Monday, 13 July 2009

This blog is moving

Hello peeps. I'm moving my blog to Wordpress cos it's better. Please see I've moved all the old posts so it's the same blog, just in a different place. Thanks!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

NHS innovation expo

I was really impressed by the innovation expo event last week. Enough
to warrant a more complete posting, to cover the main points:

1. Why does social care appear to be the poor cousin to health care? I
attended a great talk by David Behan, Director General of Social Care
where he frightened everyone with demographics (the rate at which we
can keep people alive longer is outpacing the rate we can keep them
healthy longer), expectation (baby boomers aren't going into care
homes quietly) and technology (where he basically said WTF!). All in
all it was a brilliant call to arms, to defuse a service timebomb, but
his frustration was palpable. Very few had read his centrepiece
document, so he was struggling to have the debate. I'm hoping to speak
to him again soon.

2. Design: it's a chick thing. I couldn't put my finger on what was
different about this conference until it clicked. About 60% of
delegates were women. This made for a different feel to the whole
event. And a few discussions with the other service designers out
there confirmed my suspicion that it's female NHS staff that are spear
heading the growth of service design in the UK. They get it faster and
more intuitively. Which doesn't mean we shouldn't shy away from
converting captains of industry, but useful to know the softer markets.

3. Service design. No really! I sat watching Lord Darzi get laughs
from an audience of 1,000 people as he mapped a typical journey
through the healthcare system. All the to'ing and fro'ing was
ridiculous. All the mistakes tragic and wasteful. But what a great
message to deliver so close to his pubchlubr - "the NHS must innovate
or die." service design was truly centre stage.

And Chief Exec David Nicholson added more the next day, admitting that
the staff had it right all along - it's the patient stupid! Not the
targets. If we chase targets we'll end up in a perversion of
healthcare, aimed less at wellness, and more at box ticking. And as
everyone had got by that stage, that way lies NHS bankruptcy.

4. Tele health. With a father and father in law both ill with long
term conditions, this really interested me. Within about 10 years I'll
be able to monitor the activity and health of ageing relatives on my
laptop and phone, via a host of widgets tracking all sorts of things.
A bit big brother maybe, but a compromise for continued independence.
I'm also really interested in the opportunities this opens for service
designers, taking away some of the environmental restrictions of
hospitals. Add in the ambulances of the future (minor surgery on your
doorstep) and you begin to wonder...

Friday, 19 June 2009

NHS Innovation Expo 2009

Attended both days of this great conference. Was impressed with the thirst for service design, even more so than last year's event. More than 60% of delegates were female, and I hope I'm not stereotyping when I say women just get service design quicker and more intuitively than men.

Anyway - fully energised. Will digest the material and post more later.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

1900s service design

I was at a National Trust house a couple of weeks ago, and found this great little bit of early 1900s service design in the kitchen. I say "the kitchen" as if it was just a kitchen, but it was a collection of 4 rooms, used on a daily basis by 15 members of staff. Clearly the challenge with so many people making use of all the kitchen supplies, it was very difficult for the supplies manager to keep tabs on what's in or out of stock. This Household Wants Indicator is a very nifty solution. If you notice something is running low, you find the product in the list and flip the indicator from white to red. Simple, effective and far neater than a scruffy blackboard.

I used it as stimulus when I got my colleagues to redesign the office kitchen, which holds a limited range of supplies. Could you image how big it would need to be for a domestic kitchen, with the massive range of products available these days?

Anyway - a cool bit of service design...

Look outwards, not upwards

A great call to arms by the Health Service Journal for PCTs to look to their service users rather than to central government in a quest to make change. Power to the people.

Scene recognition engines

Quite blown away by this scene recognition demo. I heard some chap from Cisco talking about it last year, but to watch this demo, is to believe it. Find out more on the chap's blog. An obvious next thing. Might need to improve iPhone batteries though;)

Friday, 15 May 2009

Some cool things from the week

I've kept returning to this all week - a blog post by Mike Arauz about how agencies should offer 100 sparkly digital ideas, and not so much one big fat website. I like this idea very much.

I also mean to watch this, hopefully once I've actually watched Us Now!

And I need to write up the results of the little service design challenge I gave my colleagues yesterday - to re-design the office kitchen. Lots of designers with lots of great ideas. From the conversations in the pub last night, it worked.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Try before you buy

I love how the web is helping people make much more informed decisions, and I don't mean Ciao and other review sites. I mean peopl uploading videos like this one so people can see a pretty major design fault before they buy. And a smart producer would be watching and getting his drawing board back out.

