Wouldn’t it be great to know what the future holds for us? Particularly in the difficult times we are currently living, it’s easy to wish we’d know what the world looks like in six months or a year. This of course isn’t possible, but futures thinking provides a framework for us to foresee what possible futures might look like. In the words of Malcolm X – the future belongs to those who prepare for it today. So let’s prepare!
To learn how to use foresight strategically and to network with specialists in the field, I attended a scenario co-creation workshop at Futurice. The event was organized on the eve of National Futures Day in order to introduce the newly developed Futurice Lean Futures Creation toolkit.
Similarities between design thinking and futures thinking
Futures thinking and design thinking have some synergies and overlap, not only in theory but also in practice. Personally I have more experience attending and organizing service design workshops and only a bit of experience in futures thinking through coursework at Laurea. Although I am quite new to futures thinking, the tools and canvases used during the workshop felt familiar due to my experience in service design.
My Laurea coursework introduced me to all the futures thinking concepts discussed in the workshop. With this background, the workshop contributed to my learning and provided me with additional tools for my personal toolkit.
The future of work – putting the Lean Futures Creation toolkit to the test
We started off with a brief introduction to the new toolkit and quickly formed groups of 6-7 and started working. The workshop focused on the future of work and all participants had been tasked with finding five trends or weak signals on what work might look like in 2030. Based on these we filled in a PESTLEY table, which we used as the basis for our alternative futures. The PESTLEY table was the first canvas we used.
The PESTLEY table guided our work in the next step; creating alternative futures. For this we used the second canvas. We selected seven topics, came up with alternative outcomes and finally developed three alternative futures based on this work. The team divided into pairs and used the third canvas to guide the development of the different narratives.
The very last canvas we used guided the development of scenarios. My group had been so swept away by the previous steps that we didn’t have enough time to backcast and develop complete scenarios. We did still get to try it and as the facilitator kept reminding us – today was less about the substance and more about the process!
We got to practice using four canvases, developed a deeper understanding about co-creating scenarios and networked with likeminded professionals. The night was a great success in my books!
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.
What a way to spend Friday evening it was: about 70 people hungry for Marc Stickdorn’s facilitation exercise and presentation on journey map operations! Futurice hosted this Service Design Network Finland’s event on 31 January. I’ll share with you in this blog post two insights about journey maps and three points from the facilitation exercise that I found most interesting.
Zooming in and out the journey maps
Journey maps on different levels
Zooming in and out. photo: Raija Kaljunen
Marc Stickdorn states that for agile teams you need journey maps that contain all levels: these are high-level, detailed and micro journey maps. You can zoom in and out on these levels to get into the details of a certain touchpoint. In this way you can map the whole experience of the customer. It is also important to map the touchpoints not provided by your organization. As Marc Stickdorn put it: “The customers have a life outside of being your customer!”
It’s the whole experience that matters. photo: Raija Kaljunen
You have to take into account the whole ecosystem where the customer interacts with your service. Finding all these touchpoints really requires careful work when creating the journey maps!
Service design as a management approach
“When an agile organization or team shifts to customer-centric management system, it actually brings design into management. For instance, journey map operations can serve as a dashboard for management including real-time KPIs and data”, said Marc Stickdorn.
I found the new roles needed in organizations using service design as a management approach particularly interesting. You always need to have someone at management level responsible for customer experience. Marc Stickdorn introduced a new role needed in organizations: journey map coordinators. These coordinators lead specialized teams who are in charge of different levels of journey maps across the departments. The teams meet in journey map councils weekly, monthly and quarterly and ask this important question:
“Has someone in our organization something that has an impact on customer experience?”
Building bridges between silos. photo: Raija Kaljunen
This is how you prevent people working in silos and make all projects visible for all. Up-to-date journey maps also serve as a tool to visualize processes and align all ongoing initiatives.
