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The Era of Disruption as an Innovation Enabler — How to Spot and Scan Trends to Kick-Start the Change?

The future takes time to build, and each day is an opportunity to reflect on and plan for the next day

From the Playbook for Strategic Foresight and Innovation by Carleton et al. 2013

The global pandemic outbreak in spring 2020 is continuing to disrupt markets, organizations and even our behaviours. As changes, new needs, expectations and innovations are emerging, it is important to proactively make sense of this new context.

Marketoonist

Digital Transformation and Organizational Change by Tom Fishburne, Marketoonist, April 2020

 

The era of disruption tends to provide a valuable moment to experiment with new business ideas and even launch businesses. In fact, as Trend Hunter highlights, a large number of companies has been established during a recession, including Adobe, Apple, CNN, Disney, Hyatt, IBM, Instagram, Microsoft, Pinterest and WhatsApp.

As an innovation designer and change facilitator, I have helped both small and large businesses to build an understanding on the importance of trend spotting and scanning. In this article, I will cover the current context and challenges for innovation, the benefits of trend spotting and scanning, 3 insightful sources for trends and one practical framework to get started.

Current Context

Many brands are highly valuing the innovations. If we take Peter Drucker’s definition for the term innovation (in Harvard Business Review 2002), i.e. “the effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential”, it should indeed be high on every brand’s agendas.

Interestingly, according to Salesforce research released in May 2020, marketers’ current top priority is innovating, while simultaneously it is also one of their top challenges. This example demonstrates the dilemma people tend to have for activities related to innovations.

Based on various research conducted, a majority of people state they simply don’t have time to work on ideas, although many acknowledge its importance. As Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of Trend Hunter, emphasized in his keynote speech “How to Make Innovation & Change Happen”, there are a plenty of other distractors we all have, which are preventing us to focus on innovating. These can be categorized under six themes, as shown here.

Distractors

The 6 Distractors of Innovation by Trend Hunter, as Presented by Jeremy Gutsche.

Having said that, sometimes there’s no other choice than removing distractors. The research by Small Business Roundtable and Facebook, published in May 2020, confirmed how small and medium-sized businesses are facing immediate cash flow issues, lack of demand and an uncertain future.

Yet, despite of this rather gloomy context, entrepreneurial spirit and optimism are also present among businesses. Since small and medium-sized businesses are vital e.g. for local communities, finding new and creative ways to reach and serve customers is thus highly encouraged.

Benefits of Trend Analysis

Asemphasized by J. Peter Scoblic in the article “Learning from the Future”, published on Harvard Business Review in July-August 2020, the practice of strategic foresight provides capabilities to sense, shape, and adapt to change as it happens. As such, there are multiple frameworks and tools to anticipate possible futures.

HBR_Jul-Aug20

The Cover of Harvard Business Review Magazine of July-August 2020

One practical way going forward is to spot systematically evolving trends and new innovations and, consequently, analyze what these could mean for your brand, customers and the industry as a whole. Before moving on, it is meaningful to clarify how the term “trend” can be understood. A trend is a new manifestation among people, related to behaviour, attitude or expectation, of a fundamental human need, want or desire (Mason et al. 2015, 46). Trend analysis, on the other hand, is about considering the potential influence of patterns of change that are already visible (J. Peter Scoblic 2020, 44).

All trends, in the end, can offer valuable innovation opportunities. The key is to unlock these prospects by adapting them for your context. The focus should be how a trend is relevant, rather than whether it is relevant (Mason et al. 2015, 145).

This fact alone highlights the advantage of the trend analysis. Moreover, it can bring in multiple other benefits along the journey from fueling your creativity to meeting, or even exceeding, your customer expectations, as I have summarized in the illustration inspired by the Double Diamond model of the British Design Council.

Trend_Analysis_Benefits_Nina_Kostamo

Trend Spotting and Scanning Can Deliver Benefits Along Your Journey. (The Visualization Created by Nina Kostamo Deschamps)

3 Insightful and Inspiring Sources for Trends

How to spot trends easily? There are numerous organizations that are focusing on collecting, synthesizing and publishing insightful trend reports on a regular basis. These reports can be considered as valuable starting points to gain an overview on what’s trending. Especially acknowledging the issue with time most of us seem to have, it is easier to take advantage of curated and regularly updated trend reports by the trend agencies and the foresight specialists. My 3 favorite sources right now are the following.

Trend Hunter

trendHunter

Trendhunter.com Covers a Wide-Range of Trends and Innovations. (A Screenshot Taken in August 3, 2020)

Trendhunter.com is said to be the world’s largest trend community with 20 million monthly views and a database of over 400,000 ideas and innovations. The insightful content also includes inspiring trend reports, articles, newsletters, talks, tools and books.

Think with Google

google

Think with Google Leverages Global Data Points and Packs Them in Insightful Reports. (A Screenshot Taken in August 3, 2020).

Think with Google provides regular reports on signals, trends and insights based on Google data, research and analysis conducted by Google teams. Their newsletter is packed with interesting point of views and special collection pages on emerging trends with multiple data points, illustrated in graphs and other visual formats, are to the point.

TrendWatching

Screenshot 2020-08-03 at 17.36.17

TrendWatching Has Launched Multiple New Trend and Innovations Sites in Spring 2020. (A Screenshot Taken in August 3, 2020).

TrendWatching, a company specialized in consumer trend and innovations scanning, has both free and premium content available, but to start with, you can find a number of articles, reports, keynote talks and more. In 2020, TrendWatching has launched two new initiatives. Firstly, COVID Innovations site has a curated collection of over 1000 inspiring and recent innovations captured around the world, and secondly, Business of Purpose site proposes a community to exchange insights and share opportunities, and a plenty of curated resources, including statistics and insights. Moreover, TrendWatching delivers to its subscribers the “Innovation of the Day” content by email on a daily basis.