It won't be long before people start videoing long queues, difficult sales assistants or dirty waiting rooms and uploading them to twitter. Everyone will know about every poor service experience in an instant. The key won't be to run a perfect service (impossible), but to be attentive and responsive to bad service experiences.

Friday, 1 May 2009

The Explosive Website

So I have this evolving theory - the Explosive Website - and it kind of runs like this. The web, when it's good, is setting this amazing service experience which is becoming increasingly dominant.

Witness Amazon. I can find and order a book within a minute. It remembers who I am, it knows what I like, and (very occasionally suggests things I didn't know I'd like). It's always on and it does the same thing every time I go. I search for the author, mispelling it, and I get it within seconds. I look inside and reject it. Amazon recommends two others. I opt to buy one of them. So this service experience is smart, predictable and efficient.

Witness the DVLA tax disc service on Directgov. I can renew my road tax within a minute. Again, it's predictable, it's always on. Another straightforward service experience.

Now let's compare the offline cousins of these services.

Witness a recent Borders experience. I go in, it's busy and the foyer is cluttered with irrelevant things being pushed at me. The way finding makes me suspect I'm being forced past impulse purchases. The shelving system isn't dewey decimal, so I have to guess the category. It's two floors up. I get there, I browse. i can't find. So I opt to drill down and search through an expert. i look for one and, a couple of minutes later, I find an arty looking student. He doesn't recognise the book. We walk to the terminal and he searches & locates the book. We find the right shelf and he pulls it off. I read the back cover and decide I don't want it after all. I spend the next ten minutes browsing the shelves, get a bit hot and jaded, and leave. This is not a great service experience.

I'm not going to dwell on the DVLA one, only to summarise as "what paperwork? where is it? how long is that post office queue? but I don't have that with me! oh - my insurer has closed it's helpline until 8am. etc etc etc. Awful. Abysmal.

But, but - before we start suggesting all shops should be closed and we should do it all online - I considered this - when the offline book buying service works, I love it more than I ever love the perfect Amazon service. I like to feel the books, to chat to the staff (all of whom are trying to write books). I like to support the business community. It's three dimensional. Even at its very best Amazon lacks the emotional service experience. It's two dimensional and, other than the financial saving, it's unrewarding. I'm trying to pin down the third dimension... it's something human and instinctive.

iTunes is an even more extreme example. My desire to own the CD (the tangible product I can love) is only slightly beaten by my desire to pay less (and end up with a two dimensional thing I have less love for).

Anyway - that's why the theory is "the explosive website" - there's a sense that the web is setting the benchmark for service - so it's inherently expansive. Working in the digital realm, I hear more and more about how digital thought leadership is influencing offline business leaders. This is generally accepted as "a good thing". But there's also something of a threat in the explosivity - it's charged, and potentially damaging. There's a risk that the expansion is so fast that our desire for things fast and cheap means we lose that important third dimension of the service.

Witness Woolworths - the much loved UK chain - which yes was killed by the downturn, but that was the bolt gun to the head. Woolworths was lame because it couldn't compete with the choice of eBay, because its staff were surly and gave piss poor service compared to an eBay jiffy bag. But what a price - we lost an institution that was a much loved part of the high street. It perversely had huge staff and customer loyalty. I think there was something of the third dimension in that.

Similarly but more tangentially, I had this same discussion about CAP policy reform with my dad. I was mourning the loss of small french farmers that bring such life to breton villages. My dad was saying good riddance to a heavily unionised, over subsidized and grumpy bunch of Frenchmen. But he loves those breton villages as much as I do. I was trying to articulate how technocratic decisions based on speed and efficiency are so often inhuman. So often in our race for what we're told is better (books in seconds) we throw the baby out with the bathwater (the taciturn book seller with encyclopedic knowledge).

