Design Thinking – the bridge between the problem and solution

I had a chance to attend a two-day intensive course called `Unlocking the Secrets of Service Design´ offered by CityDrivers. The trainers were Dr. Niels Billou and Adil Mansouri who are experts on Design Thinking and innovation. Both trainers created very energetic and enthusiastic environment that helped us, participants, to get excited about the two-day intensive course.

Trainers: Dr. Niels Billou and Adil Mansouri

During these two days Niels and Adil introduced the principles, practices and the process of Design Thinking and methodology of Service Design. I have some experience about Service Design and Design Thinking from my Service Innovation and Design studies in Laurea. By taking the two-day course, my goal was to learn new tools and methods that I haven’t used before and to know how I can apply these to my future projects. Here are my key take-aways from the days.

Day 1 – Introduction and understanding the customer

The first day gave an overview of Service Design and Design Thinking. After an interactive lecture all the participants rolled their sleeves and started working with the case assignment and exploring the first parts of the Design Thinking process – understanding the customer, collecting and analysing the interview data.

What is Design Thinking?

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
— Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

 

DT

Billou introduced few different definitions for Design Thinking. In my opinion the most descriptive definition for Design Thinking is from Tim Brown. According to Brown´s quotation Design Thinking helps to make decisions based on what customers want. And when using tools from designer´s toolkit, like applying experimentation and empathy that helps to create innovative solutions to problems.

Trainers introduced a Stanford D. School Design Thinking model that consists of five stages: Understand, Observe, Define Point of View, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

DT processStanford D. School Design Thinking model

During my studies I have noticed the stages of different Design Thinking process models are actually quite the same – only the titles and amount of stages vary. Earlier I have been using only the Double Diamond Design Thinking process, since I know the stages and it is familiar to me. So now I was excited to get to know a new process I haven´t used before.

Power of Empathy

Empathy is all about understanding the people. First phase of the Design Thinking process is to understand the customer. Adil talked about the power of empathy and how important it is to step into customer´s shoes. In this part of the process the data reveals underlying needs of the customer. The trainers introduced few effective tools for this data gathering part:

  • In-depth interviews – help researchers to learn more about a person’s experiences, processes, attitude, problems, needs, pains and ideas.
  • Empathy map – represents a customer’s actions and a mind-set. Interview guide can be adjusted into an empathy map and cover what the customer “Think”, “Feel”, “Say” and “Do”.

 

After an interactive lecture the participants were divided in multidisciplinary teams. Trainers pointed out the importance of cross functional teams – it is vital to have people from different backgrounds who co-create innovative solutions together. My group got a design challenge to redesign the workday lunch experience and encourage people into sustainable eating habits.

Our first step was to go out and interview people regarding their lunch experience. We made an interview guide for the interview – one was interviewing and the other took notes. I have been interviewing people before but I haven´t been using empathy map template. I noticed it helped to sum up the findings and catch a deeper insights from the interviewees such as what the user was saying, doing, thinking and feeling. In my opinion this tool works especially well in mini-interviews when having only 30-60 minutes to do the interviews.

Data visualization leads to insights

Our next step was to analyse and interpret our data to find insights from interviews. Niels introduced us a storytelling tool. Each of us had a chance to be a storyteller and describe what we heard and observed from the interviews. The listeners draw visual images about important details on post-its – finally we had a wall full of post-its. The empathy map template used in interviews was very helpful in this exercise.

Storytelling: Capturing data & clustering insights

The last step of the first day was to cluster the post-its and find common patterns between the notes. This storytelling and the visual data capturing were new tools for me. I was surprised how easy it was to see the overall findings when the post-its were full of pictures, and not just text. I could use this in workshops at work when we have limited time to capture customer data.

Day 2 – From Insights and Ideas to Innovation

The last day started with a summary what we had done so far and what was ahead of us: ideating, developing a prototype and testing it with customers.

Finding a focus

We started the day by creating a persona. Adil explained personas are fictional customers created to represent different user types. The persona helped us to step into the customer´s shoes and it guided us to make useful design decisions later during the day.

personaCreating a persona

At this point of the Design Thinking process we were on the “Define a point of view”-stage. According to Niels the Point of view sentence help us to build a line between the initial problem and future solution – it narrows the focus and makes the problem specific. It was surprisingly hard to summarize our thoughts into one sentence.

Next the trainers encouraged us to generate plenty of wild ideas by using how might we… –method. How might we questions launched many crazy ideas and we put those on the post-its. After that it was time to vote for the best idea. Adil introduced a Prioritization Matrix that helped us to identify the most important and valuable ideas, prioritize them and vote for the best idea.

prio matrix.pngPrioritization Matrix

Presenting a Prioritization Matrix on the lecture was a great reminder for me. Once I have been using that during my studies but since there are so many tools it is easy to forget. Since the time was limited during these two days the impact / effort axis on the Prioritization Matrix helped us to point out the best ideas fast. I put this tool into my toolbox and definitely will use this in the future projects.

Fail early, to succeed sooner

In the afternoon we started to build a prototype that eventually helped to solve the problem. According to Niels the prototype is a draft version of a product or a service. It should present our idea and when showing it to the users the aim is to get feedback for iteration.