Trend Insights in Action: 1 Practical and Tested Framework

But what to do with all this future-oriented content? In the end, it is equally important to utilize these insights in ways that will be beneficial for you and your brand, while being able to grasp opportunities in a timely manner.

Innovation requires knowledge, ingenuity, and, above all else, focus.

– Peter F. Drucker, Harvard Business Review, 2002

To give focus and methodology, let me introduce one concrete framework, which I have found specifically useful to conduct trend analysis.

Trend Driven Innovation Methodology

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Trend Driven Innovation Methodology by TrendWatching

TrendWatching has developed a framework called Trend Driven Innovation Methodology, which was thoroughly introduced in the book “Trend-Driven Innovation: Beat Accelerating Customer Expectations”.

According to this methodology, to be able to address the sweet spot, brands should track three key trend elements:

1. basic human needs,

2. drivers of change and

3. innovations.

Let’s explore these elements.

We humans all have basic needs, wants and desires, which remain the same, despite the changes happening around us. All trends are, after all, rooted in these basic needs. Authenticity, honesty, freedom and transparency can be considered as our fundamental needs.

basic-needs

Examples of Needs (TrendWatching Webinar)

What comes to changes, we know the change is constant, accelerated and happening everywhere. To understand the drivers of change, brands should look at shifts, i.e. the long-term macro changes and triggers.

The examples of shifts are climate change, urbanization and aging population. Triggers, on the other hand, are more immediate changes, such as political events, environmental incidents, and new technologies. What is trending in social networks or new products can give hints on social change. Frameworks such as PESTLE and STEEPLED provide support to analyze further these changes.

Changes_Examples

Examples of Changes (TrendWatching Webinar)

Thirdly, innovations are important since they inform on how the market is changing, what are the new entrants, new services, or experiences. Thus, spotting business innovations can help to assess what consumers will want next. In the end, innovations will create new expectations, which is why the terms such as “Expectation Economy”, “Experience Economy” and “Liquid Expectations” have been discussed in the recent years.

However, main emphasis should not be on these individual elements, but rather on the sweet spot, or tension, between basic needs, drivers of changes and innovations. This tension can be further evaluated by building an understanding on customer expectations and gaps between what is currently being offered (Mason et al. 2015, 48).

Transforming Current Trends to Innovative Ideas

The trend spotting encourages to act on the opportunities and identifying points of tension. How can you transform current trends to innovative ideas, which will be beneficial for your brand and your customers? Here’s a quick guide of main steps to take using the Trend Driven Innovation Methodology.

Step 1.

In practice, you can kick off your analysis by taking any of these starting points:

1. a new innovation and build an understanding what drivers of change and basic needs this innovation is addressing or

2. a new driver of change and spot innovations that are tackling this change or

3. a basic need by asking do I want to address it with my business, how I might satisfy this need, and consequently, what drivers of change are relevant for me that I can leverage.

Step 2.

Once you have decided your starting point, you can use the Consumer Trend Canvas to help you to structure and break down your analysis and ideation.

If you are short in time, you may try to get this filled in within a few hours. This approach, however, requires ideally some pre-work such as gathering trend inspiration in advance and securing a participation of multi-disciplinary team of at least 4 people, and a facilitator, for more creative results. On the contrary, you can also take your time and do some proper research for both parts of the canvas. If you are working alone, it would be beneficial to get some peer review and iterate the outputs accordingly.

Screenshot 2020-08-03 at 22.12.02

Consumer Trend Canvas bby TrendWatching

 

In either way, focus firstly on the analyze part of the canvas and leverage the trend sources mentioned above to get you going. For inspiration, you can also use trend cards, Pinterest, or other trend reports to trigger further thoughts and ideas.

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Trend Cards Can Be Useful to Trigger Inspiration. These Cards Were Used in a Workshop Facilitated by TrendWatching during the NEXT Conference 2018. (Photo by Nina Kostamo Deschamps)

Step 3.

Once your ‘analyze’ part ready, you can jump into the ‘apply’ part. It will be fruitful to ideate how you can potentially apply this trend and emerging expectations in your particular case and who would actually benefit from it.

Spend some time to ideate possible innovations and what would be the innovation potential. To get more ideas, I would recommend additionally to use a structured brainstorming method such as Creative Matrix. When ideating, remember to go for quantity over quality and focus on opportunities on where the attention and expectations are. Out of this ideation method, you can bring the most interesting ideas back to the Consumer Trend Canvas.

Step 4.

At this stage, you may wonder what shall you do once you have your first canvas filled in.

Ideally, you are ready to take a step forward, and go deeper how would this innovation actually work. For that purpose, you can use, for instance, the Business Model Canvas by Strategyzer and further ideate how to experiment the innovation using the Experiment Canvas, created by Ash Maurya.

If you can imagine an improved future state, you can likely make it happen

From the Playbook for Strategic Foresight and Innovation by Carleton et al. 2013

To conclude, current challenging time calls for deeper reflections, creative ideas and experimentations.

Different types of organizations from the well-established brands to new solo entrepreneurs can benefit from systematic trend spotting and scanning activities. Trend analysis provides opportunities to rethink the strategies, ways of operating and the overall offerings. In the end, regardless of your motivation and interests, you can take a proactive role in sensemaking and ideating an inspiring future.