So - the explosive website - a service conundrum in draft.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Live Well with Mayo

Very inspired by Paul Robare's work at Carnegie Mellon on Mayo's "beyond primary care" service design. Well though through, with some interesting ideas at the end. I suspect in the USA you get more room to experiment than the UK, where the domination of the NHS behemoth makes things a little trickier. Nevertheless, all good grist to the mill.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Black Cod

Just made black cod and man was it worth it. I've eaten Black Cod in a few places, best of which was Tsunami in Clapham. The recipe I followed called for the following marinade:

185ml mirin
125ml oz sake
225g white miso paste (available in some Asian grocers and supermarkets)
225g sugar
pickled ginger

Soak those bad boys overnight and you have a dark sweet fish that needs a few minutes under a hot grill, followed by 5 mins in a hot over. I had to substitute vermouth for sake, as the missus baulked at the price of the sake in Sainsburys! But she liked it so much, I think it'll be in the cupboard next week. Either that, or I'll do the shopping this weekend. Whatever - it still tasted great. Worth prepping on a Sunday for a Monday bonus.

Friday, 24 April 2009

How to embed design thinking in your team

Great video on what makes a good design thinking team. Drawn from California Management Review Article "Innovation as a Learning Process: Embedding Design Thinking" authored by Sara L. Beckman of Berkeley and Michael Barry of Stanford. The article was Awarded the 2009 Accenture award by CMR in March, 2009.

Want to get a handle on Service Design?

I highly recommend a listen to Peter Day's (one of THE voices of Radio 4) programme on design thinking. Great and hugely diverse references to impact as the true measure of design.
  • Great reference to Virgin's terminal experience (which Engine can be proud of). And the plane - if you want people to sleep on planes, don't give them a sofabed, give them a chair - and a bed!
  • And Churchill's vision for Design Council - "Britain can make it!" But what companies need from designers is changing - it's not the physical artefact, and not just an aesthetic. Systems, services and business models are now being designed and protoyped.
  • Street Car was a business model design idea from RCA graduates.
  • Buster drain cleaner: owner jumped on the designed demand programme. It hit "the soul of the company".
  • HMV Westfield store designed with online business in mind - the explosive website hits home - the shop is colour coded based on the online store. Not music, videos and games - instead listen, watch and play.
  • Air conditioner manufacturer who designed components which brought massive cost effeiciencies - within the product itself and also stock control

"Design thinking is an important idea who's design has come." Great summary of all that's exciting about service design right now.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Write up of the Open Gov event

I thought I'd get some notes down while it was fresh, and while my tea simmers on the hob. I went to the Open Gov event today, at London's British Computer Society. The programme can be found here. It was pitched as "A practical one-day conference to discuss the challenges and opportunities of social technologies to enable engagement, collaboration, and transparency in government." I think it had a fair crack at that, with a lot of good debate around the room. No zinging answers, but loads of questions. Look up opengov hashtag to find the train of thought. I think it's fair to say it still feels like a fringe discussion - lots of great ideas and evangelizing, but not much converting into reality. I'm still waiting for the tipping point. The point at which I can present open government as an effective, even essential, business opportunity to clients.

Anyway - these are just notes, so I'm going to chuck down cool things I saw as bullets. Not going to analyse the whole lot. Definitely not a complete list in, so apologies to any I missed. They reflect the key theme I liked from the day - simple to put up, effective, easy to use and meeting a clear and practical need:

  • Poly Wonk - Mitchell Sava, co-chair of the event, alongside Simon Grice. Sensible chap with sensible ideas. Trying to get govt to think the right way about this stuff. Believes we're on the threshold of biggest democratic transformation in last 150 years.
  • Debategraph - cool way to visualise debates. Mind you, doubtless not as much fun as having them in the pub.
  • Cabinet Office's netvibes page
  • Becta's Ning community - a beloved client of my employer the Team
  • The most excellent communal authoring site Mixed Ink - bear witness to the People's Inauguration Address written by 455 fellow americans.
  • Tweetminster - although if you find yourself spending too long on this site, you may need to get a life
  • An apparent "must read" paper by Pew Internet Society on the Internet's Role in [US] Campaign 2008
  • Apparently the south bank centre ran a treasure hunt using text messages, and used the data to help plan traffic flows around the building. Though I can't find nowt about it.
  • A bad way to do online democracy - Whitehouse 2 - too black and white. Too yes and no. Apparently.
  • Delib - tools for online democracy etc
  • Booking Bug - a smart booking system for people like wedding photographers, trying to make in-roads to government. Best of luck. Meanwhile I've told my brother -
  • Digital Engagement Manifesto
  • Letting people talk about where they live on...
  • A London City Charter - setting ideals by which the city will run itself for citizens. Marvelous.
  • The soon to come out of the oven Be Local - good luck to Simon Grice on that venture
  • Doing cool stuff with transport data - - these guys crammed loads of cool looking sites into a 2 minute slot! I didn't write them down. FAIL.
  • DIUS' sandpit - aka Sandbox - where they're doing some cool low cost, high(er) risk things on the fringes of the DIUS servers.
  • And DIUS digitalgovuk project running on delicious. Helps you find case studies for projects going on in government using a variety of social media. Gold mine stuff. And you can tag stuff too
  • And DIUS' own netvibes page of course
  • The lady Obama stole from google to run his online campaign, Katie Jane Stanton, who is coming to town this summer for a Q&A session. Should be fun.
  • Take photos of rubbish, it gets cleaned up I (but I still moved to Surrey!) Apparently they're getting bored old people to take photos of pot holes!
  • GovTalk - the home of government API on the net?
  • Job Centre Pro Plus - cutting through the crap to do postcode search on Job Centre Plus. Amazingly, this probably would have taken a month long, expensive change request via formal routes. Though site wasn't working last time I checked