This was the best part of the day and we were really excited about this step. The team made a prototype out of Legos. This was a first time for me to do this part with Legos. Lego characters were the actors on the stage and the bricks worked very well when presenting the idea and the experience around it. We were very pleased to our prototype.

Building a Lego prototype

The last step of the Design Thinking process was testing the prototype with users. The team went out and we presented the prototype for few users.

“If prototypes aren´t failing you are not pushing far enough. Failure is part of understanding and improving”
– Dr. Niels Billou

final proto.png
Final prototype

Niels’ quote went straight to the point. We got plenty of feedback and enhancement ideas for the prototype and some users crushed the prototype by saying “That won´t work in real life”. We presented the prototype and the feedback for the whole lecture group. Our team proved Niels´ quote true – the failure is truly part of understanding and improving.

To sum up these two days, this intensive course taught me new tools and methods of Design Thinking and reminded me of tools I already knew. Since there are so many tools to use, the hardest part is to choose the most relevant ones for every project. I´m excited to learn more – practice makes perfect, doesn´t it?

 

If you want to discover more different Design Thinking tools and methods, I recommend This is Service Design Doing Method Library. Library consists of 54 hands-on Service Design methods. This is a useful site when choosing the right methods.
https://www.thisisservicedesigndoing.com/methods

tiss

 

Written by: Marianne Kuokkanen

 

 

 

 

 

The secrets of the Creative Leadership

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration.”
– Robin. S. Sharma

Creative Leadership

We are living in complex, uncertain and volatile world where human skills such as empathy, creativity and complex problem solving are the most in-demand leadership qualities today. I had a chance to attend a one-day intensive course called Creative Leadership offered by CityDrivers. The trainer of the program was Eleonora Carnasa who is a founder of the design and innovation agency Fabrica 360.

During the day Carnasa talked about how to get the right leadership mind-set with the most essential skills of today: systems thinking, design thinking, creativity and strategic design. By taking the course, my goal was to learn what a Creative Leadership is and how it can be applied to my daily work and life. Here are my key take-aways from the day.

What is Creative Leadership?

“Creative leadership is the ability to create and realize innovative solutions especially in the face of structurally complex or changing situations.”
– Fabrica 360

Creative leadership 2

The quotation summarizes the definition for Creative Leadership quite well. During the day Eleonora opened the subject in more detail and presented three core Creative Leadership focus areas: empathy, clarity and creativity. These are the baseline for Creative Leadership, creating a holistic playground for organisational and personal development.

Empathy

Leadership is all about empathy. It is about to be able to understand people and have the ability to step someone else’s shoes. Eleonora gave examples how a leader can cultivate empathy in their teams:

  • Empathy causes empathy – Ability to feel emotions is what triggers emotions in others. If you let yourself be vulnerable, it is genuinely easier to connect with someone.
  • Be present – Everyone are looking for being validated, seen and head. Leader´s job is to help others know they matter.
  • Catch an invitation for empathy – Catch every smile, tear, frown and eye roll. When you notice them you can shift your behaviour and be present.
  • Go out there – It is hard to get a perspective if you sit at the office every day. To better understand who you are collaborating with, go to them and observe their routines.

Empathy

I think everyone in a team can cultivate empathy, not just the leader. Everyone can be present by asking their co-worker how she is doing and be genuinely interested in her reply. If she sees that you care, she can open up about what might be bothering her and what ideas she might have. This creates trust among the team members and confirms the team spirit.

Clarity

In leadership clarity is a critical component of success. We are living in a constant state of change and chaos is present every day. To create the optimal environment for innovation it requires clarity from the leader. How the leader can bring clarity into the team? Here are few points what Eleonora pointed out:

  • Clear vision – Leader and the team get lost if they don´t know where they are going. Knowing and communicating the direction where the team is heading is crucial for the success.
  • Meaningful values – Core values guide the team in the right direction. Communicating the core values and explaining how the team is benefiting from the values creates clarity
  • Create expectations – Clarity of goals and objectives are vital part of the success. This way the team knows where to focus on and that way effectiveness increases.
  • Constructive feedback – Everyone make mistakes, but criticism usually don´t help to fix them. Feedback can be done in a way that allows the team to learn and improve, so that next time they know how to avoid mistakes.

Clarity

I have noticed that sometimes we have so many great ideas that we forget to focus on our actual goal. I think that focusing into right matters are the key element for success. It is great when a leader brings clarity to the table, tasks and roles become into focus and the team forms one solid unit.

Creativity

I´ve been wondering what is creativity in this context. Eleonora brought up a quotation from Ken Robinson that summarises the definition of creativity quite well: “Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it´s produced the most extraordinary results in human culture”. What creates creativity in teams? I think Eleonora pointed out two most important points how a leader can nurture creativity:

  • Embrace diversity – Diversity at workplace is the key for creativity. Multidisciplinary teams create diverse ideas. If a leader can create a safe environment, it will encourage everyone challenge shared ideas and offer their own.
  • Encourage failures – Fear of failure can hinder creativity, that´s why it is important that a leader encourages to fail in that manner that the team will learn from it.