“You get the same language, same tools and same perspective for everyone. This is how you build bridges between silos”, said Marc Stickdorn.
Insights from facilitation exercise
1. Warm-up creates a safe space
Marc Stickdorn gave us hands-on experience on co-creating journey maps for different touchpoints. But before kicking off the workshop, we did a warm-up with a hilarious Danish clapping game.
“You need to make people move around and make the room their own. Also make sure that nobody sees from outside to your workshop room – it may be difficult to be relaxed if your boss is staring into the room! And get people to laugh in warm-up – positivity helps always to create a safe space!”
2. Time is the tool for the facilitator
Marc Stickdorn recommends giving precise timings in workshops: 7, 16, 19 minutes and not 5, 10 or 15 minutes – the latter only makes people relax and do nothing first. He also hides the time in the room: “Time is the tool for the facilitator, not for participants! This is called liquid timing.”
3. Three ways of working
From one pen to many pens and from one page to many pages. photo: Raija Kaljunen
You get speed and diversity when you have all participants working individually with many pens and many pages.
At the other end of the line you get more completeness and shared understanding with one pen and one page.
Between these two you work with many pens on one page.
Hands-on experience is a great way to learn, especially when it comes to facilitation. I learned a lot just by watching how Marc Stickdorn facilitated the evening: how he gave instructions, what kind of materials we had and how he guided us through different phases of the workshop – not easy when you have 70 people in the room!
Thank you Marc Stickdorn, Futurice and Service Design Network Finland for a great and productive event!
author: Raija Kaljunen
Master’s Degree student in Service Design at Laurea University of Applied Sciences
Stickdorn, M., Lawrence, A., Hormess, M. & Schneider, J. 2018. This is Service Design Doing. California: O’Reilly Media Inc.
I have written this blog post so many times and felt so insecure and confused what to write about. The assignment for the Design Thinking course was to read couple of articles and books and reflect on your own learnings.
Over and over again, I have read my notes from our workshop days from September 2019, facilitated and lectured by Katja Tschimmel. I have also read her article “Design Thinking as an effective toolkit for innovation” and a book “Design Thinking for strategic innovation – What they can’t teach you at business or design school”. I have had good discussions with my colleagues, at work (you know who you are) and in the SID program.
I have familiarized myself with the different Design Thinking models and in general why and how design methods can be used creatively in solving any problems, regardless of the context. I have learned that it is a great tool to frame the problem and find the right problem to be solved. The variety of Design Thinking tools can be used by anyone, you don’t have to be a designer or creative person to use those tools.
In organizations, Design Thinking approach and tools work well in gathering people together across the organizational silos. Bringing people together regardless of the background and helping people to discuss and share thoughts in supporting and safe environment was one of the important things I noted down. I also learned that Design Thinking allows people to try different solutions, even if they do not know if this is the right one or right direction. Design Thinking accepts and encourages people to learn through making failures. The well known benefit of that in business world is that making failures quickly actually makes the development timeline shorter and that way cheaper.
Getting in touch with feelings is hard
Before the workshop, I knew some theory and benefits of Design Thinking. But only through the personal experience and quite many months of mental processing I have started to understand why it has been so difficult to write about Design Thinking. The playful methods and way of working together co-creatively was just so much fun. I actually felt something.
For many reasons, I have been used to just rely on my rational, logical and analytical thinking at work, working in a big corporate with big corporates in solving their challenges as a management consultant. But this approach touched and opened something in my heart and I could also use my ability to feel to solve the problem we worked with in the workshop.
People have natural need to be in connection with people, to work with people, feel that they are part of something. Especially in large organizations people can feel very lonely. Design Thinking brings people together and makes you feel you are part of something.