Monday, 20 April 2009

National Tip Good Service Day

Why do only restaurants have performance based bonuses as standard?
Bell boys, taxis, barbers - a handful of others use them in a
pretty under-stated way here in the UK. I can think of many services
that'd be greatly enhanced by a tip. Department store sales reps,
guards on trains, nurses, dry cleaners, librarians. People that
provide me with a memorably good service experience should be
recognised regardless of their industry.

Which got me thinking. Perhaps we need an annual "Tip Good Service
Day"? It'll give rightful recognition to the fact that so many of us
work in service businesses. It'll give those who strive to give good
service an opportunity for recognition and reward. It'll give the
people who receive good service an opportunity to say thanks to those
that go the extra mile.

Like the occasional guard on my train who wishes everyone a good
weekend and checks ahead for service disruptions. Like the staff in my
local sandwich shop who remember what I want and ask how my day's
going. Like the mechanic that washes the car at no extra cost. Like
the binmen who can't get their truck down my street, so who wheel each bin all the way up and back, whistling as they go.

Everyone loves good service, but here in the UK, we often let it go in-
recognized - perhaps putting a £5 note in a Christmas card and leaving
it for the postman. But it all seems a bit patchy and unfair to me.
Let's join it all up and celebrate it once a year.

Crowdsourcing road building

A great example of people taking matters into their own hands. People unhappy about the service their government gives them, so they build their own road.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Pay to call your doc?

I think phoning my doctor would be a great service innovation. I have to make an appointment using a stupidly complex system that leaves the receptionists angry and me frustrated. The doctor and I then have to be at the surgery at the same time, normally during my working hours. The appointment is usually over in no time. With a two year old who can communicate through shouts and screams, this happens quite regularly.

I could call NHS Direct, but you have to go through all those questions every time. The great thing about your GP is the continuity of care. They know your history, so can get straight to the point. So let me pick up the phone at an agreed time in the day, or perhaps leave a voicemail for a ring back. But let me use the phone. If at the end the GP says "you better come in" then that's great. I'll make an appointment. But let me have the service option. It would be good.

They're doing it in America, but then - they're also charging people for the privilege. Not something we can do here with the NHS. Although I bet BUPA are working on something right now...

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Supersite security?

Eek. The Tories are finally making some manifesto pledges! Is the sky falling in? Well, it may be if you work on NHS Choices - or at least it's starting to develop some hairline cracks. They want the site taken away from DH and competing with private sector suppliers - which will likely include the previous NHS Choices contractor Dr Foster. Looks like some serious lobbying is required.

This was preceded by Michael Cross last week in the Guardian - speculating at the Tory options for Transformational Government.

I think all of this stuff is a bit short sighted actually. To summarise - the supersites are being attacked because they are somehow failing. That, NHS Choices and Directgov have significant budgets, but they aren't transforming things fast enough AND other government agencies and departments are still creating their own new websites. So not enough transforation and not fast enough.

Well, surprise surprise - telling civil servants they can't register new domains only means they register .net and .org domains. They are smart like that.

I'd suggest the answer is not closing the supersites, but instead enforcing the rule of "no new sites". If civil servants all had to put stuff on the supersites, and advertise that it was there (something Directgov is beginning to crack) you'd start to see them getting increased usage. Ideally that would convert into extra funding to invest in ongoing improvements to those sites. So the more people they get, the more funding they can invest in making the experience beneficial.