I think leader´s core role is that he can facilitate creativity in others. Meaning that leader encourages and finds the way how everyone can get creativity out from themselves. The highlight of the course was the Superpowers Card Deck, introduced by Carnasa. In my opinion the card deck is a great concrete tool how team members can discover their strengths and that way cultivate their creativity.

SuperpowersSuperpowers Card Deck

We played with the cards in the lecture and the cards helped to discover my superpower – what I do better than anyone else on the team. When knowing my own superpower it is easier to activate those powers and be at your best. I´m definitely presenting these cards to my team. If you want to get more information about the superpowers and order the Superpowers Card Deck, here is the link: https://superpowers.sypartners.com/

To sum it up, this one day intensive course opened up the secrets of the Creative Leadership and helped me to find effective ways for building empathy, clarity and creativity in my team. I learnt that when all the team members know and use their superpowers it will clarify the strengths of the whole team. Together we are more.

 

If you are more interested in the subject, here are few book recommendations I got from the lecture:

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – The book explains the two systems that drive the way we think and what effects on our behaviour. System 1 is emotional, intuitive fast and System 2 is more logical and slower.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle – The book offers a roadmap for creating an environment where problems get solved, expectations are exceeded and innovation flourishes.

Build It: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement by Glenn Elliott & Debra Corey – The book provides a practical approach to improving employee engagement through ‘The Employee Engagement Bridge’ – model.

 

Written by: Marianne Kuokkanen

Holacracy – an innovative management practice for organizations

During Gdynia Design Days and Design Talks Business Summit, I had a chance to participate in a workshop about Holacracy run by Ewa Bocian – a partner at Dwarfs and Giants, an innovation company which is organized in a holacratic way and its mission is to help shape the future of work.

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Source: Harvard Business Review

Source: Harvard Business Review

For those who are not familiar with holacracy, let me introduce you to it shortly. It is one of the alternative ways of managing a company by replacing the hierarchy. Holacracy makes everyone an entrepreneur. Everyone is a partner in an organization with dynamic roles to take and a purpose to realize instead of a static job description. The company is organized around circles (projects) which consist of people with supplemental roles.

In holacracy, nobody can tell you to do something. You are your own boss and you decide how you would realize your purpose as long as it does not violate the common rules.

Together with other participants we took part in a simulation of a tactical meeting. We could see the IT system used for managing projects. We had a few volunteers who played a few roles at the meeting. There was a secretary of the meeting and a facilitator (Ewa) who helped to moderate the discussion. The rest of the  workshop participants were able to observe everything. Ewa (facilitator) took us through the tactical meeting, one of the two types of meetings which is arranged in every project circle.

It usually takes a few weeks to get accustomed to holacracy as people have lots of habits to change during job meetings. For example speaking whenever you feel there is a need for it. In holacracy you speak at your turn and otherwise leave the stage to others. We could observe how the participants were struggling with it.

We did not have enough time to go through the process in detail but this short sample gave us a chance to experience it on our own.

If you would like to see the example of tactical and governance meetings, check Springest company videos on YouTube e.g.:

I must say I was impressed by the order holacracy brings to the meetings, how it gives space to everyone and enables meetings to move forward even if there is a strong need of some participants to give advice and digress. From my experience, the latter is usually the main reason for unproductive meetings.

Whether you implement holacracy or not, there are certainly things which you can take from it. For example how you organize your meetings. Creating common rules and nominating a meeting secretary, as well as having a facilitator, really help.

If you are searching for examples of companies who use holacracy, a fascinating example is Gore: https://www.gore.com/about/working-at-gore Interestingly, Gore is also one of the most innovative companies. Does an innovative way of working mean that innovation flourishes? Or is it the other way around, innovation provokes an innovative way of working?

To fully understand and work in a holacratic way takes weeks or even months but I am really glad that I had a chance to try it and would recommend you to do the same. You can find more information on the HolacracyOne website:  https://www.holacracy.org/holacracyone 

For those who would like to go straight into the details, I recommend studying the Holacracy Constitution available here: https://www.holacracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Holacracy-Constitution-v4.1.pdf

Additionally, check this TEDx video with the founder’s story to get a quick understanding of how it works:

My main take-away, if you are about to start your own company or you are already an entrepreneur who is willing to share the profits with others, holacracy is definitely worth considering. However, if you are working in a hierarchical organization with bosses who would love to have full control over its finances, I do not believe that this approach will have a chance of being successful. One more thing is definitely needed in order to apply holacracy, it is trust in your employees’ competencies to get the job done. If you do not believe that anyone in your company can play their role independently, there is no point of even trying holacracy.

Written by Cecylia Kundera

How design might help business thrive? – Gdynia Design Days and Design Talks Business diary

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Gdynia Design Days is a one-week design festival in Poland at the seaside.

It offers unlimited possibilities to explore the newest trends and good design practices via exhibitions, speeches, meetings or workshops. Among the events, there is also an extraordinary  two-day conference, Design Talks Business, created to discuss the contribution design can make towards business, give opportunities to learn and try different practical tools, listen to tips from design experts, and share your own experience with others at networking sessions.

The conference started with an inspirational session by Fjord Trends 2019, a purpose – driven guide for the future by IDEO and design for circularity in IKEA. 

