I had the pleasure of participating in an online event on 20.5.2020 hosted by Design Forum Finland and Arctic Factory. The topic of the event was design and new values, with the focus on sustainability and the role of companies in creating new value. The topic is especially current now during an ongoing, global pandemic, which has only increased the need for a change.
The idea of new value is not just about creating financial value to company stakeholders, but a new type of added value to employees, society, and environment as a whole. We’re in a new era where customers demand more from companies.
Design thinking has a big role in creating new value. Design thinking is essentially about understanding the needs of people, being innovative and solving challenges in an agile way. Companies can find business opportunities and create new value through design thinking, for example by utilizing sustainable products and involving ecological thinking.
One important aspect of design thinking is understanding what is happening in the world, what kind of trends are taking place and how they are affecting people. By understanding your surroundings, can you be strategic and proactive.
Katri Vataja from Sitra talked about the future and the increasing need for having foresight. She discussed in detail the five megatrends of 2020 set by Sitra:
ecological sustainability crisis and the urgency of its reconstruction
strengthening of relational power
ageing and diversifying of population
technology being embedded in everything
the redefinition of economy
Vataja emphasized the importance of ecological reconstruction and stated that the key factor influencing the future is climate change and other ecological issues, and how we respond to them.
“The decisions we make in the next 10 years will impact the next 100 years.” – Katri Vataja, 2020
Vataja ended the segment with a great question to think: what kind of a future would you like to help build?
The bees of the business world
Sonja Lahtinen from University of Tampere discussed the new values and the changing culture. Her main focus was the importance of sustainability transition: a cohesive, long term change towards sustainable modes in society’s foundation, culture and practices.
Innovative companies are like the bees of the business world: they are the vital pollinators of the society without which sustainability transition would not be possible. Lahtinen stated that companies have the needed capabilities for this important change in resources and innovation.
Lahtinen highlighted the importance of companies’ role in the transition and more importantly why they should strive towards this.
“We’re now entering into an era of the unknown, the unclear, and the unfolding. Being in tune with what is emerging around, we can seize immense, but not instantly obvious, opportunities to better the world.” – Sonja Lahtinen, 2020
Mikko Koskinen from Kyrö Distillery’s brand marketing talked about the evolution of the company from the first brainstorming session in sauna, to adapting to corona times by switching from rye whisky to hand sanitizer. Koskinen emphasized the importance of strategy and values in their company and how they are not just a slogan on their website but a tool in their daily work.
All in all, the event raised great points about new values and the role of companies in this change. It was perhaps Kyrö Distillery’s last slide that best described not only the inspirational message of the event but also Finnish “sisu” at its core:
What if an organization would know what are the pain points of its future customers, which are emerging competitors and partners, what type of ecosystems organization should be part of, what type of legal, social or political issues are arising, what is going to be next industrial trend, how to disrupt the industry? “What if” is one of the most important questions in futures thinking. It enables stretching our thinking and imagine possible futures.
Minna Koskelo, futures designer had a presentation about “What is futures thinking” on Waffle Wednesday at Wonderland in February 2020. According to Koskelo “you can’t control the future but you can have a sense of control if you do understand more the drivers that are affecting the future. “ We don’t know the future but futures thinking gives us a mindset and offers a systematic approach that combines, methods, and tools to explore alternative futures which can support organizations to make right decisions. Koskelo’s presentation made me think about how well organizations are actually aware of the powerful mindset of futures thinking and its methods? Organizations are doing customer insight, business insight but how systematically and continuously companies are conducting future-oriented insight a.k.a. futures thinking? Feels like many organizations are focusing more on what is already visible instead of investing on what is about to come. Research shows that future-prepared firms outperform the average by a 200% higher growth and were 33% more profitable than average!
From where to start Futures Thinking?
When talking about the future there are certain terms that we need to understand. These terms are: megatrends, trends, signals.
Megatrend is a dominant long-term phenomenon with a global impact. Megatrends can change slowly. Examples of megatrends are climate change, senior citizens, digitalization, and circular economy. Koskelo mentioned that many times it is said that companies shouldn’t focus on megatrends when finding business innovation because megatrends aren’t bringing any competitive advantage. Then again we could also ask how many companies are today actually tackling on helping senior citizens?
Trends are changes in people’s behavior, attitudes, and values locally and globally. They have an impact on the culture, society or business sector. Trends indicate which direction development is going. Trend has a lasting impact, but the impact is smaller than megatrends’ impact.
Signal is a phenomenon, the first expression of change or a new trend. Signal might be a weak signal that is very surprising and weird that forces companies to challenge current assumptions. So if a company would spot a weak signal and tries to develop it to a trend, it might offer a competitive advantage.
Tools for exploring the future
The more aware organizations are of the opportunities that the future holds, the more future-proof decisions can be made. There are various tools for supporting in future decision making. Four of them are described below.