 

Written by:

Nina Kostamo Deschamps, SID 2016

Innovation Designer & Change Facilitator at Accenture Interactive

twitter.com/NinaDeNapapiiri

10 Days to Make a Change — What I Learned from the Cross-European Virtual Hackathon

Using design and online collaboration to address challenges as a result of global COVID-19 outbreak

GoneVirtual

As in spring 2020 we were experiencing nearly a global lockdown, I was searching for opportunities to collaborate with others virtually and contribute to the vast societal challenges that were taken place. After worrying news related to pandemic, I felt it was meaningful to be able to connect with others, learn and devote to an important cause. This triggered me to join a 10-day open innovation design process named as UNA.TEN (Transform Emergency Now! 10 days for change) hackathon by the University Alliance Europe.

Una.ten

UNA.TEN hackathon communication material by Helsinki Think Company

 

To achieve local impact through European collaboration, UNA.TEN hackathon brought virtually together over 100 master level students from seven universities and several local partners across Europe to develop solutions to address challenges related to the COVID-19 context in April-May 2020. I participated in the event with virtual Helsinki team together with Helsinki Think Company and the University of Helsinki and was able to collaborate with participants from Bologna, Edinburgh, Krakow, Leuven, Madrid and Paris.

 

What made this really unique was that the fact that the hackathon was online, and we were all experiencing the same situation of being locked down in our homes.

I had previously participated in numerous design events such as design sprints, hackathons, co-creation workshops and global service and sustainability jams in different roles varying from a facilitator to a mentor and participant throughout Europe. However, all these events had been conducted face-to-face and participants had travelled to the same location, sometimes even from another side of the world, to benefit from the close on-site collaboration. I was thus curious to find out how would all virtual 10-day hackathon work in practice.

Design thinking mindset and open innovation design process virtually

Design thinking mindset and open innovation design process were framing the hackathon. Each local team could choose between four design challenges. The topics, formulated as statement starters, were relevant and diverse:

  • How might we rethink entertainment and cultural activities during the COVID post-emergency period?
  • How might we protect our privacy and help to fight dangers, fears, and misconceptions in a digital world?
  • How might we ensure travellers’ safety while COVID-19 is not fully defeated yet?
  • How might we avoid food waste due to supply chain disruption?
Schedule_una_ten

Timeline and activities of UNA.TEN hackathon (Material shared by Helsinki Think Company to participants)

Following the local and international kick-off events, organized as video calls, and creative online warm-ups, each team initiated an intense research phase to explore the context. Within a short timeframe, teams were conducting online interviews with relevant stakeholders to better understand the needs and aspirations of the people who were at the center of design.

Based on the sensemaking and the 1st insights, the challenges were reframed to scope the next phases of design accordingly. An international benchmarking call helped to gain additional inspiration and build an understanding what paths other teams had investigated. Based on the challenge reframing, the ideation could be kicked off. Teams were encouraged to move quickly to prototyping to gather more information and feedback. Again, joint calls with other teams helped to reflect and develop further.

As such, sounds like a regular open innovation design process. So what were the lessons learned of this all online 10-day event?

100% virtual hackathon — it works!

Until very recently, I was one of those who strongly believed how design process, from design research to ideation and testing, should be conducted mostly, if not entirely, face-to-face to be successful. Indeed, there’s a long list of benefits that onsite creative and collaborative process is bringing, and I was not questioning it. This is why I also literally travelled around the world to conduct research and facilitate co-creation workshops and design sprints. Moreover, I often encouraged my client teams to invite their distributed team members to one specific location to harness the power of on-site collaboration.

Onsite_Collab

On-site collaboration in action. (Photo by Nina Kostamo Deschamps)

However, these special times have demonstrated fast our ability to co-create engaging online experiences.

Indeed, based on our hackathon, people collaborate eagerly, use new online tools and design methods and are excited about the overall experience and the outcomes.

Yes, there might be some hiccups here and there, but not necessary more than in regular face-to-face events.

For me, as a fan of onsite co-creation events, this was a clear a-ha moment.

aha

Next let me share my reflections and three lessons learned what made this virtual hackathon successful. I also add a few things to consider if you are about to plan a similar type of online event.


3 Lessons Learned from Virtual Hackathon

 

1. With people for people

As usual in a hackathon, people do not necessarily know each other upfront. In this event, although we had never met face-to-face and had very different backgrounds, we felt united. We all shared the same situation, being in self-isolation at our homes, willing to connect with others and eager to be able contribute to something purposeful. It felt we were together despite of distances, with a clear vision and enthusiasm. This shared motivation was one of the enablers, which made this hackathon a rewarding experience.

Participants

UNA.TEN hackathon participants’ motivation was an important success factor. (Photo shared originally on Twitter by Helsinki Think Company)

 

Ultimately, it is easier to create a great experience and results when people are motivated. In this event, motivation came naturally as participants were volunteering. On the contrary, often at workplaces, participants’ motivation tend to vary, e.g. some participants might feel forced to join, while others might feel distracted due to stress related to their daily jobs, which consequently can hinder the focus on the process and collaboration.

Things to consider:

If you are conducting a virtual design event, such as a design sprint, hackathon or co-creation workshop, take time to reflect and plan:

  • How to motivate people to participate? Even better, ask them upfront.
  • How to secure participants’ full engagement and keep them engaged throughout the process. What methods and techniques can you bring to facilitate the motivation virtually?

2. Trusting the process — and facilitation

This hackathon provided a joint learning experience where students and coaches connected across Europe in several occasions to share experiences, ideate, learn, present and receive feedback. Many of the participants were not familiar with a human-centered design approach, design process with divergent and convergent thinking, methods or tools we were using. Yet, it turned out well.

Outcome-focused remote facilitation and well-balanced constraints help to reach the goals

Although the process as such might be robust, you do need facilitators — those who think over the process and select the most suitable, outcome-focused, methods, plan the schedule and organize the logistics, provide guidance and inspiration, help people to get over the obstacles and remind them on the overall goals. This is a familiar topic from face-to-face events, but this online hackathon emphasized it again.