You can check Fjord trends online: https://trends.fjordnet.com/

What is particularly interesting is that this year there is one theme which links all the trends together – people are searching for value. 

Among trend summaries I would recommend having a closer look at the Fjord one as the authors said that they managed to spot lots of possibilities to innovate within it and in the next 1 to 5 years the upcoming changes are going to be spectacular. 

Here is the mentioned overview of Fjord trends 2019:

Charlota Blunarova from IDEO München, took us on a cruise towards the future. As IDEO does best, she taught us through storytelling the importance of purpose as a guiding North Star. The company’s purpose is the reason to exist beyond profit. Why is it worth having it clarified? The purpose can improve our vision. It can accelerate our strategy and foster our values. It also powers performance, attracts talent, and builds edge. The purpose builds company culture which is a competitive advantage that cannot be copied. Purpose exists on three levels: organization, team and self. 

She left us with a small task to do. She asked us to think about the purpose of our team: What do we enable?/ What do we serve?/ Why does it matter? and then write it down: 

20190712_110810

I would recommend using this task at the beginning of our personal or work-related projects and have it visible throughout it. 

During the 30-minute break, there was a chance for networking and discussion at the theme-focused tables . For example, the participants could take part in a signal analysis session from which I took away the interesting example of a signal flashcard:

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The next block of talks was built around case studies. Slavo Tuleya from a Slovakian agency, kiuub studio, told us about the adventures of building in-house innovation labs. Usually, the need for innovation starts with the need for becoming agile. 96% of companies realize that they need to be agile. They got inspired by some examples such as Uber, Airbnb or wework and then decided to give it a try and arrange some budget for it. However, this traditional approach is not always successful. Although there is a team of business, design, and tech people with lots of money, there is no execution, skill, or stakeholder buy in. 

Slavo emphasized the need for an alternative approach called Skin in the game. This approach is outcome driven (not activity driven) and is based on objectives with the risk of ruin. There should be some money and time constraints put on the Innovation department as well. He also admitted that the agency might bring help here. However, if the company thinks seriously about innovation, it should make it its own competence.

Alistair Ruff from PDR International Centre for Design and Research told a story of how they helped Kenwood create the Internet of things thanks to research: starting with technology, market, trends and themes analysis to participatory research, ethnographic observation, context driven observation and questionnaires.

Mikołaj Molenda from Tylko.com shared with us the story of how he created his innovative furniture company by changing the currently dominant business model and linking designers with customers directly. They even go further allowing customers to design their furniture on their own. Thanks to this, Tylko is able to meet client needs better.

Design Talks Business Summit also offered workshops. I was able to take part in two workshops. I will share my take-aways from one of the workshops with you in my next post as I didn’t find the second workshop very inspiring. 

The next edition of Gdynia Design Days and Design Talks Summit is planned for next summer but the organizers promised more opportunities for design meetings throughout the year so it is good to stay tuned and check the websitehttp://gdyniadesigndays.eu/en

 

The key take-aways from POLISHOPA Design Thinking 2019 conference

POLISHOPA is the biggest Design Thinking conference in Poland, two days of interesting lectures and two days of workshops, 16 experts from different fields and 4 speakers from abroad. It was the sixth edition. You can find more details on this page: https://polishopa.pl/

I recommend signing up for the newsletter to get information about the next edition in advance.

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It was the fourth time I attended this conference and this time I had a chance to participate in the lecture days, so-called Revolution & Innovation Days. I will share my key take-aways with you.

Year by year I see an increase in the quality of this conference showing that the knowledge and interest about Design Thinking is growing. However, as one of the presenters (Dymitr Romanowski) showed, although the popularity of Design Thinking grows, web searches for the term “Service Design” decrease. It seems there is still a lot to do regarding educating people on what service design is in Poland.

This year the healthcare and financial sector was highly present. There were representatives of Santander Bank and mBank as speakers. Piotr Sałata from Symetria spoke about how they created a more user friendly vindication platform by Kruk. Adrian Chernoff from Johnson & Johnson spoke about how they solved the challenge of helping patients with diabetes improve adherence and outcomes thanks to patient-led innovation and user centricity. They developed the first diabetes app in the US – OneTouch reveal app.

The participants also had a chance to listen to the story of creating a restaurant in Krakow – Handelek by Socjomania. Silke Bochat told us about implementing and scaling design and design thinking in FMCG companies. Piotr Chojnacki from Allegro (“Polish eBay”) told us how to scale the UX in a large organization without losing the consistency of user experience. Radosław Ratajczak from SHOPA explained how they designed the user experience of Olivia Garden – 8270m2 in one of the skyscraper offices in Gdynia. Tey Bannerman from McKinsey & Company shared a story of disruption at Pizza Hut. Olga Bońka from Motorola Solutions Systems told a virtual lesson of empathy for a dog.

Among all of the mentioned lectures, my key learnings are described below.

If you want to introduce Design Thinking to a company, don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness. In Santander Bank, Andrzej Pyra and Jakub Tyczyński simply started organizing Design Thinking workshops. The more people took part in it, the more they wanted to work using Design Thinking methods. What is more, product owners started to ask for their help in managing the whole process in the end.

Empathy is key for making a change. Empathy also makes the transformation last after the Design Thinking project finishes.