What if an organization would get a holistic view of opportunities and obstacles in its future environment? It feels like organizations focus their future view heavily on technology and ignore other important trends. But in order to get a more holistic view, an organization could utilize a framework called STEEPLED that is an acronym for: Social, Technology, Economic, Environment, Political, Legal, Ethical, Demographics. STEEPLED offers a checklist for exploring external factors that might have an impact on the organization’s success – the organization could find signals that might turn into trends!
What if organization could really reach their vision?Backcasting would be the tool to be used in this case. In backcasting the organization defines first its desirable future and from there works backward to identify the critical steps necessary to achieve the desired future, the vision.
What if organization would be able to anticipate its future customers? By using future personas the organization would provide insights of future customers, anticipate what motivates them and what are their future needs.
What if organization would recognize the direct and indirect consequences of a decision, trends and events that might have an impact on the organization’s ecosystem?Futures wheel is a visual tool that supports to create a structured map of the future. When working with the futures wheels a particular trend will be put in the center after which the primary, secondary and tertiary impacts of the trend will be explored in a structured way.
Six business benefits of Futures Thinking
Based on Minna Koskelo’s presentation and my earlier studies in futures thinking I would sum up futures thinking benefits as below.
Futures Thinking 1. offers a safe space to consider and discuss unthinkable options,
2. encourages to think beyond the company’s current value proposition and reveal new business opportunities,
3. offers new innovative ways for decision-making processes and enhance decision making under uncertainty,
4. enables test ideas before translating them into business or innovation strategies,
5. helps to align the whole organization working towards a common vision in their daily work practices,
6. offers a roadmap for navigating complexity and reaching the vision.
Future does not just happen, it depends on today’s choices and is created through interaction and collaboration. What if we start to influence our future today?
References: From signals to future stories Futures Thinking Ojasalo, Koskelo and Nousiainen. 2015. Foresight and Service Design Boosting Dynamic Capabilities in Service innovation. In: Agarwal, R., Selen, W., Roos, G. & Green, R. (ed.) The Handbook of Service Innovation. London: Springer. 193-212.
Futurice hosted Service Design Network Finland’s event in Helsinki in January 2020 where Marc Stickdorn* talked about how companies can use journey maps as a management tool. Stickdorn explained three different situations where journey maps can be used: in workshops, projects or as a management tool. Workshop journey maps are used only once and they will not live after a workshop. Project journey maps are used throughout the project and they can be research, assumption or future based. Journey Map Operations is a management tool that combines different projects and business units in a company and supports companies to become agile: it builds relationships across silos, collects information and the most important – manages customer experience across departments.
The reality in many organizations is that different departments are working with different projects and processes. There might be lots of handovers, various targets, expectations, practices and end solutions. This is because departments have different ways of documenting, they use different tools, terms, and language in their projects. The focus of the projects might be different depending on if it’s a legal, IT, sales, product innovation, marketing, or finance project. But in the end, all the internal and external projects impact also directly or indirectly on company’s customer experience. Many projects might also overlap and from the customer’s point of view there may be shared the same steps in the journey but then the journey continues for different directions which might be really confusing and frustrating for the customer. For a company it is difficult to operate and manage this kind of complexity.
How to get a shared perspective and language across departments?
Companies talk about being customer-centric and agile, but few companies really are because it is impossible to be agile in practice without a shared perspective and tools. According to Stickdorn journey maps would support companies be agile in operations by offering a common visualized language and understanding across different departments and levels in the organization. By mapping and combining different internal and external projects from customer’s perspective organization gets better transparency and understanding what’s going on in different parts of the organization that have an impact on customers or employees’ experience. This helps employees and management to see what are the ongoing initiatives where the organization needs to align? Is there an overlap in the processes? What ongoing and planned projects are around the organization?
I like how Stickdorn compares journey maps for maps in geography: by zooming in and zooming out it is possible to see different levels of the journey. By zooming in the company can see details and understand micro-interactions while zooming out helps to see the high-level journey, the bigger picture.
A recipe for the secret sauce
Stickdorn proposes that there should be specific roles or teams in charge of the journeys. These would be called journey map coordinators. Coordinators are responsible for different parts and levels of the journeys. Somebody on the higher level, for example, CXO, is responsible for the highest-level customer journey. When zooming in the highest-level journey there might be different teams and departments responsible for other parts and experiences of the journey.
Journey map coordinators are split around the organization into different departments and they should meet regularly – once per quarter, month or once per week depending on how close the organization wants to be with the customer, how quickly they want to react and adapt to change. In these meetings, information is shared from microlevel customer interactions to higher levels. The power of the meetings would not only be in sharing information but they would help to see what kind of qualitative and quantitative information organization has from its customers on different levels. And when you add customers’ and employees’ pain points and KPIs there, soon a company might have a dashboard of customer experience!
The value for business
I think that Journey Map Operations is a perfect example of service design method – it brings people from different parts and levels of organization together, focuses on collaborative problem-solving, offers a holistic view, brings clarity in complexity, creates a common language by visualizing things and shares information between different departments with a common target – the customer. At the the same time Journey Map Operations provides a lean way of working and supports company to become more agile.