And a degree of patience please (*!political naivety alert!*). Capita are only recently in place at NHS Choices, Serco are diligently bashing through convergence at and Directgov appear to be getting traction with recent campaigns. Varney's three year challenge was very aggressive. Progress is happening. To snipe now will only play into the hands of the "keep your heads down and it'll all go away" hardliners that live off administration changes.

Great Government 2.0 resource

Stumbled on this great PageFlake, courtesy of the great FutureGov guys. Provides a great leaping off point into the busy, rumbling world of government 2.0. Where will it all end up, who can say...

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The post consumer era

Are we in a post consumer era? Are we really all producers now just because we twitter and blog, and maybe sell a few things on eBay? I'm not convinced yet, but I do like this diagram. And his thinking is persuasive. Kind of like Umair Haque talked about in Stockholm earlier this year. I'll be honest and say that the affluence of the last few years has always struck me as being a bit gross. I remember a visit to Bluewater a couple of years ago, looking around the car park and wondering how every other car was a premium vehicle, and that all their owners were shopping for the day, at a massive retail destination. It felt peculiar and it felt unsustainable. But I never foresaw the bottom falling out.

So I'm reading these articles and mulling it over. The first thing to go appears to be the bling. People can't stretch to it and it was always a bit silly. A fraction of the population is probably feeling severed from it, but they were setting themselves up for a fall anyway. The irony of bling was that it became a watchword for cheap, debt-driven consumerism - and not wealth.

And in its place, supposedly, rises thrift. In a sense a form of production, as rather than consume we fix - make do and mend. But the thrift is pretty much a lost craft. Note Mrs Sew and Sew's blog by the Imperial War Museum. People can save money by stopping buying things and by down-grading or down-branding to value brands and Primarks, but they're still consuming. David Armano's retail sales graph is more alarmist than it appears. Sales haven't dropped off the cliff. Retail has been growing year on year, but now it's shrunk a bit. Calamity! No year on year growth! What I like about Umair's talk is his questioning not just of the producer/consumer paradigm, but ten others that mark out the destructive nature of the gross capitalism we've had of late.

The common theme for both items is that we're retreating to an apparently more human view of life - permanent year on year growth suddenly appears illogical and unnatural, fixing something feels sensible, yearning for wealth through debt is so obviously harmful. I like that trend. Even if it is emerging in the shadow of economic insecurity, it's still a positive thing.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Twitter backlash

So I went on holiday and didn't miss Twitter one bit. I got home and slipped back into my old world, and didn't miss Twitter one bit. Then I started getting bombarded with stuff like this and, you know what, it all struck a chord. The backlash was on. My time is precious and Twitter was pulling me away from more important things (I can think of 10 things more important with a click of my fingers). And if a major learning of modern life is that you have to prioritise, then I'm prioritising Twitter out. I may check Facebook once a week on the train - if I've finished the current chapter of my book - but otherwise that's the line drawn. I think this is the thin edge of old age - where you start defending the things you like against the onslught of things you ought to like...

Service design laggard

I've taken my eyes off the service design agenda for a few weeks. Firstly for a well deserved holiday, which was wonderful, secondly because I needed to focus on the other side of my brain with a bit of pure creativity (see last post), and finally because I had some Big Things To Do at work - not al SD related. That all seems to have played out nicely and I'm now re-engaging the SD gear and starting to leave the garage again on a steady pedal. What better way than with a new book - New Service Development and Innovation in the New Economy. Which is under pressure as it has to compete with the rather excellent Child 44.

Tooled up

So I am all tooled up do some engraving. I bought a spitsticker, a graver, a tint tool, the inks, the paper - you name it. I went walking in the New Forest for some inspiration yesterday and had a couple of ideas. My first project is focused on texture and the theme is practice through blatant plagiarism! So thanks in advance to all those other wood engraving blogs I follow for the ideas ;-)

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Holidays and healthcare

We just spend 3 days choosing a holiday. Interestingly technology hasn't made it the experience it should have been. Way back when, you'd go to a travel agent and they'd ask what you were after and they'd fix it for you. They were the experts. But now we make our own choices. A million resorts across a thousand countries with god knows how many flight options. We felt lucky to have this power to choose. No more boring old off the peg packages, now we could design our own perfect experience.