Design Thinking is just one type of method used for innovation, it is good to be familiar with other methods such as business model innovation (more in the picture below) as well and juggle with tools and methods depending on the project and its phase, company, and situation.

Innovation methods graphs

Once introducing Design Thinking, there is usually a phase of skepticism which takes up to 2-3 days, it is good to simply overcome it. We also need to understand the cognitive biases and “stamp them out for innovation’s sake” as Mike Pinder from Board of Innovation advised.

skepticism

Mike Pinder also had an interesting definition of MVP: “ MVPs are a way of asking questions about critical assumptions within the features of your concept and business models”.

Piotr Chojnacki from Allegro (a company with 20 million users and 100 million offers and over 150 processes) listed three key points to successful scaling in such a large organization:

  • Diffused structures of teams who work in agile way
  • Local innovation within the global structure
  • Consistent user experience

Silke Bochat presented John Maeda’s list of the top 8 skills that designers need to understand in business as well as the top 10 emerging trends that have the biggest impact on design published in Design in Tech Report.

The Top 8 skills that designers need to understand are the following:

  1. Product Roadmap Strategy
  2. Company strategy
  3. Retention/ Engagement metrics
  4. Conversion Metrics
  5. Funnel Acquisition Metrics
  6. Revenue Model
  7. Financial Metrics (i.e. Revenue margin etc.)
  8. Resource Allocation

In terms of the top 10 emerging trends with the biggest impact on design, here is the list:

  1. AI and machine learning
  2. Augmented Reality
  3. Virtual Reality
  4. Behavior tracking and modelling
  5. 3D printing
  6. Distributed teams and virtual workplace
  7. Democratization of design
  8. Algorithmic design
  9. Crowdsourcing and open source
  10. Facial and voice recognition

For those who are interested in the newest Design in Tech Report, here is the summary of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czq2j4p924s

She advised to start implementing Design Thinking with a small project with a limited budget and low risk. Deliver value from it as early as possible. Then promote it if it becomes a success. This gives more chances that it will persuade the decision makers to scale it.

She also recommended to try this canvas in practice: https://www.xplane.com/designops

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Arian Chernoff from Johnson & Johnson recommended answering what, when, where, how and why questions once solving the challenge. In terms of their diabetes app, the answers look as below:

We…

why

…make diabetes easier to manage…

when

…to improve patient adherence and outcomes..

what

…placing the patient at the center…

how

…on a connective cloud ecosystem…

where

…by personalizing experiences.

Dymitr Romanowski explained the role of empathy in health care and shared the results of the projects Human Behind Every Number:: https://humanbehindeverynumber.com/

This is how the project is explained on the website: “Human Behind Every Number is a non-governmental organization that provides research, insight and education on the first-hand experiences of patients involved in clinical trials. In today’s active research industry, our results deliver clear information to industry professionals that will help shape the development of clinical trials around the globe.”

This website gathered patients’ stories throughout their patient journeys which might be helpful for designers working in the Health Care sector.

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From the story of creating Handelek, a restaurant in Poland, I walked away with a feedback tool –  a physical one in the form of a board in the restaurant as well as a virtual one on Instagram. They called it  the card of transparency with Your opinion, Status and What we changed. It obviously helps to deliver real value to customers.

Here is the POLISHOPA summary by professional illustrator, Agata Jakuszko.

Polishopa summary

I would recommend this conference to any DT enthusiast. See you in 2020 in Bydgoszcz, Poland :).

Author: Cecylia Kundera

Exploring emerging design for government

Learning about an expansive field through running a meetup

Gov Design Meetup London – February 2017 to now

Meetup-stickers

For the past several decades, the discipline of design has been mostly associated with the form-giving of commercial products. Only in the last ten years or so, the scope of design has expanded to strategic areas and the experience of intangible things. But even in 2019, design is most prominent in the private sector and barely exists in the public sector.

The state of design in government 

In progressive Nordic countries, almost 90% of designers work in the private sector (Nordic Innovation 2018). Only 1 out of 10 designers in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden works in the public sector. This includes the in-house graphic designers in theatres as well as the design professionals working in product development for public research bodies. Fewer than 4% of Nordic designers work on public services (Nordic Innovation 2018). That might explain why many interactions with government and administration are so cumbersome. The experiences that citizens have with filing their taxes or becoming a citizen aren’t as clear and straightforward as booking a flight or signing up to a movie streaming service. Very likely, there are significant improvements that can be made to services related to retiring or applying for unemployment benefits. Having more user researchers, service and experience designers might help change that. And in various countries, change is indeed underway (Bason 2017).

In the United Kingdom, government organisations now employ almost 1,000 designers. In the last few years, they have transformed renew your passport (Prince and Watson 2019) and register to vote (Herlihy 2014) into truly digital services that work as well as delightful commercial services. When I moved to the UK in spring 2016, I stumbled upon presentations from designers in government and their service teams every so often, mostly when attending internal government events. The quality of the work and positive impact on users was significant, but outside of government, barely anyone heard about it. While there was a vivid design meetup scene in central London, government services were nowhere to be seen. To satisfy my own curiosity and possibly the interest of many others, a few colleagues and I got together to initiate a dedicated Gov Design Meetup (Jordan, Kane, Izquierdo, Rebolledo, McCarthy and Delahunty 2019).