In overall, journey maps are helpful when company wants to get a holistic understanding of customer or employee experience, recognize their needs and pain points and seek opportunities for innovations. We just need to keep in mind that it’s not about the tool but what the tool can deliver for employees, customers and business. “Journey map isn’t a f..inkg deliverable” as Marc Stickdorn would say.
*Marc Stickdorn is co-founder of More than Metrics, and editor and co-author of the award-winning books This is Service Design Thinking and This is Service Design Doing. He regularly gives talks and workshops on service design and innovation,and teaches at various business and design schools.
Whether you realize it nor not you have most likely been nudged if you have ever done e.g. some online shopping. Of course, you can be nudged in other environments too but in this blog I will for the most part concentrate on nudging in the digital environment. This is because I took part in the Digital Nudging Workshop hosted by Riina Salmivalli at the Central Library Oodi on the 9th of December 2019 and I wish to share some of the learnings I got from there. The workshop was part of events organized by Ompeluseuran palvelumuotoilijat which is a women’s service design networking group.
What Is a Nudge?
Okay I realize I have said the word nudge already quite a few times yet have not given any explanation on what it actually means. So here we go, according to Thaler and Sustein (2009, 12) a nudge: “… is any aspect of the choice architecture that alerts people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.” Still confused? Let me give you some concrete examples.
One of the most famous examples of a nudge is the picture of a fly added to the urinals in Amsterdam Schiphol airport. The spillage on the men’s washroom floors decreased by 80% helping to save on cleaning costs as users of the urinals were now aiming at the picture of the fly placed near the urinal drains. Thaler describes this as harmless engineering that captures peoples’ attention and alters their behavior in a positive way (Sommer 2009). Another typical example of a nudge is making citizens automatically registered as organ donors unless they choose otherwise. Spain has implemented this nudge in their healthcare system and thus it is a world leader in organ donations (Govan 2017).
Nudging in the Digital Context
By now you have probably gotten a better sense of what nudging is, so let’s see what it looks like in the digital context. I am going to give three examples of nudges used in the digital environment: default settings, social references and warnings. Obviously, there are more than just these three but I think that calls for a separate blog post. Without further ado, let’s get to it:
This is to do with the status quo bias where individuals tend to stay with the current status as changing is seen to have more disadvantages than remaining with the current status quo (Mirsch, Lehrer & Jung 2017). Take the example of Posti’s parcel service pictured below that instantly gives as a default setting the option “Postal Parcel International” (Posti 2019), which will make it the most likely option the customer will continue with.
This is about taking into account the factor that social norms influence human behavior. Social norms are described as rules and standards which are understood by members of a group that direct and restrict them in social behavior but are not enforced by laws (Cialdini & Trost 1998). At the Fenty Beauty by Rihanna website (2019) the customer can see the reviews of their desired products. The reviews show the reviewers age, region, skin type and tone (Fenty Beauty 2019) so that customer can be influenced in making a purchasing decision if a similar type of person has liked the product as well.
This refers to the psychological theory of loss aversion where losses and disadvantages are presumed to have bigger effect on preferences than possible gains (Kahneman, Knetsch & Thaler 1991). When booking for tickets at the online service ebookers.com (2019), the website notifies how many people are currently searching for flights to the same destination. The site also gives a warning that there are only three tickets available for that particular price, creating an urge for the customer to want to avoid the risk of loosing the cheap tickets.
Next time you go browsing on a website, see if you can spot any of the three digital nudges being used. It is quite interesting to notice how much nudging is happening without you even realizing it.
Written by Lyydia Pertovaara
Cialdini, R.B. & Trost, M.R. 1998. Social Influence: Social Norms, Conformity, and Compliance. In: The Handbook of Social Psychology, vol. 2. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp.151–192.
Last week the city of Rotterdam (NL) hosted the latest edition of the International Design in Government Conference.
Previously hosted in London (UK), Oakland (USA), and Edinburgh (Scotland), last week’s edition was already the third happening in 2019, suggesting that the interest in the topic is growing world-wide.
Hosted officially by Gebruiker Centraal (User Needs First), a Dutch knowledge community for professionals working on digital government services, the conference took place between November 18th and 20th and its participation was completely open to anyone.
The International Design in Government Conference aims at sharing best practices, takeaways and discussing common challenges so that they can be tackled through a collaborative approach. In facts, established by Government Digital Service in 2017 as an opportunity to bring together design-minded people that work in, for or with the government all over the world, in the last two years the international design in government community has grown to over 1500 members from 66 countries. In addition to participating to face-to-face meeting occasions such at the conference, community members engage every month in sharing knowledge through calls and other collaborative digital tools, contributing to keep the discussions alive and make some steps further.
I attended the conference on Tuesday, November 19th, where the morning was entirely dedicated to keynote speeches, whereas the afternoon had a more dynamic connotation as participants could choose to attend a wide range of talks, workshops and breakout sessions.
Below a summary of the morning keynote speeches and their related visual notes I made on the spot:
Measuring service quality – Willem Pieterson
Willem Pieterson is a researcher focusing on the intersection of data, technology and their orchestration with the aim of helping organisations become more innovative and data-driven. Presenting his work on how to better assess the quality of governmental services, he introduced a quality model based on 20 dimensions of quality, which helped defining a service evaluation model that suggests “satisfaction” as the biggest predictor of quality.