But the last three days have felt anything but empowering. Choice paralyses. Go to google, find a good looking site, search search, search. Find a resort. Hopes rise. Got to obligatory Trip Advisor. Find that some loved it and some absolutely hated it. Don't know them, but now I'm not so sure about the resort, And is that really the "best price"? Keep looking. More sites. More data. No decision. So today we picked up the phone and spoke to an agent, chatted for 20 mins, got some advice, called the hotel in egypt, spoke to a nice egyptian man, called the agent back and booked it. Price felt right.

The online experience was about variety, but not choice. We both felt unable to take the action of choice, but we found plenty to choose from. Through neat and tidy human dialogue, choice was made. Confidence was inspired. And this got me thinking about healthcare. From 1st April we'll all be able to choose where we get our treatment. This is generally agreed to be "a good thing". It makes the NHS internally competitive. it gives us what we want - the freedom to choose and be "in control". But I fear it's a bit of an illusion. We'll get what we choose, good or bad. And those who can't get to the data to inform themselves, will make poorer choices. And there's no guarantee that access to data will help either. There's a risk it'll all end up like the travel situation. Too much information. Too many opinions. Too hard to navigate. The opinion one's particulalry hard. How do I know that Mrs Miggins from Bradford is giving good objective comments on her GP practice, and isn't just a hypocondriach or a racist?

What we need is a navigator, someone to hold our hands through choice. With travel it's a skilled agent with good general knowledge of their industry. With healthcare it's the same. Empower the General Practitioner as the intermediary. But most GPs haven't bought in yet. Should be interesting to see if they manage it. In the meantime, I'm off on holiday.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Wood engraving

Just spend a fantastic day wood engraving at Badger Press. I did a lot of lino and aquatint back at school. While most people chased after balls, I was more than happy to hang out in the art room listening to the Orb. Anyway, so lots of love and thanks to my wife for arranging today as a birthday gift.

The approach was good. Only six people and a great teacher - Kate Dicker. Everyone got a small 2" by 2" block of lemon wood to work on, with all tools laid on. You stain the wood white and then, having traced, reversed and transferred an image from paper, you outline the black with marker. Then the tools come out. Lovely little wood and metal jobs with great names like scorpers, spitstickers and gravers. For the next six hours I was fixed on that little block of wood. As ever, it's harder than you think, and I wasn't even trying for a coherent picture, just a small part of a picasso picture for an outline. After a couple of hours I ran a proof through the press and was less than impressed...
Boring. I think I was being overly cautious. I mean - that cross hatching was just marginally more dull to do than to look at. Starting out slowly maybe. So had some lunch, looked through some books for inspiration and then went at it with renewed vigour. Made use of every available tool and wasn't ashamed to gouge out the wood a bit...
This was more like it. I checkered the cross hatch with a square graver, and then with a couple of different sized spitstickers I went to work on the patterns on the right. I'm really please with the mid right hand bit. Looks like the crest of a hill in rain... well a bit like the view from my parent's house with the snow still on the ridge line... Anyway, very pleased with my first print efforts in over 15 years. Tomorrow I've got a larger woodblock to work with, and I'm going for a representational landscape. I feel I'm about to run before I can walk. Wish me luck.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The death of the meeting

Turning good ideas into reality invariably involved other people, and doing things with others involves meetings. But so often I go to meetings that don't get the best out of people. I'm pretty sure my meetings don't get the best out of people.

I was watching Mad Men the other night and it struck me how we've lost that art of meetings. In a world where we can email, phone and twitter colleagues right up to the moment we walk into the room, we have less need to prepare for that single one hour opportunity for purposeful dialogue. These days we're always in dialogue and so we lose the discipline of meetings being special, considered events worth preparing for.

Posted with LifeCast

Testing something

Bear with me...

Posted with LifeCast

Monday, 2 February 2009

More than a McJob?

It seems some people working at McDonalds take their service role more seriously than others. I think Ray Krok would have approved. Somewhat ashamedly I've always enjoyed eating in McDonalds. I like all sorts of foo, junk included. Such is life. Anyway - hearing Denis Weil talk in Amsterdam about the years of attention they've given to service was very heartening. This article builds on that.

Take that and times a thousand

Design Generalist know what she's talking about. Take the next quote and times by a thousand for working in the British public sector! "Service designers are often facing questions such as: where are the hidden silent designers in a service system? What kind of specialized knowledge do they have that can be beneficial to designers? What kind of tools and methods can design provide to unlock stakeholders’ creativity? How do designers work beyond boundaries for collaboration?"