Gov-Design-Meetup-Diverse-Audience-Smaller

Starting a meetup

In February 2017, we ran the first meetup at the Royal College of Art. From the outset, the meetup attracted almost 50 people. Exploring the breadth of design in the public sector, we invited three speakers from different organisations.

The Head of Experience at London’s public transit agency Transport for London, Hanna Kops, shared how she leads a team that works on improving the daily journeys of millions of Londoners and visitors (Kops 2017). She shared how they received a mandate to work on multi-channel services – going far beyond the web route planner the digital team is known for. There is a high degree of complexity when integrating the various means of transportation – from trains to buses to rental bikes – and multiple types of media in a location. In a single station, designers have to orchestrate digital displays, physical signage, public announcements and, of course, passengers and staff. What is more, the team does not only have to work on solutions responding to today’s passenger needs and wants, but also anticipate future growth of the London metropolitan area and the resulting challenges and desires. This very first of dozens of talks indicated what level of complexity designers in the public sector have to deal with.

The second talk by organisational designer Adam Walter, working as a Consultancy Director at the public sector consultancy FutureGov, echoed that. In his lecture, Adam reflected on how successful service design often requires instigating fundamental change on an organisational level to implement and deliver those service designs effectively and create the intended impact (Walter 2017).

Complementing the first evening, the third speaker – Lynne Roberts, then Head of Content Design at the Home Office – told the story of how designers came into her department, why different and more nuanced human-centred design roles exist in government (partially unknown in the private sector), and why change in government can be very slow. User research, interaction design, service design and content design are all separate roles, Roberts explained (Roberts 2017). The enormous scale they work on requires dedicated specialism. User researchers only focus on researching user needs and testing prototypes, while content designers entirely dedicate themselves to getting a large amount of content, words and descriptions in government services right. Besides specialisation, it needs stamina. Departmental silos, separation of professions and long-term supplier contracts binding service teams to legacy systems let government adjust only gradually to meet user needs.

After the success of the first meetup, the event series continued with a bimonthly frequency. So far, it’s covered more narrow themes like design for local government, large-scale infrastructure, design for data, healthcare and policy. Topics of the first meetup have been mirrored by later speakers and discussed more deeply. 

The format for each evening includes three talks followed by a panel discussion with all speakers. It encourages attendees to ask questions and participate in the discourse. The audience is mixed: designers working in government, in smaller consultancies or big companies, students, people interested in a career in the public sector and also people only interested in one of the specific topics. Some attendees went on to apply for open positions in government as they were so inspired by the stories that they wanted to work on public services themselves.

The fact that government work is financed by the taxpayer and not controlled by competitive shareholders makes it easier for public servants to talk about their projects somewhat openly. The UK Government follows a “make things open: it makes things better” approach (Government Digital Service 2012) which doesn’t require anyone to sign a non-disclosure agreement before joining a meetup. In recent years, more civil service designers have taken the stage at bigger conferences enabled by this rule.

Some of the meetup locations, like Houses of Parliament or the Ministry of Justice, required participants to undergo some security procedures, though. Surprisingly, some attendees expressed their excitement about passing a security door system in a Parliament building as this experience gave them additional context of the work discussed.

Panellists

After two years and thirteen meetups, particular attributes and circumstances of design in government emerged from the 38 talks. Even though the topics spanned broad areas—from developing a national roadsign scheme to enabling participation of people with learning disabilities—several insights went above these subjects:

Insight 1: Aim for fundamental change, embrace small gains

Designers in government regularly have to widen the scope of the briefs given to them (Fawkes 2018). By conducting user research and better understanding the context, existing systems, and support structures, they learn what user needs and organisational constraints are (Kane & Jordan 2018). When designing for the broader problem space, designers have to balance immediate business improvements and long-term organisational transformation. Both are important. Looking out for marginal gains helps to achieve early victories that provide the fuel for the long journey (Pocha 2018). Over time, the number of small interventions adds up to measurable effect and accumulates stakeholder trust, which is important for more ambitious shifts.

Talks to watch:
Darius Pocha on design tools for wicked problems;
Adam Walther on designing for the dark matter

Insight 2: Serve the most vulnerable to help everyone

By law, the government needs to serve all people equally. This includes everyone with access needs. Despite many organisations’ push of digital channels for service provision, they recognise that not every citizen can, wants to or will use digital public services. Under an inclusive services approach, other channels have to work equally well. The user research insights and learnings from building a new digital service can often inform and improve non-digital channels. In the UK government, service teams follow the Service Standard (Government Digital Service 2019), which demands them to test services with people who have access needs. The UK Home Office has embedded an inclusive approach into their usability testing efforts (Buller 2018). At least 1 in 6 people in every usability test has access needs. Including users with access needs, physical or cognitive impairments uncovers the weakness of services that affect many other users, too. In one example, deaf users did not want to share their phone number with the service as they would not be able to answer phone calls. An iterated prototype included the option to be contacted via text message. Shift workers, people working multiple jobs and parents with babies will equally benefit from this functionality (Buller 2018). The example shows how including people with a wide range of skill sets and capabilities in the design process and responding to their needs will make the service offering better for everyone.

