and desired outcome
  • Create trust with our customers
  • Engage stakeholders in decisions
  • speed up the sales process
  • Reach solution faster
  • Avoid costly changes to code later on

Co-creation empowers stakeholders to be designers. At GE Energy they’ve identified five principles to share from their work:

Place design at the leadership level. Don’t fight against the company language and existing organization. Whoever controls the language controls the debate. Whoever translates the language can bring people to a common solution.

Practice “co-creation” just like an engineering best practice. Utilize a “federated facilitation” model that benefits internet and external teams. Spread this message through brown bag sessions that evangelize the culture of co-creation.

Sustain relationships that make things happen. Invite yourself to meetings. Remember that “people issues” are “design challenges.” Shape relationships during the pre-project.

Demystify empathy and make it practical for anyone. UX begins with the needs of the people who will use the product. Bring new people into the research and let them listen in to learn about stakeholder problems.

Help every touchpoint, without exception, to be better by design. Make realistic plans for integration design earlier and in more places.

Five takeaways:

  1. Add co-creation methods to your toolkit. Break out of your silos.
  2. Start co-creation before the project is defined. Designing the brief.
  3. Make friends with developers and data experts.
  4. Take your helicopter crash course (do your homework for research).
  5. Plant seeds in your organization.

Anders Frostenson from Doberman stepped in at the last minute for a substitute presentation on the development of their NYC studio, focused on digital products, service design and innovation capability.

He shared a story about the founding of their NYC studio four years ago. Transplanting a new studio was all about prototyping. They took established methods from their Stockholm studio to develop their new office. They created a three year business plan for expanding to New York, assembled collaboratively on white paper with post-it notes. All 60 people in Stockholm were activated to be part of the decision.

He also shared an example focused on NYC citizen-driven innovation. It involved radical collaboration, innovation tools, guided research and experience prototyping.

Finally, he observed that capacity building is about sharing design culture. Not just tools or methods.

Zack Brisson from Reboot gave a presentation on taking design techniques from the private sector and applying them to the public sector.

He started with a provocation: Design has changed the private sector; but we have a way to go in the public sector. He identified four principles for improving this.

  • Address the public sector’s unique incentives. More complex than simple profit. It differs widely by location and by sector. That changes how we use the tools of service design to intervene.
  • Service designers must think and work politically. Even when it’s not always comfortable to think in that way.
  • Don’t just ship, but build capacity. Very different than product design.
  • Speak the public sector lingo. Budget cycles. Political considerations.

Zack shared a recent project from Nigeria that won a Core 77 service design award. They collaborated with the World Bank and the Nigerian government to focus on the delivery of public services. They focused on the feedback loop of service delivery in rural areas. After 18 months they developed My Voice, to enable discussion of service problems.

Reboot focused on addressing a broader range of stakeholders than a typical project. This process helped to identify new leverage points.

They had to understand the political context. Many stakeholders viewed the project as surveillance rather than as a support system. This was important to address in order to get buy-in from stakeholders.

How to build capacity? Added this as a parallel stream. Stakeholders were much more involved than strictly necessary for a typical design process. Reboot also implemented training as applied experience rather than in a classroom.

Finally, they translated design lingo into the local parlance. Process guidance documents for translating design terms into policy terms. Use the language of a World Bank document in collaboration with public policy specialists.

Empathy with public sector agencies. Respect the experience of our counterparts. Be humble about the scale of the problem and our capacity to make an impact in isolation.

Chelsea Mauldin from the Public Policy Lab in Brooklyn spoke about capacity building for emerging and latent problems in society.

The Public Policy Lab is a nonprofit founded in 2011 that works in partnership with federal and local governmental organizations to improve public services with a focus on poor and vulnerable stakeholders.

She shared several examples of past initiatives. First, a project on affordable housing with NYC agency, another for the Department of Education focused on students with disabilities. Next, a project on jail and substance abuse in Louisville, KY to understand the detoxing population and identify points of intervention. Finally, a project with the VA on veteran access to mental health care to address the rate of suicide.

One of the problems she observed is that civic tech tends to presume “digital solutions” as the answer to any problem. Luckily, it’s possible to co-opt methods from the digital space. AB/testing, Lean, etc. Co-opt the interest in digital innovation to introduce designers and other decision making methods.

Chelsea also believes in the importance of impact assessment. Design is sometimes viewed as a luxury good. But in 2015 we need to demonstrate value. Deepen what assessment means. Be more rigorous. RCT-based testing. Thicker data about qualitative experience. In combination with quantitative data. Light weight short cycle assessment tools.

Human subject design, professionalize it. We’re mining the content of people’s lives for design initiatives. Are we designing ethically? Need to adopt more serious consent procedures.

Christian Bason from the Danish Design Centre spoke about the evolution of design in a sprawling presentation to wrap up the morning sessions.

Design impacts the world through diffusion. Ezio Manzini wrote about the difference between Expert design vs Diffuse design. This is similar to Herbert Simon’s observation that everyone designs who invents ways to change existing situations into preferable situations.

Like the previous presentation, Christian observed that Lunar, Adaptive Path, Designit were recently acquired by McKinsey and Co, Capital One and Wipro. He’s curious about how the culture of these organizations change. Either for the design firm or for the parent organization.

Design is splintering:

  • Craft vs Mass Production
  • Heroic designer vs Co-designer
  • Product vs Service
  • Growth vs Social Change

As design is rapidly transforming, what are the ways in which design can create value for society? He sees potential in changing design policy and design leadership.

DDC wants to make design a top competitive factor in Danish businesses. Today only 15% use design strategically. Can we catalyze design, by design?

  1. Experiment. Ask good questions. What don’t we know about design? Engage business and designers to find out.
  2. Learn: How does design create value, now? Observe design practice in action. Open source. Observe both failures and success.
  3. Share. Give everyone access to new insights. Platforms for catalyzing learning for change.

Micro Design: Shaping the Future: Design leadership as an innovation tool.
Buckminster Fuller: Design as future-making
Herbert Simon: Design as decision-making.

Boland and Collopy 2004: A design attitude views each project as an opportunity for invention and that includes a questioning of basic assumptions and a resolve to leave the world a better place than it’s found

What happens between designers and managers?

There’s a change from: Which decision should I make to what should I make a decision about? DDC documented 14 sample engagements across the US, Europe and Australia.

  1. Exploring the problem space. Challenging assumptions. It was an eye-opener. Leveraging empathy. Sometimes you have to make a choice. Users first, or employees first?
  2. Generating alternative scenarios
    Stewarding divergence, The art of aligning decisions with impacting when many minds are involved in making a plan and many hands in enacting it. Navigating the unknown. It’s a loss of control, but it is a positive loss of control.
  3. Enacting new practices. Making the future concrete. Could we get to a working prototype in 25 days? Insisting on value: I want everybody to win.

Finally, a few potential books for the service design library: Christian is the author of Leading Public Sector Innovation: Co-creating for a Better Society and Design for Policy: An approach to user-centered creation of public outcomes.