Snow bound

At least being stuck at home in the snow allows me to catch up on weeks of Google Reader!

Elephant in the room

"Basically... I'm saying that there's one elephant, it's not really a new elephant, but it may be a newly-relevant elephant, and all of these different terms are descriptions for different parts of a single elephant."

About the best description of the ongoing Service Design Definition War, and a good digest of some extensive Service Design reading by Red Cone.

The glue

"Where the ‘traditional’ design disciplines are geared towards creating individual touch points, service design seems to focus on integrating these into a complete and meaningful consumer journey. Therefore it is tempting to say that service design is just another word for multidisciplinary design. Tempting but unsatisfying: Somehow it seems to me that the added value of service design lies more in what happens between the design disciplines than within them. It looks at the connections rather than what gets connected, at the white space between the words"

"We don’t look at pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase, but at getting acquainted with each other, becoming familiar with each other, spending time together, getting to know each other, challenging each other, celebrating together etc. These phases in the relationship are then translated into opportunities for interaction and accompanying touch points."

More good stuff from Erik Roscam Abbing here.

Digit getting it right

"Marketers should be concerned with the product or service ahead of the communications. They need to get their hands dirty." Taken from their highly recommended white paper.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

US design council?

Interesting example of some new thinking in the US.

Friday, 23 January 2009

How to innovate the pixar way

“Look, this is a young team. As individual animators, we all have different strengths and weaknesses, but if we can interconnect all our strengths, we are collectively the greatest animator on earth. So I want you guys to speak up and drop your drawers. We’re going to look at your scenes in front of everybody. Everyone will get humiliated and encouraged together. If there is a solution, I want everyone to hear the solution, so everyone adds it to their tool kit. I’m going to take my shot at what I think will improve a scene, but if you see something different, go ahead and disagree. I don’t know all the answers.” Brad Bird on how he consistently makes excellent films.

And... "Steve Jobs basically designed [the Pixar] building. In the center, he created this big atrium area, which seems initially like a waste of space. The reason he did it was that everybody goes off and works in their individual areas. People who work on software code are here, people who animate are there, and people who do designs are over there. Steve put the mailboxes, the meetings rooms, the cafeteria, and, most insidiously and brilliantly, the bathrooms in the center—which initially drove us crazy—so that you run into everybody during the course of a day. He realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen. So he made it impossible for you not to run into the rest of the company."

If you have the money, then why not make the office just as you want it?!

Full article here.


This makes me very angry. Let's hope cheese is top of Obama's list eh...

Monday, 19 January 2009

I like the civic virtue of this campaign from President (Elect still!) Obama. I wonder how many people will sign up. Such a shame that community service is labelled a punishment over here.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Self service

Ikea may have worked out how to do international, graphics-led build instructions, but many others haven't. I spent an hour and a half today connecting two water butts to two drain pipes. The instructions beggared belief. At one point I was required to cut a section of pipe 4 and 5/8ths of an inch in length! Suffice to say, the final result was effective, but quite heath robinson.

I once installed a kitchen bin that slid outwards and opened as the cupboard door was opened and I've had my fair share of hell fitting stair gates. But what made them easier by far, was that the instruction paper itself was a template that you held up to the wall and drilled through. Smart and inventive, although as with all DIY, mostly still a hassle.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Online leading the offline

Choosenick spotted this the other day, an article about sites taking the online experience offline. About the same time, I was watching TV when an Aviva ad came on (Aviva being the expensive new name for Norwich Union) for car insurance. Car insurance must be the most cluttered and clumsy marketplace in the world. If I hear another commitment to quote me less, I'll go mad.

Anyway - the smart guys at Aviva ran an ad saying that when you phone for a quote, they will also give you quotes from their competitors. The ad plays it as if you were the ad executive at Aviva making the suggestion, looking at your colleagues' reaction around the table. They look at you in incredulous silence for two, three seconds - an eternity in TV terms. It's quite powerful, which is an amazing achievement for a car insurance ad.

Aviva are smart because they've accepted that no-one listens to "lower than your currnt quote" pledges any more. They also know that the marketplace is increasingly transparent - with sites like offering brokerage. So they sensibly expanded their service.