Designing digital to meet user needs – Francis Maude
Francis Maude is the former Minister for the UK Cabinet Office. He was responsible for the establishment of the Government Digital Service, with the aim of reinforcing internal IT and bringing all government services onto a single web hub: GOV.UK. By telling the story on how the UK moved from having its digital services spread across more than 2000 government websites to winning the award as “world leader for online and digital public services”, Maude suggested that leadership, capability, and mandate are the three elements to implement a functional reform. Additionally, the implementation of horizontal, cross-silo functions (by ensuring the commitment of several Departments to redesigning all existing Government services) as well as building a critical mass of technical capabilities were pointed out as the key to execution of such an ambitious strategy.
Maude’s office estimated that moving services from offline to digital channels could save approximately £1.8 billion a year.
Digital social innovation – Audrey Tang
Audrey Tang is listed number 3 in the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government in 2019. She took office in Taiwan as the “Digital Minister” on October 1, 2016, and was assigned the role of helping government agencies communicate policy goals and managing information published by the government, both via digital means.
Through her talk, Tang stressed the importance of implementing “radical transparency” in all governmental processes, and highlighted how Taiwan is promoting presidential hackathons as a means to co-create solutions around several topics related to the SDGs.
Although I could only attend one day, my brief participation to the International Design in Government was very interesting and it triggered a few considerations that I summarise below:
The understanding and recognition of (service) design is skyrocketing
If only five years ago it would have been unimaginable to have designers in a municipality, now designers working in Government are thousands and, based on the networking I did, most of attendees either knew what service design is or had service designers in their teams. In this landscape, the NL and UK are commonly acknowledged as the two countries in Europe who are the forefront of design and innovation in their governments.
Inclusion and diversity are not an optional in government services
Although public and private sectors are facing similar challenges (such as defeating a siloed mindset), the public sector must deserve some extra attention to designing for diversity and inclusion: in facts, governmental services need to be used by all citizens and therefore must be accessible to all kind of users. Of course, diversity and inclusion should not be considered as an optional in the private sector. However, they often are shadowed by other commercial priorities.
What is designed for some users might be very well received by other users
The story of Gemeente (Municipality) Rotterdam, who prototyped and tested visual letters for citizens with learning disabilities in the attempt of delivering a more engaging way for these users to read important communications, tells how this solution turned out to be a success for other citizens too. What we can learn from it is that at times what is designed for a specific target of users might very well apply to other kinds of users too.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of AI?
Robots? Data breach? Self-driving cars?
There are as many thoughts about AI as there are definitions. It really depends on who you ask. However, in this blog I won’t go over what it is or isn’t but rather how we as designers can influence its use for better or worse.
So is AI an opportunity or a threat?
I’d like to think it’s more of an opportunity but with that comes great responsibility. How so? I will get to that a bit later…
How to Service Design AI
On Thursday 21st of November I took part in the Ompeluseuran palvelumuotoilijat event on “How to Service Design AI” hosted by Solita x Palmu where I got a lot of food for thought about AI. Anna Metsäranta, Data-Driven Business Designer, talked about why 85% of the AI projects fail business wise and Anni Ojajärvi, Ethnographer, Business Design and Strategy, discussed the ethics of AI and how AI can influence human behavior and everyday life. Here are my key take a ways from the event:
The Recipe for a Successful AI Project
AI is just a tool. Humans must define the problem as well as the outcome. The more concrete the better.
We as designers need to be part of AI development projects in order to bring the human aspect to the equation. It is important that we validate along the way that the project is going towards the right direction.
Your solution is only as good as your data. Case in point Amazon’s now scrapped recruiting tool that showed bias against women. The recruiting tool used application data from a 10 year period, mostly made up of male applicants’ resumes due to the male dominance in the technology industry. “In effect, Amazon’s system taught itself that male candidates were preferable.” (Dastin, 2018).
Developing AI is not just a one of thing. AI needs to be constantly trained and the results validated.
WEIRD People Define the Ethics of AI
AI is for the most part developed by WEIRD people. That is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic people that make up only 10 to 15% of the world population. Thus, as my final question I leave you this: How can we make this WEIRD situation into a GREAT one?That is Global, Representative, Equal, Accurate and Tolerant. As I mentioned earlier with opportunity comes great responsibility and it is up to us designers to think of the direct and indirect impact that our design and solutions have on the customer, context, community, employee/process, society and environment.
Disclaimer: These thoughts, opinions, and observations are mine, and mine alone. They are not the thoughts of my fellow Dash team members, only myself.
had the immense pleasure of participating in the 2019 Dash Hackathon in
Helsinki (organized by the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society – “Aaltoes”) which is
the largest design hackathon in Europe.
In this hackathon there were over 220 participants from 40+ different nationalities that came
together specifically for this event.