The facilitation needs to happen at multiple levels, at the process, the group but also individual levels to keep the focus and rhythm. We had facilitators and coaches for the overall hackathon, but also for the challenge area at the European level and locally.

Additionally, having set constraints, such as tight timelines and regular checkpoints to share, learn and inspire helped people to move in the right direction within the agreed timeframe. Multiple channels created on Slack encouraged people to share their thoughts and best practices in between the video calls. We could feel the pace, even though we were not physically in the same room.

Things to consider

To ensure a successful virtual design event:

  • How can you secure a sufficient number of skilled facilitators to get and keep the ball rolling over multiple remote teams and team members?
  • What kind of schedule would be realistic enough to get the results needed for each phase, from research to ideation and testing, yet feel slightly challenging to get most out of people’s creative capabilities?

3. Virtual collaboration facilitated by the thoughtful methods, enabled by technology

To conduct this all virtual hackathon, multiple digital collaboration tools were used throughout the process, e.g. Google, Miro, Slack and Zoom. Although one could get easily lost between these different channels and online spaces, our experience went rather smoothly.

The last time I had used Miro was back in 2017 when it was still known as RealtimeBoard. Throughout our design process from research to concepting, it turned out to be valuable tool.

In fact, for the hackathon purposes, facilitators and coaches had pre-selected canvases, i.e. the templates, and set up our virtual collaboration spaces, which made it easy to jump in right away. However, not that long time ago, printing large canvases and securing a good number of sticky notes were mandatory prerequisites of a successful co-creation workshop. Indeed, sometimes, as facilitators, we found ourselves dragging canvases to airports, hotels and workshop locations to capture the ideas and outcomes of the creative process and secure we could later convert the details into a digital format.

Dragging

From paper canvases to digital canvases. On the left side, we were dragging the co-design workshop canvases in a hotel corridor. On the right side, the screenshots of UNA.TEN hackathon’s digital canvases on Miro. (Photo by Nina Kostamo Deschamps)

So having tested the latest of these digital tools during this hackathon, I must say they do enable the creativity, proactive collaboration and facilitate the process. For instance, Miro has not only ready-map templates but also kits with step-by-step guides.

And there are a plenty of other tools and guides to make this happen regardless of your role in the design process. Jake KnappJohn Zeratsky, and Jackie Colburn just published a new guide how to conduct design sprints remotely and Mural has been busy with creating how-to guides and more during the recent months. All in all, these tools and guides do not only enable efficient remote collaboration and provide an opportunity to conduct end-to-end design thinking and innovation processes virtually but, in many cases, they also facilitate the processing the outcomes quicker.

Miro

Ready to use templates and kits on Miro.

Things to consider

  • What tools and methods can you best leverage to conduct your virtual session successfully? Do you have a sufficient amount of time reserved to set and test the overall flow prior to day 1?
  • What is your plan B in case the participants face issues with the selected tools?

To conclude, what were the outcomes and highlights of this all virtual hackathon?

UNA.TEN was concluded with presentations on May 8th, just one day prior to Europe Day 2020. Interesting and innovative solutions were ideated, such as an immersive experience connecting international audiences and performers virtually, while exploring the historic city of Edinburgh, the ‘bubble’ festival with live music, with a concept of being together but safe, a social distancing framework, a new way to discover local activities with safety measures, a digital service to organize trips in the countryside, a platform to connect local travel entrepreneurs to jointly package their offering with others to create more meaningful experiences to travellers and so on. Some teams, with the help of their local partners are proceeding further with their concepts.

Reflecting the overall experience

The UNA.TEN hackathon was time well spent, and it inspired me to continue to explore virtual possibilities.

Here are the highlights of this virtual hackathon:

  1. Participation in an engaging social experience
  2. Getting to know people across Europe
  3. A reminder about the benefits of cross-European collaboration
  4. First-hand experience and lessons learnt how design process works all online and virtually
  5. Possibility to test the latest tools and digital templates
  6. A chance to contribute to topical issues
  7. Concrete ideas how to help entrepreneurs who are suffering from the COVID-19 implications
  8. Opportunity to continue experimenting with concepts created.

Finally, it will be interesting to see how our ways of working will be digitized in a longer run. Will this special era disrupt the way we work and collaborate for good, also within innovation and design thinking scene?

Written by:

Nina Kostamo Deschamps, SID 2016

Innovation Designer & Change Facilitator at Accenture Interactive

twitter.com/NinaDeNapapiiri

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

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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

Latest Trends of Destination Marketing

Digital Tourism Think Tank – #DTTT2018
Helsinki, Bio Rex 29.-30.11.2018

I visited one of the most intriguing events in the traveling field the Digital Tourism Think Tank 2018 last November. Helsinki had the honor to host around 300 participants from all over the world in the event held in fabulous Bio Rex facilities.  #DTTT global is a perfect place to track where about traveling field and destination marketing is now and what the future holds for them.

Personally, I have been working in the traveling field altogether for more than 7 years. Surprisingly, traditionally, the field has not presented the sharpest end of digital and technological development, not to mention service design or design thinking. In my opinion, the field has been rather slow in adapting to the changes and disruptions that take place faster and faster. Due to my maternity and student leave, I had not been attending this event in two years. Now I noticed, that quite a lot had changed since the year 2015.

Many interesting keynotes were presented the day I attended the two-day event: Finnair, Finavia, Australian Tourism Data Warehouse and Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) such as Visit Finland, Visit Dubai and Wonderful Copenhagen. They all had their interesting cases, but it would be useless trying to describe them all. What I was after, were the latest trends in the traveling field that would emerge through the inspirational cases and viewpoints.