But that's pretty radical. Not many company's will tell you their competitors' prices. It's like the John Lewis "never knowingly undersold" pledge, but taken to new heights. Companies that absorb such digital realities and turn them to their advantage stand a far better chance of success.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Bernard Black

Just watching some old Black Books episodes. The one where Manny turns the book shop into a Borders. Much as I love good service, I also get a lot out of grumpy service. The man old greengrocer. The narky newsagent. Too much service is awful. It's a very British thing to cherish bad service. We need our Bernard Blacks to stem the tide of cheery cloying vacuous customer service.

Find your community

There's been a lot of talk recently about community being the new focus group. See here and here. The argument is: don't create an artificial focus group to represent your users (they probably won't tell you the truth anyway), but instead find out who your community is and listen to them. Actively.

In all the discussions an interesting and common thread seems to be the live essence of the customer relationship. About servicing that customer at that moment in time. This is only successful in companies that give their staff the confidence/ability/flexibility to adapt within procedures to make it happen. It's what IDEO talked about at the Service Design conference in Amsterdam - that customers work well with metascript - a continuum of branded touchpoints that help them do what they need to do. When the metascrip fails - and a company stops holding the customer's hand - they resort to the helpline... or increasingly they just twitter all 300 of their friends instantly. The damage of not knowing your community, listening to them and adapting your service to make it engaging and fun, is likely to be very costly indeed.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Service Science - awful name, interesting idea

IBM have recognised the skills gap of people unqualified to manage service-based institutions. So they created an acronym - SSME - Service Science, Management and Engineering. This is basically service design, but fascinating that a technocratic company like IBM have turned it into a science- based practice. If you were to go now and get a degree in service management - would you expect a Bachelor of Arts, or a Bachelor of Science? Does it matter? I'm an arts grad so to me, yes, it would. And also service is a creative activity, which relies on the service provider creating a good customer experience at every moment, tailored to specific customers. It's not a science.

But let's be honest - IBM's expertise is in selling to their services, and they're savvy enough to know that service "design" would be too fluffy for them to stomach. Make it a science, with predictable process and methods, and then you put your captain of industry clients at rest. But I doubt very much whether SSME could be transformational.

Oh - and they have a pretty good definition of service design. Perhaps we could all sign up to it before the next SD conference! Save ourselves a lot of debate.

God's own service designer

Liked this anecdote about a Philadelphia rector sitting next to a service designer and discussing service design. Interestingly the company writing the blog - Frontier Service Design - are calling themselves the first SD company in America. Can that be right?

Designing for a service economy

This is a pretty interesting article about the massive value service has to our western economies, and yet how little service design is about. Most interesting thing however is that this is a management consultant talking. They have smelt something on the wind...


There are umpteen ways to cook cannelloni. Tonight I'm steering the kitchen through about four different recipes. Some forego the white sauce, others reject spinach. All require a bit of sweetness - a bit of sugar and some cherry tomatoes. For me the best bit about cannelloni - what makes it superior to lasagna - is the separation of ingredients. Where lasagna opts for the geological boredom of strata, cannelloni curls its ingredients in hoops. The result is better all round.

More service less stuff

Heard some interesting discussions on this point over the last couple of days. The shared opinion seems to be that, just as with the 80's recession in the UK, this recession is likely to push us further towards a service economy and away from a manufacturing economy. I guess I buy that, but there is a new shift back to craft - niche producers using online markets to shift their products. Isn't that the new wave of manufacturing - millions of product variations, all wrapped up in a nice service experience?

Friday, 9 January 2009

A customer service service

I love getsatisfaction. An online outsourced customer service service for online services!

From the horse's mouth

Some great testimonials about service design in this Engine video

Transformation - service design in disguise

It all sounds like a 1974 sci-fi short story, but apparently "2009 is all about transformation". Business Week kicked off the debate on 3rd Jan, saying that innovation was dead - a victim of corporate hubris - and my word it hasn't stopped since. Worth a look. Transformation being humanising technology. Letting customers produce your service etc.

Also - editor of industrial design bible Core 77 was quoted as saying that "in 2009... we’re going to see an explosion of Service Design around the world. Many firms are already practicing it, but it will take on a new urgency as more and more people recognize service as the new product." Which is all good too. I took on my new role of Director of Service Design at the Team in November. So I'm hoping they're both right!

Great thing about all of this is that, since 2005, the public sector has been all over transformation. Take a look here to find out. Having failed for years to successfully innovate, they've leapfrogged onto the next big thing. And the remarkable thing? It appears to be working. Although to find out exactly how well, we'll have to wait for the 2008 annual report due later this month.