I knew that this hackathon was going to be a gigantic time commitment to squeeze into my full-time work and full-time student schedule. I imagined that I would meet countless new people and possibly make a new friend or two. As time crept closer to the event, I ruminated over the design process and wondered how the actual act of designing would unfold over the course of the event.
the event is over, I can reflect that the element of this hackathon which took me
completely utterly by surprise was the profoundly visceral and emotional
rollercoaster of a ride this journey took me on.
For this post I do not want to focus on the specifics of the design process or what my team ultimately created. What I am taking away from this experience is far different than what I had initially imagined. What I am left with is a list of existential questions for myself about who I am as a person, and what kind of service designer I want to be.
As we all know, the cornerstone of service design is empathy: the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, see the world through their eyes and then walk a mile in those shoes. I also realized this weekend this crucial element could be what drew me to service design in the first place. All while keeping this perspective in mind as you create whatever amazing user-centered design solutions we service designers will ultimately come up with.
that empathizing with the user is an integral part of service design and it is
very important to lay this as the foundation of everything we as service
designers will do, however after this weekend I have come to realize that everything
has a limit; empathy included.
It is not possible to design a solution that suits everyone. This is a fact of service design every designer must accept, and it is also how I am approaching this post. This post is not for everyone. This post is written for those of you who may have a propensity to over empathize. For those of you who can relate, please read on. For those of you who can’t relate, if you read on anyway, maybe you will notice this trait in a fellow designer and send them this post.
I decided when I signed up for Dash that I really wanted to be part of the challenge for Startup Refugees. This is a Finnish NGO that has made it their mission to match refugees and immigrants with jobs here in Finland. They were only founded three years ago, but they are already having a significantly positive impact on the employment situation of refugees and immigrants in Finland. They currently have two offices; one in Helsinki and one in Oulu.
wanted to be a part of this challenge more than any of the other challenges
because this issue really speaks to me on a personal level. I am a black American immigrant who has lived
in Finland for the past six years. I am
very happy with where I am now in life both personally and professionally, but
it was not an easy journey. I know how
hard I had to work to be where I am now, and that I did not get to where I am
now on my own. Sure, I have a good work
ethic, but I also had a great network, a bit of luck, and people who were
willing to take a chance on me. I was
really excited to see if I could somehow find a way to help other immigrants
and refugees (whose situations coming to Finland were/are infinitely harder and
more complicated than mine) find a way to become employed in Finland.
that through gainful employment an immigrant or refugee can have dignity,
community, and a purpose for life in their new country of residence. This feeling of comfort and belonging is
something I genuinely wish I could give to anyone and everyone who wants it.
mentioned at the top of this blog, I do not want to go into specific details of
the design challenge because I want to focus on my emotional journey and
findings related to that. For the sake
of brevity let’s just say the challenge was related to Startup Refugees’ larger
focus of helping to find refugees and immigrants employment in Finland. This is what we in the realm of service
design call a wicked problem.
In Richard Buchanan’s report “Wicked Problems in
Design Thinking”, he refers to a report by Rittel (1967) that defines a wicked
“A class of social system problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values, and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing.” (1992, 15)
Wicked problems are manifested in the major issues and
systemic failures of our society today.
Issues such as climate change, poverty, multicultural integration,
healthcare, and so forth are problems so prolific in nature that there are no
single solutions or tangible ends to their plight.
That being said, with this challenge being quintessentially wicked, there was no way we would possibly be able to fix this challenge in a 48-hour hackathon session. To be fair and very clear, this is not what the challenge was asking of us. It was asking for ways to help improve a small part of the issue so that they could more successfully match their clients with work or help immigrants and refugees better understand the foreign job market in which they are attempting to enter.
However, with an issue this complex where do you even begin?
As a team,
on that first day (Friday) we began the hackathon creative, upbeat, and ready
to tackle the world. On the second day
(Saturday) that emotional rollercoaster shot full speed out of the launch
bay. The day started well, but by the
middle of the day that upbeat and playful attitude was all but dead. Our mentor repeatedly asked us where our
playful attitude had gone and eventually encouraged us to go get some air
together outside the venue to try to regain the spirit from the day
before. We got a bit more playful after
that, but something personally inside me had shifted that I never could quite
reset. By later that night we had a
working solution concept, and after starting again early Sunday morning we were
able to finalize our idea and proudly present it later that afternoon as a possible
solution to their challenge.
I was very
proud of the solution we came up with as a team and although some people may have
thought that my closing lines of the pitch were sappy and maybe just for show,
I honestly meant every word I wrote, rehearsed, and delivered as a
closing. The event ended later that
night and I went home feeling happy, physically tired (this I understood- the
hackathon was long), but also incredibly emotionally exhausted. I felt like my inner child had just run an
ultra-marathon through a mine field. I
felt acutely emotional and I wanted to figure out why. I had been emotional since the second day of
the challenge and those feelings just kept compounding until the challenge was
over and I could finally go home. Would
I have felt this way if I worked on any of the other non-wicked problem
challenges? Was I too close to the subject? Probably.