#DTTT2018 keywords (by the author):
open data, APIs, ecosystem, platforms, seamless customer experience, experience economy, feelings, passion, co-creation, sharing, sustainability, good content

When looking at the keywords I spotted in the event, it seems the traveling business is not anymore that far away from design-led business and innovation approach. Open data, data collaboration and open API’s (Application Program Interface) were emphasized in several occasions to be the key in managing travel experience and offering a seamless customer experience.

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Also Finavia’s Eero Knuutila talked about “API economy”.

Visit Finland has started a large-scale project in data collaboration among the traveling business operators, and the Australian Tourism organization has even a specific Tourism Data Warehouse which collects, manages and shares all the relevant information regarding their business. Most importantly, as Visit Finland’s Kaisa Kosonen stated: “attitudes towards sharing have changed during the last years”.

“Attitudes towards sharing have changes during the last years.”
– Kaisa Kosonen, Visit Finland

This has been a very important step in going to the direction where sharing is viewed more advantageous that keeping information for competitive reasons and trying to do everything alone. Also, the limited budgets several DMOs unfortunately have, certainly have encouraged in taking a new direction in this sense.

Almost in every speech the word “platform” was mentioned, and in many also “ecosystem”. As Finnair’s Kristiina Kukkohovi captured, “digitalization is not about apps and channels but ecosystems and platforms”. The sharing approach has led to the inclusive approach of different actors which form the ecosystem of a good service selection to the traveler. Now, every DMO wants to offer a platform which offers and/or gathers good content and where all the customers, potential and existing, can connect to before, during and after the visit. Some of them have succeeded better than others, and I am very happy to notice that Helsinki Marketing’s MyHelsinki service in top-notch in this category. A service that is referred to by the most impactful DMOs and traveling field actors.

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Tia Hallanoro from Helsinki Marketing presenting the customer journey of a Helsinki visitor.

It is a known fact that feelings and passion are related to traveling ever since it has become a leisure activity. What is new, is that now marketing strategies and even business cases are built on feelings and experiences, such as the new service developed by Finnair, which promotes and sells experiences to their visitors. Also, “customer experience” was mentioned several times during the day. A seamless customer experience is something that the DMOs and other travel operators are reaching for by new means.

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Finnair’s Kristiina Kukkohovi explaining how happiness can be digitalized.

Some of the DMOs are already using co-creation as a means to develop the experience. And at least one of them even has a clear design thinking approach to their entire strategy, like the example of Wonderful Copenhagen, the DMO of Copenhagen.

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Have you ever thought about the locals being the most important factor in the traveling experience for visitors? I haven’t, or at least not in this scale that Wonderful Copenhagen presented. There has been, and still is, a hype around live-like-a-local phenomenon. Many DMO’s, including Visit Helsinki, has put into use the knowledge the locals possess and used that in marketing. Local experiences interest even more visitors, rather than famous monuments or big attractions.

What Wonderful Copenhagen inspirationally pointed out, was that the locals do not live in a destination but in a city. They also suggested that instead of asking what locals can do for you, ask what you can do for locals. They consider locals strategically important factor in the customer experience of visitors. Therefore, it is rightful to ask what tourism can do for locals.

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The background for this kind of thinking comes from over-tourism, which many popular cities and countries as destinations have faced. Amsterdam is one of them, and Copenhagen has faced similar challenges. In a rather small city, the growing number of visitors want to visit exactly the same places at the same time, such as the Little Mermaid, Anne Frank’s house, etc. This has led even to strategies which drive visitors away from these super attractions, even in the outskirts of the city.

Wonderful Copenhagen has valiantly stated that tourism is not a goal in itself for them, but as a means to develop the city. This is their strategic choice, and recently they introduced their new strategy “Tourism for good”.

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This example leads us to perhaps the most important keyword the emerged in the event: sustainability. The traveling field and DMOs are facing perhaps the biggest disruption ever come to their way, which comes alive in such phenomena like over-tourism and people’s changing traveling behaviors, especially linked to flying. This is something which the DMOs still have a very different approach to.

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Visit Dubai announced that they want to grow the number of visitors because they have the infrastructure to support it. Whereas Helsinki Marketing clearly stated that Helsinki seeks “not quantity, but quality in growth”. And then there is Wonderful Copenhagen which bases their entire tourism strategy on sustainability. Clearly, this is the theme that will be, or at least it should be, grasped immediately in the traveling field and destination marketing organizations.

It remains to be seen what the #DTTT2019 will present for us in this sense. And it remains to be seen how, or if, the DMOs will apply design thinking or service design more into their business operations. If you are interested in traveling, and it is in any way possible for you, I recommend attending the next event which will be held in Espoo somewhere around late November this year.

Laura Saksala

Can Design Solve Everything?

Design Forum Talks: Design, Value and Meaning
Valkoinen Sali 28.11.2018

In late November 2018, I attended a seminar organized by Design Forum Finland, which, once again, discussed design and its overarching possibilities in solving complex problems in business, innovation and life in general. Many interesting keynotes were expected, such as Berlin-based phi360 consultant Arndt Pechstein’s “Hybrid Thinking” as well as cases such HEI School, which has successfully combined design and pedagogy. Yet, some very familiar topics and aspects were presented in the agenda: e.g. “Human-centric Design and Value”, “Designing Impact” and “Design Methods Supporting Social Innovation”.

Ville Tikka, the Strategic Director at Wevolve, described how the society has evolved from the 1950’s to 1980’s modern society to the post-modern society (1980’s-2000’s) and further to post-contemporary society (2010’s and onwards). In modern society, it was viewed that the world functioned like a machine and the “truth” could be found. Design was about designing products. In the post-modern society, the knowledge was critically questioned, and the world was viewed as socially constructed and where design created services. Whereas now, from the 2010’s onwards, the post-contemporary society is being viewed as a complex system of systems where design creates platforms.