Talks to watch:
Ben Carpenter on inclusive services;
Kirsty Joan Sinclair on putting people at the centre of their services

Insight 3: Favour renovation over innovation

Often, people want shiny new things – a piece of technology that can solve many of today’s problems at once. Senior leaders praise the impact of artificial intelligence, blockchain and big data without necessarily understanding them in detail. Beyond buzzwords, quite a few people in government look beyond what can be done and identify what should be done. In government, there is significant technical debt, infrastructure that needs in investment as it cannot be replaced. If well maintained, it can be leveraged; it can become ‘infrastructure commons’ (Adewunmi 2018). Also, even new projects will have to interact with existing infrastructure. By anticipating future use and reuse and establishing a healthy maintenance culture, government can reduce future costs, save time and reduce risks. One example is data. While services are places where data is generated in government, service teams spend too little effort on quality and reuse. With the right awareness, scope and funding, service teams can create data outputs highly beneficial for others that the immediate stakeholders of the service. Currently, only the direct internal and external users of the data are considered – caseworkers, end users, statisticians etc. But it is unlikely that general purpose data will be a natural by-product of a development project (Adewunmi 2018). It needs to be considered from the start. For designers and user researchers in government, it means recognising and studying not just current external users, but also future internal users. Future colleagues and the public will later be the beneficiaries. 

Talks to watch:
Ade Adewunmi on renovating and maintaining digital services and data;
Andrew Miller on your government wants to digitize everything?

Insight 4: Make yourself redundant, make it sustainable

Hopefully, design in government is here to stay. But unquestionably, the individual designer is not going to be around indefinitely. They often move around from project to project, usually before the desired end state is reached. Moreover, government still relies a lot on contractors. Equally, contracting designers want to make sure not all is lost once they are gone (Harshawat & Ni 2018). Working closely with other team members and potentially other teams is one way of making sure things will progress past departure. By partnering to deliver, ways of thinking are shared, and ways of working are experienced (Collier 2018). Mixing teams and enhancing communication – up to the degree of oversharing – spreads expertise and grows capability within. An alternative to bringing in another external person temporarily: look out for someone from inside the team who wants to step up and take on a design-related role, even though they might not have the formal background (Harshawat & Ni 2018). Investing in culture, hiring people with an open growth mindset and establishing quality standards for the work help make the creation of high-quality service much more likely.

Talks to watch:
Kavi Harshawat and Xena Ni on how to exit;
Jack Collier on why service design in gov isn’t doing enough

govdesign-posters-website

Since early 2017, the meetup series has had hundreds of attendees. More than 1,000 people have signed up to updates via the meetup page (London Gov Design Meetup 2019). More recently, the meetup has also been on tour, visiting Manchester and San Francisco. In addition, more than 3,000 people have watched the recorded videos of the talks. The breadth of topics and themes covered so far is substantial. Presenters have given an insight into a wide range of services, including becoming a foster carer, applying for residential parking permits, becoming a citizen, renewing a passport, moving from hospital to social care or reporting a complaint to the city. To all of these public services, human-centred designers have contributed and made a difference. Many of the challenges they faced on the way are similar to ones designers have in the private sector as large-scale organisations are much alike. The four insights should be evenly applicable.

For the foreseeable future, the meetup will continue to run. The growing list of prospective topics includes education, transportation, law enforcement, security & safety, and futures planning. People who cannot attend the evening events in London will be able to watch the talks soon after via YouTube.

 

Author: Martin Jordan helps create services that people value. He is Head of Service Design at the Government Digital Service where he leads the service design practices across the UK Government.

 

Sources

Adewunmi, A. 2018. Renovating and maintaining digital services and data. Gov Design Meetup, 24 October 2018. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://youtu.be/j8uacRZxc6c

Bason, C. 2017. Leading Public Design: How managers engage with design to transform public governance. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School.

Buller, J. 2018. Embedding inclusive research, design & testing in Home Office. Gov Design Meetup, 21 March 2018. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://youtu.be/dFR1HO5-2xw

Fawkes, A. 2018. Daybook: Designing with & for people with learning disabilities. Gov Design Meetup, 21 March 2018. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://youtu.be/cdpkvom1-1c

Government Digital Service. 2012. Government design principles. GOV.UK, 3 April 2012. Accessed 18 June 2019. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-design-principles#make-things-open-it-makes-things-better

Government Digital Service. 2019. Service Standard. GOV.UK. Accessed 24 June 2019. https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/service-standard

Harshawat, K. and Ni, X. 2018. How to Exit. Gov Design Meetup, 18 July 2018. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://youtu.be/p160VIjNl4Y

Herlihy, P. 2014. I fought the law and the users won: delivering online voter registration. Government Digital Service Blog, 20 June 2014. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2014/06/20/i-fought-the-law-and-the-users-won-delivering-online-voter-registration/

Jordan, M., Kane, K., Izquierdo, M., Rebolledo, N., McCarthy, S. and Delahunty, C. 2019. #GOVDESIGN. Accessed 18 June 2019. http://gov-design.com/

Kane, K. & Jordan, M. 2018. Scaling Service Design in the UK Government. Touchpoint, 9 (2), 36–39.