I began a search where all great internet searches begin (google) and stumbled across a blog that pretty much summed up the personal issue I faced during this challenge. It is post is titled “The Dilemma of Designers’ Empathy Delusions” by Jason Mesut (2018). In it he states:
“I have three challenges to the importance of empathy. To strengthen designer performance by battling what I feel is an ideal that is often delusional and misguided.
Two of my challenges are likely to be unpopular, and the third will probably be appreciated by many:
1.Most designers are not actually that empathic to end users
2.Empathy isn’t that valuable and unique a quality for designers
3.We should care more about people beyond users”
I will link
the entire article because I think it is a really good read. However, I would
like to focus on the 2nd and 3rd points he makes in this
article. In his second point that
questions the value of empathy, and he gives a good example of the dangers of
over empathizing with the following example:
“Imagine a doctor. Imagine if she had high empathy. She would struggle to make decisions for the population she helps. If one of her patient(s) suffered, she would suffer. The pain would impede the process of resolution. It’s why many healthcare professionals build up barriers to the emotions and the pain of the patients they serve. It helps them make better judgement calls.
I’m not saying a designer shouldn’t care. Often, they should. But I’m not sure that empathizing over every user they meet can really be that productive or helpful.”
Now I know
this for some people may sound a little over the top, but I think that this is
a real danger for some designers that work specifically with wicked problems,
or any other issues that are highly emotional, in which putting yourself into
the shoes of others may elicit extremely deep feelings of empathy and
compassion that are much deeper than what is productively necessary for the
purposes of service design.
goes on to talk about what happens when your over empathizing can cause you to
lose sight of the larger picture. In
your compassion driven quest to create real change for the end user you run the
risk of losing empathy and sight of the other players in the game; the other clients
and stakeholders in the relevant network who are all a part of the challenge
you are hoping to solve.
proposes a framework for an empathy map where you consciously adjust your
feelings up or down as necessary while also keeping in mind other players
besides the end user:
I wholeheartedly believe that empathy must exist for
great service design. However, I now
believe there is a spectrum. A spectrum
of levels of conscious empathy every designer must have, and this
spectrum should be personally re-evaluated during all phases of the design
process to ensure it is evenly distributed across all people the new design
will affect; users, clients, and stakeholders alike.
I could not
imagine being as deeply emotionally connected to an issue that I would be working
with for a prolonged period of time without emotionally burning myself out. Though I did not appear to be overly emotional
or stressed during the event (and I did have a lot of fun too), I took mental
note of how exhausting this challenge was, and wondered how I would deal with
this kind of problem if it was my everyday job.
That is what lead me on this introspective journey and critical
evaluation of the weight of empathy in service design.
I am fully
aware that had I done a different challenge, I would not have had the emotional
response I did. However, I am glad I experienced everything exactly as I
did. It gave me time to reflect on my
emotions and myself.
I had an amazing time at Dash and would like to thank
the organizers for the opportunity to be a part of this great event. I would also like to give my deepest thanks
to Startup Refugees for all of the great work they do and wish them nothing but
the best in the future. Most of all, I
would like to thank my amazing team members for all of their hard work, and I
am very happy for the new friendships I have made.
By: Johanna Johnson
Richard 1996. Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. In Margolin, V. &
Buchanan, R. The Idea of Design. A Design Issues Reader. Cambridge: The MIT
Held annually in Stockholm, Nordic Design 2019 is a conference focused on the design within the range of user experience, user interface, technology and graphic design. The speakers were varied and did much more than simply show their impressive portfolios of work. They actively outlined certain manifestos or values inherent in their work. Topics ranged from design sprint methodologies to how to the design language learning app Duolingo; from design of systems to the usage of eye-tracking.There were a few key points which stuck with me from a few of the speakers, the first of which discussed the importance of names.
How to name
Like many who work in design nowadays, Sophie Tahran inhabits multiple roles already in her job title: she is a UX Writer. This unique and new role has her creating copy and naming systems for various services and products. Much like the visual side of design, the linguistic side must not only carry the brand’s unique voice but also serve its functional purpose. Language, she pointed out, is important. Much of Sophie’s eloquent talk described the structured process which she has crafted in order to find suitable names for brands or wording systems within brands. Overall, there are seven main categories of possible brand names, each with their own pros and cons:
Descriptive names which describe what the service offers
Evocative brands which try to stir a certain emotion
Invented words which don’t exist in the dictionary
Lexical names are those which play with language or spelling
Acronymic names of individual words
Geographic names of places
Founder of company names.
Sophie outlined her process of creating a name for a new brand and this process is similar to the divergent and convergent phases of the design thinking double diamond. The process of starting the naming a certain brand begins with laying the foundation through looking at the context in which the name is intended to be used, the scope of the brand, competitors and the stakeholders involved. After this a brainstorming workshop is organised. Sophie was quite vague as to how exactly to brainstorm, but there are a near infinite methods available at this ideation stage. The key is to generate an over-abundance of ideas. Once it is deemed sufficient ideas have been generated a move into the refinement stage is needed. Names need to be clustered and researched into whether they fit certain requirements for literacy, universality, SEO or size (meaning whether the name fits the scope of the brief or the forecast growth of the company). Additionally, legal teams need to be consulted in case of copyright issues. Once a name or shortlist has been made, you need to find approval from the rest of the stakeholders. A new name is easier to approve through being transparent about the whole process by showing an overview of the steps taken to get to the final result. Finally, once a name has been approved the driving of adoption is needed in order to fully execute the naming process correctly.
