Business 2.0, Sustainability

The circular economy

Explaining concepts like Product Service Systems and “service dominant logic” can be tricky, so it’s always great to come across good resources like the video below from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation (via

The video uses the term “circular economy” to explain one of the aspects of Collaborative Consumption (product service systems). It strikes me as a great introduction to the key concepts and benefits.

Business 2.0, Design, Presentations

Service design presentation at Saasu Conference 2012

Saasu Cloud Conference 2012

I’m really looking forward to be joining the crew at Saasu and a bunch of great speakers, including Stillgherrian and Phil Morle at the Saasu Cloud Conference 2012.

Perhaps unsurprisingly I’ll be talking about service design. As one of the founders of Saasu (full disclosure: Saasu is a Zumio client and I personally remain a shareholder) I know that the principles of service design have always been a core part of what the company does. This commitment, I think, is reflected in my conversation with CEO Marc Lehmann when he first spoke to me about the conference. He was emphatic in making it clear that the conference will be 100% focused on supporting Saasu customers, not spruiking products or services.

So my talk will be exactly that — I’ll be exploring service design from the perspective of Saasu’s customers and how it impacts SMEs, accountants and the finance industry. I’m looking forward to sharing some of our learnings on how design thinking can deliver practical benefits and to get feedback from participants at the conference on how they see service design working (or not working) for them. I’m looking forward to attending the whole conference — it’s shaping up to informative and inspiring day…

Business 2.0, Design

Reflections on Service Design 2011

Yesterday I had the good fortune to attend the first (and hopefully not the last!) Service Design conference in Sydney. It was great to have the opportunity to connect with so many familiar faces and like-minded folks to explore the emerging field of service design.

I’m not wired to live-blog these kind of things, but I noticed Mal Booth was doing a fantastic job if you’re after a blow-by-blow description (or just check out the #sd2011 hash tag).

The day was great overall (all but one presentation was excellent from my perspective), and over the fold I want to outline three of my highlights from the day.


Tim Fife, In the service of…

This high-level review + a brief case study really resonated with me. Tim outlined a perspective on Buchanan’s “4 orders of design”, ranging from visual communications (2D design), object design (3D design, industrial design etc.), interaction design, and organisation design.

I am particularly interested in the shift towards 4th order design (organisational design) and the challenges of bottom-up vs. top-down approaches, and how service designers might play a role at this level of an organisation.

He also emphasised the importance of balancing organisational intent (which we refer to as purpose in our framework) with human-centred design, but also the importance of supporting systems and operational considerations.

All of this was very familiar from our own practice, but it was great to see it pulled together into such a well presented communication.

Melis Senova, Service design for corporates vs NGOs – is there a difference?

Melis presented some, by her own admission “generalised”, learnings from working with NGOs and comparing these to corporate projects.

I get the sense that a lot of the work/case studies that Melis was drawing upon were donor focused (e.g. working with fundraising teams on donation forms etc.), though I may be wrong there. One piece that I think was missing from the presentation (and I recognise that presentations like this can’t cover everything!) was the role of service design in engaging constituents and stakeholders in the delivery of the “service” — from an NGO perspective, the societal change that is intended.

There are a couple of aspects to this: the use of social networks to achieve/promote change (e.g. the model), the use of tools to sway decision makers (something Melis touched upon in response to my question/suggestion during the talk), but also the achieving of behavioural change within the stakeholder base (which may not necessarily mean “supporters” per se — for example, campaigns for sustainability or public health that aim to change or challenge people’s behaviours — Hello Sunday Morning being one example that comes to mind.

While in a general sense I think Melis’ points were valid, I do question how much NGOs maintain a sense of empathy with their supporters (especially where NGOs are positioned as “experts” within their area of interest/activity), and also while I agree NGOs typically have a much tighter connection to overall purpose, my experience suggests that often the purpose/objectives can sometimes be a bit broad and require clarification to be really powerful and actionable in a service design context.

I make these observations not as a criticism of Melis’ talk — I actually found it very thought provoking as it challenged me to examine my own experience in non-profit contexts, which is exactly what I was looking for from the day.

Siobhan Toohill and Adrian Wiggins, Creating better places to be

I was really looking forward to this preso and it didn’t disappoint. It was awesome to see Ezio Manzini’s work mentioned, along with Collaborative Consumption and a raft of other thinkers (many of whom I’d not heard of — plenty to follow up!)

It really resonated to see the ideas of creating the pre-conditions for communities and value to form presented in a context such as the conference. I also had so many questions — about shared value (especially in a retail context, an important part of Stockland’s business), but also in terms of the role of Stockland in community support after a development has been sold etc. But unfortunately was not able to connect with Siobhan or Adrian after the conference — something I’ll have to follow-up on.

Final thoughts

There seemed to be a couple of themes across the day, but the one that really caught my attention was the connection between service design and “change management”. This is something I’ve identified in our practice — whether it be looking at social media, sustainability, agile management, or design thinking/service design, that a lot of the work is in supporting and enabling change within the organisations we serve to support the implementation of solutions, as much as determining the shape of those solutions.

Having recognised this, I’ve undertaken an elective as part of my Masters study in leading and managing change, and it has been very helpful in understanding different schools of thoughts, frameworks and approaches to change management. I’m positive that this is going to help inform our future work in a service design context.

All in all it was a terrific day, and I’m really looking forward to future events. If yesterday was anything to go by they will be well worth the investment to attend…

Business 2.0, Sustainability

The social side of sustainability

I’ve been thinking about how the techniques we use at Zumio suit organisations looking to become more sustainable. Sustainability, of course, is a social challenge as much as a technical one – while eco-efficiency (making products using more sustainable materials and processes) is a critical aspect, many of the barriers to more sustainable practice have social aspects.

Today I’ve been thinking about two areas in particular that can benefit from research and social design methods – they are Product Service Systems (PSS) and organisational capabilities building and communication.


While PSS in and of itself is not a panacea, the concept will no doubt play an important role in our shift towards a sustainable economy.

Qualitative research methods are very well suited to understanding the broader context of user needs and motivations, an essential component of defining and identifying opportunities for PSS.

Many of the benefits from service design principles (including prototyping and user testing) can then be applied to the development of the PSS to help increase uptake, among other things. An example of this can be seen in live|work’s work with Streetcar.

Organisational capacity building and communications

BSR and IDEO’s Aligned for Sustainability (PDF) report outlines a number of factors required for building sustainable thinking within an organisation. The report suggests that cross-functional communications, sharing learnings, and collaborative problem solving with people throughout an organisation are all important facets of building such capacity.

Social technologies, or “Enterprise 2.0” approaches, can clearly play an important role here. But design approaches such as stakeholder workshops, personas, customer journey mapping, prototyping – especially when collaboratively generated – can all help with both building capacity (through better sharing of learnings and incorporating more diverse input in the design process) and communicating concepts and learning.

So it seems to me that the same tools that we can apply to generate opportunities for innovation can also be applied to achieve sustainable outcomes. In this model, far from sustainability being an “added cost” over an above standard operations, we can instead frame sustainability thinking as a lever for innovation. To me, this is a very exciting prospect, and something I’m looking forward to exploring further…

Business 2.0


These two posts landed side by side in my RSS reader today, and although on different topics, I thought they dovetailed nicely.

Seth Godin: Who answers the phone?: “Shouldn’t you be tracking in the finest detail what people have to say when they call in?”

Bruce Nussbaum: Loyalty: “For companies that build a very loyal base of consumers, it may be important for them to monitor the edges, where a few people are saying things that contradicts the majority.”

I found the point of intersection interesting…