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This complexity, as we know, makes planning extremely difficult and constitutes new challenges to overcome. As the problems are more complex and wicked, new ways of solving them are needed. As witnessed in this event, today, it is even more common to argue that design can solve many of these problems.

Many brilliant services and solutions embracing human needs and building on empathy were presented, and human-centric approach in designing services was emphasized.

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One of the most inspiring ones was the case of HEI Schools, a pedagogic concept which brings the Finnish preschool system to the whole world. An exiting example of what designing is capable of when practiced carefully and when it is guided by a clear vision and based on in-depth knowledge.

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Pechstein’s keynote about “Hybrid Thinking” was an extremely interesting way of seeing business design of the 21stcentury. It is described as “a combination of the four most powerful approaches of innovation and change management”: Agile/Design Thinking, Biomimicry, Neuroscience and Circular Design and Platform Business Modeling. Basically, Hybrid Thinking puts together different elements of thinking and doing, and intuition is embraced  to achieve trust, loyalty, and emotions. Biomimicry utilizes the power of evolution by mimicking nature in designing solutions. This was something new and interesting, I recommend watching his keynote on Youtube.

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While design as an approach to solve complex problems in people’s lives was presented from many different viewpoints and through various small or large-scale service or business solutions, the big questions were existent and discussed by many of the speakers. It was stated that “design should be everywhere” and that “design should be part of each and every work place, not just a separate department in an organization”. “Design affects everything what is done and how is it done” and that “systemic thinking should come actionable”. “Creativity is in all of us and it should be nurtured”, “and that “human being is the creative, innovator and visionary not only professional designers”. It was also suggested that “we should come out of the concept of design” because “that is also one silo”.

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My question is, how is this achieved? How can we extend design approach throughout our organizations and even stretch it to the level of strategy and leadership? How can we make everyone a visionary, innovator and creative, even those who do not have a slightest idea of design thinking or service design?

These questions are relevant in order to one day reach these declamatory visions, while the ordinary worker still seems quite small and unaware of these great plans and possibilities design hold. Even our managers and leaders have not all assimilated the idea of design as an enabler, let alone to conduct business.

Recently, it has been academically argued that the hype surrounding the concept of design thinking has resulted in a need to understand its core essence. It also has been argued that the concept is vague and that the effectiveness of the approach is unclear. (e.g. Hassi & Laakso 2011, Johansson & Woodilla 2010) Two separate discourses on the topic of design thinking have been identified: the “design discourse” and the “management discourse” the first having a history of about 50 years focusing on the cognitive  aspects of designing (“the way designers think as they work”) and the latter appearing around the change of the millennium which regards design thinking as “an overarching method for innovation and creating value” and focuses on the need to improve managers’ design thinking skill for better business success. (Hassi & Laakso 2011, 2) It is also argued, that the management discourse lacks empirical evidence on the usefulness of design thinking and that it’s not linked to a theoretical base. (Hassi & Laakso 2011)

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As service design students, it may be useful to acknowledge this ongoing academic debate around the concept of design thinking (if not familiar yet) and about the lack of academic evidence on the effectiveness of design thinking. This debate came into my mind when going back to these pleasant and declarative visions of design (thinking) taking over in every organization and in society heard in Design Forum Talks event.

To conclude, we do not know if design can solve every wicked problem in this everchanging world. Furthermore, there is a long way of making an ordinary manager a design thinker, innovator and visionary. However, design (thinking) indeed has the characteristics and capabilities built in to have the potential in drastically changing the course of thinking and doing things in the society – also in doing business.

All the keynotes can be watch on the Design Forum Finland website.

Laura Saksala

References

Hassi, L. & Laakso, M. 2011. Conceptions of Design Thinking in The Design and Management Discourses. Open Questions and Possible Directions for Research. Conference Paper. Proceedings of IASDR2011, the 4thWorld Conference on Design Research, 31 October – 4 November, Delft, the Netherlands.

Johansson, U. & Woodilla, J. 2010. How to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water: An ironic perspective on design thinking, strategy, and innovation. 8thEuropean Academy of Design Conference: April 1-3, 2009, Lisbon, Portugal.

Hackathons as Design Experiences

 

I participated recently in two hackathons, Emotion Hack Day hosted by YLE and researcher Katri Saarikivi, and Climathon by Climate-KIC, hosted by Urban Academy. Hackathons are events that generate solutions to a challenge, and usually the solutions are technical in nature, like applications or programs. It seems though that the idea of hackathons has broadened somehow to include all kinds of idea contests, since both of the hackathons approved of all kinds of innovations. In both events I was especially interested in process design of the events.

The challenge in Emotion Hack was about solutions for an internet for more joy, and for Climathon about creating sustainable food solutions for food hub at Teurastamo area in Helsinki. At Emotion Hack I participated as a team member, and at Climathon as an organizer with minor responsibilities.

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Ideation process at Emotion Hack

Observations on Hackathon Process Design

The hackathons followed loose design pattern as following:

  • Presentation of challenge
  • Inspiration talks related to the challenge
  • Team formation
  • Ideation
  • Group work on idea
  • Mentoring
  • Final presentations
  • Choosing a winner

At Climathon there was also an excursion to the challenge location site, Teurastamo, arranged.

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Climathon teams and mentors visiting the Teurastamo area and food entrepreneurs there.

The order of the different phases was little bit different in both hackathons, as well as facilitation support offered for the teams. At Emotion Hack there an ideation process was conducted before team formation, and at Climathon the teams were formed first. At Climathon the excursion to the area seemed to be considered important by the organizers, and at Emotion Hack Day a lot of emphasis was put on personal support by mentors.