Sophie’s talk was interesting not only in its content, but also in the way it highlighted an oft overlooked element of design: language. In design it is understood that not only what is being communicated is important, but also how. This is especially important when you are literally discussing the usage of language in design. For example, the way specific navigational signage in a building may guide you around matters: it must not only be succinct, but ideally also carry some of the brand’s values as it provides the important service of showing you where to go.
Accessibility and inclusivity
Speaking of traversing through a service, another speaker Laura Kalbag, highlighted the needs of making services not only accessible but inclusive. It was not a distinction which I had previously made. In fact, in my ignorance I may have used the terms interchangeably.
The difference is wonderfully simply illustrated in these two shopfronts she showed. In the accessibility image, the shop has tried to accommodate for wheelchair users by building a ramp. However, the ramp is on the side of the building and accesses the back of the shop. In inclusive design, as shown in the image on the right, the ramp is built into the front of the shop. This may seem like a small difference to those without special needs, but it represents a fundamental shift in how we think about the provision of services for everybody. It is simply not enough to make services accessible; we must make include those with special needs in our society as fully equal members. This comes from designing products and services which do not simply have augmentations which accommodate special needs, but are intrinsically – from the shopfront onwards – geared towards giving everyone an equal footing.
Designing in collaboration
A final insight which I would highlight came from the introductory speaker, Prem Krishnamurthy. He gave an inspiring and conceptual talk about how his team goes about their graphic design practice. His talk had many good takeaways, but I will focus on one overarching theme: collaboration. Prem seems to have really understood that combined we make more than the sum of our parts. One project stood out which highlights this point well: his co-creation of the “Ministry of Graphic Design” for the Fikra graphic design biennale. Hired to create an identity for the biennale, Prem’s studio instead decided to collaborate with other designers and create fake bureaucratic entities such as the dept. of optimism or the dept. of non-binaries and curate the work according to their subdivisions. This level of collaboration, in which a design studio will actively involve others and even split their allocated budget in order to raise the level of work being completed is significant. It shows how important collaboration and co-creation truly are in the design field. Working together in order to raise the bar of what is possible as a designer shows a deep understanding that design is a co-creative process and that by making it ever-more collaborative can only make even better work.
Overall, Nordic Design 2019 proved an inspiring and well-designed conference. Service design, despite its closeness to may of the fields at the conference, was not mentioned. However, despite this it was completely worth attending in order to further my service design practice. The lessons of mindful usage of language and inclusive collaboration will serve me well in the future. I look forward to attending in 2020!
“Data driven design” has become some what of a buzz word because data is considered to be the new oil. However, many companies struggle to figure out how to take advantage of data and so to speak “strike gold”. At the Service Design Network event: Data Driven Design, two companies K Group and Sanoma Media Finland shared how they have been able to develop successful services thanks to data.
Data Is a Compass
Interestingly both K Group and Sanoma Media Finland referred to data as a compass. Data is seen as a compass for a person who is lost. It gives a starting point where to start to look from. Data also acts as validator to see whether the adjustments made to the service have had a positive or negative effect or perhaps no effect at all. However, K Group noted that for them to say that data acts as a compass for them, it requires a lot of work.
Collaboration Is Key
Both companies emphasized the important of collaboration. Sanoma Media Finland described well the challenge of a designer, an analyst and a developer working together (see picture below). All three have very different working styles and practices and yet all three are essential to develop the best service possible. To solve this issue, Sanoma Media Finland decided to change their way of working and started to follow Futurice’s Lean Service Creation process. It is not all smooth sailing yet, but they feel that they are on the right path.
Data Driven Services
K Group has great amount of data about their customer as they have 3,5 million loyalty members and 5 million customer encounters daily. Thanks to their rich source of data they have been able to create customer driven services such as K-Ostokset (K-Ruoka mobile app): “A service, that gives the user an overview of his/her grocery purchases and a better understanding of the impacts of the purchase decisions.” The other customers for K Group are their K store merchants. K Group has developed a service for the merchants that collects data about the merchant’s K store customers, the market and the area and puts the information in such a format that the merchants can make educated decisions on how to improve their store’s profitability and customer experience. Evidently, as shown by these two examples, data has become an essential part of service development.
Researching and understanding the user and their environment is the first, and arguably most important, stage in the service design process. Service design purists will insist on the usage of interviews, observation, shadowing, and other ethnographic research methods in order to acquire this understanding. These methods work well, but do they work when trying to understand the organisations with users who number in the millions? The service design event “Data-Driven Design” argued, that qualitative data alone cannot provide large organisations with the necessary knowledge. These organisations rely heavily on quantitative data.