When organizations and people face changes, very often people feel fear of the coming change. Fear again makes people to fight or run away, or in a very difficult situation, paralyze. Organizations are in a constant change, and change happens fast. I feel that Design Thinking is powerful tool to address the change, to plan the changes together and go through the journey together. You will still need to make your research to understand the needs of your customers, make a business case for the change, you need to get people onboard to the change, you will need to find technological solutions, you need to figure out the operating model and design efficient processes. Design Thinking is a new perspective to add on. That’s why it makes so much sense in organizations to use design methods.
The power of of Design Thinking is definitely in the psychological side, among the many others such as giving tools for ordinary people in organizations to be creative and innovative and making organizations more human places to work in.
I will end this post by sending lots of hugs and kisses to everyone who reads this post! Let’s be brave and make organizations good places to work in ❤
Futurice recently hosted an event at their downtown Helsinki headquarters titled “Futurice Design Presents: Redefining Meanings”. During the opening speech given by one of the employees of Futurice, they encouraged us to redefine the meanings of things we think we already know and carefully curated the themes of the evening to illustrate this concept. This event featured four different speakers exploring four very different topics converging around the central idea of design as a driver for transformation.
Redefining a Library
“Oodi was designed together with customers for a long period of time. We received more than 2,000 ideas from customers to serve as the basis of the architectural competition. ALA Architects designed an amazing and unique building that takes all the elements most desired by customers into account. The customers immediately made Oodi their own, which is our greatest success.”
-Anna-Maria Soininvaara (Director of Oodi)
The first talk was by Antti Nousjoki of ALA Architects. He was part of the team that designed the new Helsinki Central Library Oodi, which has recently won the award for 2019 Public Library of the Year. I have visited Oodi many times since it has opened this past year, but I did not know the full history of how this space came to be. I found this talk to be very interesting. The main goal of this project was to give Helsinki residents what they have long desired and dreamed from a combination of a public space and a library. In creating this new “urban living room” as Nousjoki affectionately referred to this space, the aim was to create a public area that incorporated as many of the public wishes for the new library (that had been collected since the 90’s) into this project as possible.
This project redefined what a library is by creating a space that challenged the traditional idea of what a library should encompass. In an increasingly digital society that does not rely on colossal volumes of literature as the sole source of information, it was time for the modern library to get a facelift in order to remain relevant in today’s society. This space was co-created by the community of Helsinki and has caught the attention of the world in its ingenious redefinition of what it means to be a “library”. It has greatly widened the parameters of what a community library can contain, and with this project as the first of its kind, I look forward to how the public libraries of the future will continue to evolve.
Check out this clip to see some of the other technological innovations and re-definitions happening at Oodi:
Redefining Artificial Intelligence for Designers
The next section was a closer look at the future of artificial intelligence (AI), specifically in the world of service designers. This section was a talk by Annina Antinranta and Eeva Nikkari of Futurice. In this talk we got a crash course about the history of AI and a glimpse into the future possibilities and implications of this rapidly evolving technology.
At this moment in time, AI has come a very long way, but it is still somewhat limited. The modern AI is currently capable of astonishing feats, and the sheer computational power has unarguably far surpassed that of the average human. During this talk there was an example given of a computer that could create something like over a hundred (or hundreds) of visual banners in a matter of moments. We are all aware of the new AI that is slowly replacing jobs in the form of assembly line jobs, self-driving cars, and other applications made to streamline various processes. In this current AI boom, we will eventually see this ubiquitous technology everywhere:
As exciting or scary as this advancement may seem, there are still limitations as to what AI can currently do. I remember when I was in elementary school my first computer science teacher would repeatedly say “A computer is only as smart as it’s user”. There are certain things that AI can not currently do:
This talk encouraged the designer to be aware of the advancement of AI and its place in the future society. We were encouraged to re-think the designers’ position as sole designer in the process and think about the role of AI as an aid in the creative process. This reminds me of the debate between quantitative and qualitative data. A computer is 100% quantitative data. It is up to the designer to insert the soul and human factor of qualitative data in the AI output in order to be able in tandem to create new concepts and ideas.