In both of the hackathons the facilitators did not explain a how an ideation process works or offer tools for participants to work with. Also the teams did not have much time to get to know each other or go through their individual interests or skills, which I as participant found to be a major obstacle when working with 2 complete strangers. Of course the time is a very limited resource at hackathons, but I still would have felt working together with the team would have been much more efficient if there would have been time for getting to know each other. Also I think it would have been great to get some help on creating common understanding on the whole process of concept creation, which can be very different for people from different backgrounds. What I also found quite surprising in both hackathons is that they did not include any kind of empathy phase with trying to understand a customer’s viewpoint on the product.

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My team at Emotion Hack working with the our idea: an app that would remind you of things you are grateful for in life after too much time online.

What I liked about the facilitation at Climathon was that there was a lot of time to define the problem that the team was trying to solve, before diving into creating a solution. At Emotion Hack I appreciated the atmosphere with games and laughter, and really putting effort into having a fun day together as well as offering technical assistance with producing a video on the final solution, which I thought was a great way of showcasing the solution.

The winner of Helsinki Climathon was called Winter Garden, you can read more about it here.

You can see all the solutions created at Emotion Hack at YLE Areena. Sadly, I was not in the winning team, which was defined by newsreporter Matti Rönkä’s reaction – the one that made him smile most was the winner!

Future Service Design: Designing Solutions for Systemic Problems

What kind of future is waiting for us service innovation and design students? How service design is transforming and what kind of skills are needed when working in the service design field in the future? These questions were discussed from several perspectives in the super interesting Palmu Society 10 + 10 event organized in Tennispalatsi.

Many interesting points were pointed out  from new job descriptions to how companies should organize themselves in such way that creativity is easy to release to pace up innovation. Perhaps the most relevant takeaway was that service design is “scaling up” from improving existing single services designed for the obvious user, and that it is going beyond the mere interaction of people and services. Due to the shift in focus, also the designing will change.

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From designing services to changing people’s behavior

When exploring future service design challenges, we are merely not talking about improving the quality of single services. In future, service design will be solving more holistic problems and tapping into systemic changes that require changing people’s behavior. As good services are already mainstream (a fact that rightfully can be argued by many), service design in moving from designing services to designing people’s behavior. In the future, service designers are designing solutions to societal issues of larger scale, for instance immigrants’ adaptation to a new country or helping people to survive exhaustion. In many cases, there are no services yet to improve, so they need to be innovated and designed.

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When designing solutions to societal issues, there is always also business potential to be discovered. It is about finding the link between changing behavior, new habits and business. One fictional example showcased how a health care business could partner with a gym and together they create business opportunities when tapping into the exhaustion problem.

New KPIs and even deeper customer insight to support “super moments”

When dealing with more more holistic and systemic problems with the aim of changing human behavior, the objectives and goals of a design process also change. The KPIs should be connected to the change of people’s behavior rather than the mere interaction between the customer and the service. Therefore, more attention should be put into getting even deeper customer insight, when trying to understand people’s behavior and reasoning as well as trying to find ways how to support that change.

For instance, when solving problems regarding people’s exhaustion, service designers should go way deeper in people’s behavior, to go in the homes and dig into the daily life of the exhausted people in order to be able to find ways to change people’s behavior – and eventually find (business or humanitarian) solutions for those problems. Somehow this did not sound so alien to me as a service innovation and design student at Laurea. But I guess, in practice, getting truly deep customer insight can be easy to overlook by the clients as it is very time-consuming and expensive.

The concept of “super moments” was mentioned several times playing the most important role in understanding the customer. A “super moment” is the point where the behavioral change can be accomplished and when a person is finding and adapting a new thought. People need support in taking a new direction, and service designers need to find the tools for them. This will also have an effect on the actual designing of a service. It will be further explored, how new technology and AI, such as machine learning, can be used to support the “super moments”.

Johannes
Picture: Palmu

New Skills are Required from Service Designers

As service design, or whatever this field will be called in the future, will go even deeper in the people’s behavior and reasoning, and new technology such as AI will be utilized more and in more creative ways, new skills are required from service designers. When technology is exploited even more, there will be even more need for people who are dealing with the technology.

For instance, it needs to be carefully considered which tasks can be given for algorithms to solve and how the machines and AI need to be “taught” and “coached” how to see and understand human behavior. This can only be done by people. Even more skills from different fields such as psychology, behavioral sciences, ethnography and technology, but also business skills are even more required in the service design field. Service designers will specialize more, one good example is the trendy “business designer” job title.

IMG_3192The result of voting the future job titles in the service design field.

***

The event got me thinking a lot about the issue of ethics when it comes to changing the human behavior. We, the future service designers and innovators, need to be even more aware of the motives that drive and biases that affect us, the design projects and the clients, as future service design will play an important role in making more impactful changes in the society, even changing culture.

Utopia or Dystopia? How is the Future Looking like in Service Design?

By Salla Kuuluvainen
I recently attended two events which made me think about futures thinking and it’s relation to service design and innovation. Innovation, by definition, is an act that reaches towards the future, and and engages the innovator in creating a future that may be something they wish for.. or not. How can we as innovators and service designers engage in creating those desirable futures?

50 years from 1968

I attended an event in Tiedekulma where the year 1968 was discussed. I went there, not because my studies of service design, but because I’m interested in changing the world, and when younger, also identified as an activist. One of the speakers, Johanna Vuorelma, a historian, claimed that politics in today’s world no longer are utopistic. In 1968 there was a real sense of trying to build a better, different world from previous’ generations’ with a World War and its horrors.

I could agree on that. The revolutionaries and activists of today no longer reach for a desirable future, instead they try to preserve something of old: a somewhat habitable planet or a shred of human rights, or a homeland that looks like in 1950`s if they are active in the conservative movements. So activism today may look like the same thing as
in the crazy year of 1968, but actually the drivers and motivators behind the actions may be very different.