Kops, H. 2017. Futureproof Design. Gov Design Meetup, 22 February 2017. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://youtu.be/-kD8xJQzErI

London Gov Design Meetup. 2019. Meetup. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://www.meetup.com/London-Gov-Design-Meetup/

Nordic Innovation. 2018. Nordic Design Resource. Accessed 18 June 2019. http://nordicdesignresource.com/

Pocha, D. 2018. Design tools for wicked problems. Gov Design Meetup, 7 February 2018. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://youtu.be/rQ7-O0NfPH0

Prince, M., Watson, C. 2019. Applying for your passport online. Home Office Digital Blog, 13 February 2019. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://hodigital.blog.gov.uk/2019/02/13/applying-for-your-passport-online/

Roberts, L. 2017. Life beyond Ecomms. Gov Design Meetup, 22 February 2017. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://youtu.be/rdgUomOhDKw

Walther, A. 2017. Designing for the Dark Matter. Gov Design Meetup, 22 February 2017. Accessed 15 June 2019. https://youtu.be/-1fDcIW5KkU

How to facilitate a successful Circular Economy Jam event?

Jam

“As a facilitator, a lot of the success of the Jam relies on your shoulders. Not just helping the team deliver a good, validated concept, but their experience along the way.”
Jesse Grimes – Service designer & Jam’s special guest from Amsterdam

The quotation by Jesse Grimes goes straight to the point. The success of the Jam event is depending on the facilitation. Service Innovation and Design students in Laurea had a chance to facilitate in Circular Economy Jam 2019. The Jam was a two-day event and the purpose of the Jam was to discover new possibilities, share insights, and develop new circular economy solutions around university operations and campus life in Laurea.

How well the facilitation of the Jam went depended a lot how well the facilitators were prepared. I couldn´t participate to the Jam as a facilitator but I was preparing and helping my facilitation partner for the Jam. This blog post is about how to prepare for the Jam and that way facilitate a successful Jam event.

Introduction to the topic

The Circular Economy Jam was divided in seven different topics around circular economy challenges. Each challenge got two facilitators. My facilitation partner and I chose the challenge: “How to improve the efficient use of products or resources through Collaborative Consumption and Sharing Platforms?

Firstly we had to get to know the topic better. We started gathering information and reading several articles regarding collaborative consumption and sharing platforms. We learned especially millennials no longer want to own stuff and value experiences over owning things. In sharing economy and collaborative consumption individuals or organizations share resources like products, services, time or skill via a digital platform. In addition to digital platform sharing economy requires the culture of trust.

Part of the information search we started thinking about the research questions that are related to the topic: What can be shared? How to motivate owners and seekers? How to gain the trust among the users? What are the risks and how to minimize threats? These questions and articles we read helped us to understand the topic better.

Time-keeping is the challenge

When we were familiar with the topic we started planning the Jam structure. At first we realized the biggest challenge will be the time-keeping. From the experience we knew it can be difficult to stop the team during an activity when they feel they are not ready yet.

If one team is delayed, it may cause timing problems for all the other teams too. That´s why the most important task of the facilitator is to ensure that the team will achieve the goals of tasks in time. Facilitator should improvise during the Jam and friendly guide the team to the next step and also communicate that things don’t have to be perfectly complete.

Designing the Jam structure

When we were familiar with the topic and aware of the challenges with the timing we started planning the Jam based on the Design Thinking structure. We planned what tools and methods the team would use and how much time each phase and step would take.

The base for the successful Jam is that the facilitators and participants get to know each other. When everyone know and trust each other it is easier to create honest and safe environment to be creative and fail.

The plan for the first day:

  • #1 Framing insights phase was planned to consist of creating research questions around the problem, doing a short field research, gathering the findings into key insights and creating a customer journey map and personas. In our opinion it is easier to search for pain points and opportunities from the customer journey map and then translate the pains into ‘How might we…?’ questions.
  • #2 Ideation & concepting phase was planned to start with the `Three Brain Warm-Up` exercise. We thought it could be hard to be creative without an exercise, so the idea of the warm-up activity is to help the team get into creative mode. Next we planned to run a Crazy 8 exercise for quick divergent thinking as part of the ideation. Crazy Eight works great in the early stages of the ideation process to come up with a lot of different ideas very quickly. At the end of the day the team votes for the best idea.

The plan for the second day:

  • #3 Prototyping phase was planned to start with the discussion around the best idea and the team selects one concept to be prototyped. Next they create a scope of the prototype and a success criterium for testing. Eventually the team build, test and improve the prototype.
  • #4 Test & Feedback phase was planned to be the last part of the Jam and the team prepare a final concrete concept based on the prototype. Finally all the teams present the concepts for everyone.

 

design thinking
The Circular Economy Jam structure based on Design Thinking.

Trusting the plan leads to a success

Since I couldn´t participate to the Jam I don’t have own experiences how well our plan  worked for the Jam. According to my facilitation partner the Jam day was busy and all the things didn´t go as planned. This didn´t matter – the Jam was successful since we had a solid and adjustable plan on which she trusted and she let herself and the team have fun, be creative and open-minded!

Written by: Marianne Kuokkanen