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, Government 2.0

Richard Buchanan on service design

Just finished watching Richard Buchanan’s keynote at the Service Design Conference 2011 (via @pennyhagen).

There were lots of points that were interesting to me, but a couple stood out. One was the purpose of an organisation not being profit, but instead the delivery of goods and services. The second was three key areas that he highlights where service design is of particular interest: health care, community design and public services design. The third was the need to extend service design into the culture of an organisation.

Overall a thought provoking talk very much aligned with my perspective of service design and Zumio’s approach/purpose.

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, Design, Sustainability

Mind the gap

In the time I’ve been actively engaged in business sustainability, I’ve noticed that report after study after survey that shows that a majority of customers have environmental and social considerations at the forefront of their mind when making purchases. For example, this 2008 McKinsey report (free registration required to read article) highlights that “87% of consumers worry about the environmental and social impact of the products they buy”. In the Australian context, research carried out by NetBalance for the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) reports “80% consider sustainability issues when putting products in their shopping trolleys”.

Diagram outlining intention vs. action

Yet this latent desire to make ethical choices in purchasing is also shown to be missing in action, outside of a significant minority. The same McKinsey report suggests 33% make such purchase decisions (which is similar to other reports I’ve read) and the AFGC finds that only 13% of Australians buy environmentally-sustainable food and groceries from the supermarket (as an aside: this figure seems low — I’ve seen other statistics that show organic produce as being much more prevalent than this, and that these purchases would be considered “environmentally-sustainable” — something to look into further).  Trendwatching place these figures at 40% and 4% respectively (based on Journal of Marketing data).

In considering this gap, we find many stated reasons as to why intention isn’t translating into action. Most commonly cited is price — reports I’ve read (coupled with my own experience) suggest that customers aren’t willing to spend more than a 5-10% premium for “green” products, if they are willing to spend more at all. And of course products with a price premium were much more likely to feel the pinch of changing economic circumstances.

But there is more to it than that — performance is another, where “green” products are seen as inferior to mainstream products. As Joel Makower asks, why does “green” not equal “better”?  Convenience is another factor, with limited availability of green options through mainstream channels (e.g. mainstream retailers, such as Coles or Woolworths here in Australia). Each of these is noted in both the McKinsey and AFGC summaries — and each is weighted against the environmental or social benefits of the product when making a decision. The AFGC report notes that only a small number will compromise on cost or convenience for environmental factors.

So what to do? We could try to change people’s priorities, to get them to change the weighting the put on each of these factors. I suspect this won’t get very far though… As I noted in my Web Directions South presentation, a lot of successful social innovations aim to actually flip the equation — to make the more sustainable option also cheaper, or more convenient, or have better performance, rather than forcing this kind of trade-off.  Companies leading in the Collaborative Consumption space often fit this category.  Trendwatching call such products Eco-superior or Eco-easy.

Bridging the gap

But why aren’t more companies doing this? Why aren’t there more products like this in the market? I think part of the challenge is that when companies are considering sustainability factors in their products, they focus on specific attributes of products, rather than thinking more holistically. What this means is that their consideration only extends as far as lessening the impact of certain ingredients — e.g. substituting an eco-friendly alternative as a key material or ingredient in a product.

Often this results in a more expensive product that doesn’t perform as well as the mainstream alternative. But more importantly, I think it misses the bigger opportunities of taking a sustainable approach to business – the kind of opportunities outlined by leading thinkers like Makower, Gil Friend, Paul Hawken and William McDonough.

These opportunities require a more holistic approach that considers the broader context in which a product or service exists. In Natural Capitalism, Hawken, Lovins & Lovins call this “whole of systems thinking”.

For those familiar with design thinking or service design approaches, this will be a familiar theme — core to these practices is assembling multi-disciplinary teams that take a broader contextual view (informed by design research) to uncover opportunities for rethinking the role of organisations and the products and services they provide that can create whole new classes of products (or, perhaps more accurately, product service systems).

Diagram outlining how design thinking/service design can connect intention with action

The iPod/iTunes ecosystem is an oft-cited example of the possibilities of rethinking the system, rather than innovating purely on product attributes (while this isn’t explicitly for sustainability benefits, it does demonstrate the concept in practice).

In Blue Ocean Strategy, authors Kim and Mauborgne suggest a similar approach in their guide to formulating a successful product/business strategy. They reference this as an opportunity for innovation — without considering sustainability as a factor. However, it seems clear to me that the same principles are at work in books like Cradle to Cradle and Natural Capitalism, and are also cited in papers on design thinking in business (as I covered in more detail in my paper on Design Thinking and Sustainability).

This, I believe, is where design thinking and service design can play an enormously positive role in progressing sustainability. As it inherently takes an innovation frame, it is appealing to business. However, the opportunities for including the building of social capital and environmental benefits in the broader contextual frame of reference are huge — creating significant wins for business and society simultaneously.

Business 2.0, Social media & networking

Design we can all live with

I caught this video from Worrell Design (via @metarand) last week and I wanted to post it here because I think it is a great overview of the value of user research and collaborative design, with a specific focus on health care.

A lot of what’s covered in the video applies in a multitude of sectors and circumstances. While some of the video hints at some great technology ideas, these are only made possible by understanding the social aspects of the provision of health care — that is the relationship between practitioner and patient, and the other challenges, motivations, needs and wants that revolve around managing health.

I also think it highlights the challenges that many organisations and sectors face as the people formerly known as “consumers” are wresting back control using social and personal technologies, becoming active participants in the process.

In any case, well worth a watch…