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Futurist as Designer

Another event I attended during Helsinki Design Week was Futures Talks, organized by Futures Specialists Helsinki. In the event we heard many different ideas and scenarios for future, some more positive than others. The idea that impacted me the most had to do with design thinking. The organizers discussed the idea of designing our futures, meaning that studies of the futures thinking is not just a passive act of trying predict what will happen – instead a we should see how each of our actions and choices creates the future in this very moment.
In conclusion of these two events I thought that maybe utopistic thinking does not happen in the realm of activism and politics anymore, but that sometimes more optimism and positive energy for change can be found around events that discuss design and innovation. Our final task at the event by FSH was to create a future wall with post-it notes about our personal utopias, dystopias or protopias – protopia meaning a world that is better by a small, achievable change. Maybe Service Design is actually just about that – creating a protopia for our everyday lives.

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We Should All Be Interested in Ethical Questions Related to AI

by Miikka Paakkinen

This post is the second of a two-part blog series on design topics related to artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Click here to read part one on trust.

Note: I will not go deeper in to explaining the concepts of AI and robotics in this post. For a summary on the technologies and the differences between them, check out this excellent article on Medium.com: https://medium.com/@thersa/what-is-the-difference-between-ai-robotics-d93715b4ba7f


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A modern organisation chart? From Work Up! x HDW: AI and Ethics

 

New artificial intelligence solutions are popping up everywhere, including the public sector. The amount of available data and constantly increasing computing power make it possible for algorithms to take on more and more complex tasks.

Continue reading

7 Things to Consider When Designing for Trust in AI and Robotics

by Miikka Paakkinen

This post belongs to a two-part blog series on design topics related to artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. You can read part two on ethics by clicking here.

Note: I will not go deeper in to explaining the concepts of AI and robotics in this post. For a summary on the technologies and the differences between them, check out this excellent article on Medium.com: https://medium.com/@thersa/what-is-the-difference-between-ai-robotics-d93715b4ba7f


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Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

 

Will artificial intelligence take our jobs and make us useless? Can we trust the robots? The public discussion around these emerging technologies often seems to paint a negative, even dystopian picture of the future. When it comes to disruptive technological change, this is nothing new though. Lack of information or transparency usually leads to fear instead of trust towards the technology. But can we tackle this issue of trust with design?

 

Last week I attended a Helsinki Design Week seminar called “Future Talks”. It was organized by Future Specialists Helsinki and featured four keynote speeches loosely related to designing for trust in future services. Inspired by the event, I decided to write this blog post and dig a little deeper on the theme of trust in AI and robotics.

 

Why is trust important?

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Ilkka Halava at Future Talks

 

If users don’t trust a service, they will not use it unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is obvious, but all the more important to acknowledge in the age of extreme competition and easy availability of information and alternatives. As futures researcher Ilkka Halava put it in his keynote at “Future Talks”, digitalization is a massive power shift from systems to humans. Bad and untrustworthy services will quickly become obsolete because they can easily be bypassed.

 

When creating services based on new technologies that users might not fully comprehend, such as AI or robotics, it’s especially important to gain trust for the service to succeed and provide value.

 

The question then seems to be – how can we design trust?

 

7 things to consider

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Olli Ohls at Future Talks

 

To answer that question, we need to understand the core elements that foster trust towards such technologies.

 

At “Future Talks”, Olli Ohls (Robotics Lead at Futurice) talked about key points on research results regarding what creates trust in the field of social robotics.

 

Similar results could be noted in Innovation Management Professor Ellen Enkel’s 2017 Harvard Business Review research article related to trust in AI-based technologies (which you can read here: https://hbr.org/2017/04/to-get-consumers-to-trust-ai-show-them-its-benefits).

 

Based on Ohls’s speech and Enkel’s article, I compiled a summary of seven things to consider when designing for trust in AI and robotics:

 

  1. Transparency – when the purpose and intention of the AI or robot is clear, and the underlying logic is understood by the user, it is much more likely to be trusted. A major positive impact was noticed in robotics when a robot was able to verbally explain its purpose to a user, as pointed out by Ohls. The development process behind the technology should also be transparent.
  2. Compatibility – the technology obviously needs to match with the problem it’s trying to solve. It’s also important to consider how users feel how it matches with their values and guides them towards their goals.
  3. Usability – the more intuitive and easier the innovation is to use, the better the chance of creating trust. Additionally, users should be able get a basic understanding of how the technology in question works, what its limitations are, and how one should work with it. As a crude comparison: it’s hard to start driving a truck if you don’t understand the basics of what automobiles do.
  4. Trialability – when users can test the solution before actual implementation, perceived risk is reduced. A trial can be conducted, for example, via a prototype.
  5. Performance – seeing an AI or a robot make a small mistake here or there won’t likely hinder our trust toward it, but constantly underperforming will. Expectation management is important here – users need to know what the technology is supposed to achieve and how it should do it.
  6. Security – the technology should be perceived to be safe to use from both a physical and a data security viewpoint.
  7. Control vs. autonomy – it’s important to understand the context and the purpose of the technology and find the suitable level of automation. Ask the question: should we lean towards the technology making the decisions, or the technology assisting a human in making decisions?

 

Takeaways and thoughts

 

AI and robotics are still very new to most people and the concepts might seem intimidating. To use the technologies to create real value, we need to design services around them that are trustworthy for their users and for the society at large. Keeping the points above in mind during your service design project could be a good start in working towards that trust.

 

The author Miikka Paakkinen is an MBA student in Service Innovation and Design with a background in business management and information technology.

 


 

What do you think of the list? Could your experiences regarding trust in services be translated to AI or robotics? Please share your thoughts below!