This Service Design Network event consisted of speakers from two large companies answering the question: What is data-driven design? The first speaker, Iiris Lahti from the media conglomerate Sanoma, discussed how design can be data-driven in the current media landscape. The second talk was held by Jussi Mantere and Hanna-Reetta Lukkainen of K-Ryhmä, which together with S-Group controls practically the entire food retail industry in Finland and has branches abroad as well.
What is Data-driven design at Sanoma
Sanoma tracks their users in a variety of ways: from the ways they navigate their news website and the popular Vauva.fi forums; to their media consumption on the Ruutu app and physical subscriptions to their publications. It goes without saying, that Sanoma has a lot of data on its users. The key question is: what do they do with this data and how to they provide ever-more value with this acquired knowledge?
Iiris described perpetually trying to find the sweet spot between service design, data analytics and customer surveys. She mentioned how when these three areas work well together, then their users (and Sanoma) thrive. An interesting example mentioned was through qualitative interviews concerning the Ruutu media streaming app. Briefly: A user stated her need for being passively entertained after work whilst simultaneously wanting to be surprised and not wanting to watch the same familiar shows repeatedly. Out of this small insight, Ruutu created a “suggest something else” button, which essentially acts like a shuffle button after an episode or film has ended. This is exactly the kind of out-of-the-blue concept which can only come from qualitative insights and not from tracking data. Iiris summed it up as finding the unknown unknowns. To elaborate on this, quantitative data can be used to discover known unknows such as the likelihood that someone who likes Downton Abby will also like the The Simpsons. However, this kind of research cannot be used for unkown unkowns. Unknown unknowns would be more open-ended questions such as “How can Ruutu provide more value to user X”. Quantitative data can rarely be used to satisfactorily answer these deeper questions.
Iiris, herself a data scientist, has a slide which described an obstacle I am trying to overcome at work: How to integrate the working processes of Designers, Analysts, and Developers. These three groups operate with similar, but not quite the same, working processes. To solve this Sanoma uses the “Sanoma Development Framework” which Iiris admitted is still work in progress.
What is Data-driven design at K-Ryhmä
Jussi and Hanna used the analogy of the compass to describe how they use data at K-Ryhmä. They summarised their thinking as “data gives insights, design gives solutions”. Despite one speaker being a designer and one speaker being a data scientist, they considered quantitative and qualitative data as being just data. Only when asked at the end did they distinguish between the two and mentioned the benefits of combining them.
Perhaps the most interesting specific cases both of them mentioned had to do with how they use data to empower their customers. Rather than simply utilising tracking and other data points to accumulate information and insights on their customers they have created many ways in which the data can be put to use for the direct benefit of their customers and partners. The cases they mentioned related to the creation of a new drink, making their retailers more independent, and a customer-facing app.
They mentioned co-creating a new sugarfree drink with a leading drinks company. Using their data and knowledge of their customers they had spotted a need and used to it to co-develop an exclusive new drink sold only in K-Ryhmä stores. It is not uncommon for a new product or service to be created through the using of finding needs or holes in the market, in fact this is the basics of service design. What is unusual in this case is that K-Ryhmä was willing to share data on its customers for the mutual benefit of K-Ryhmä and the drinks company (and presumably the customers desiring the new drink).
K-Ryhmä operates what is essentially a franchise. Each store owner operates more-or-less independently but licenses the K brand and operating systems. This implies that the K-Ryhmä itself is an intriguing service ecosystem with many layers of co-dependent stakeholders all under one brand. As a brand it is of utmost importance for K-Ryhmä to keep its retail owning partners profitable and satisfied. Because of this the brand offers each retailer a dashboard of its own data and trains them in its usage. This empowers each retailer discover what makes their specific customers unique. At a deeper level it gives them even more freedom to take ownership of their slice of the K brand and to act on it for mutual benefit.
K-Ostokset is an app released in the last half year. It provides a dashboard to customers with a K loyalty card to see what they’ve bought, how much they’ve spent, and when. With this initial description it struck me as a quite standard customer-facing dashboard app. However, they have added additional functionality which I find truly interesting. Customers can use their personal shopping habits and set specific targets. This goes beyond simply spend X amount of money on food next month. Customers can set targets based on their personal values. For example, they can track and set goals to purchase more Finnish products and (before the end of the year we were promised) to reduce their impact on climate change. The speakers did confess to being initially hesitant, as data privacy is an understandable concern amongst many consumers nowadays and displaying how much they have been tracked may scare customers. However, I feel this is a brave move by K-Ryhmä as it displays a fundamentally deep understanding of their customers: people no longer shop based merely on price, flavour, or health. Today customers are values-based shoppers: morality, locality, niche-diets, politics, convenience and other factors all play a large role in why customers buy what they do. Considering the size of K-Ryhmä, this app has the potential to change the way a large portion of the Finnish population shops hopefully for the better.
The event as a whole tried to inspire new ways of seeing how data and design can not only coexist but thrive in large companies. The heavy usage of quantitative data at these organisations does not replace service design’s usage of qualitative research. Instead, companies the size of Sanoma and K-Ryhmä have learned to use the strengths of both research gathering processes in a manner which enhances the value they can provide to their users.