In the TED talk below given by Garry Kasparaov (the chess grandmaster who was beaten by the computer program Deep Blue in 1998), titled “Don’t Fear Intelligent Machines. Work with Them” he says that “There’s only one thing a human can do, dream. So dream big.”
For now AI can’t dream. Whenever it starts to be able to dream, I suppose we will be having a different type of conversation. 🤖 Until then, enjoy this TED Talk:
Redefining Complexity and Wellbeing
The next talk by Timo Hämäläinen was a deep dive into the history of civilization and the current state of our society. In this talk he said that economic and social development is the main driver behind the development of civilizations and explored the theory that when society becomes too complex to be governed from the top it will collapse. We have seen this in the past for example in the rise and ultimate fall of ancient Mayan civilization and the Roman Empire.
According to this lecture, before societal implosion occurs there is a bifurcation point that each civilization or society reaches where they can either achieve a breakthrough and continue to exist, moving forward by re-creating their existing institutions, or continue down the road of compounding complexity induced chaos that is riddled with conflict, polarization, and violence that ultimately leads to the previously mentioned societal or civilizational collapse. He states that our current worldwide civilization is at such a bifurcation point.
Over the course of this talk he talks about the challenges of this modern society and suggests that a possible solution to this complexity crisis could be found in the realm of cybernetic laws with William Ross Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety. Applied to this type of situation, it implies that societal collapse happens when you have an insufficient variety of responses to deal with a variety of problems. He proposes that the two main strategies to deal with our modern complexity issues are through complexity reduction and complexity absorption.
It was interesting to note that the speaker pointed out that currently in Finland mental illness is the number 1 reason of sickness pension in people under the age of 55. This rise of anxiety and other mental illnesses in modern society could be a direct result of the current level of continually evolving complexity in modern civilization. In order to combat this issue, we must look more deeply at our current ecosystems and their multitude of connections and deviations. This talk challenged us to redefine what it means to approach problem solving and wellbeing in modern society.
Redefining the Future
The final talk by Mia Muurimäki and Annika Hamann, they proposed the idea that every designer should be a futures thinker. They challenged us to think about what it would be to not design just for today, but to expand our ideas and to think what could be possible 5 or 10 years down the line. One way to do this is through provotyping:
“A provotype is a provocative prototype. It is introduced in the early exploratory phases of the design development process to cause a reaction- to provoke and engage people to imagine possible futures.”
-Stratos Innovation Group
During this talk they described a case study from their organization that highlighted how provotyping can be a way for people to “feel the future” and for them to gather good insights and feedback about potential future solutions. They also raised the debate as to whether or not our current design solutions are too short sighted and suggested that we could use futures planning to stretch our ideas into the future and beyond.
This was an interesting evening of talks aimed at getting us as designers to think further outside the box, more critically, and imaginatively about the world around us. As designers we can create new ideas and we can also choose to redefine paradigms. We are limited only by our imagination.
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.
The presentations formed a good combination, because Johar explained the need for systems change, Tõnurist on the other hand explained what systems change does mean in practice, and D’Cruz gave an interesting example of creating a lab network.
Indy Johar – A Great Transition
Indy Johar is a designer, an architect and a co-founder of Dark Matter Labs – an organisation that designs institutional infrastructures and new forms of collaboration that help build democratic futures.
The name of the presentation was “a Great Transition”, because according to Johar, the next ten years is going to be a very significant transformation in our society. This is because many global challenges we face today, like climate change, water pollution, poverty and global inequalities, are very wicked and complex challenges: there are many actors involved and due to interdependency, everything affects to everything. This means, you can’t solve these problems alone, “there is no magic bullet” for that. In fact, Johar argues, that these challenges are only the symptoms – the real problems are the structural failures in the system, “deep codes”, which are historically very deep rooted in our society and economy. If we want to make changes into the real problem, we need a systems change.
However, the challenge in systems change is, that there are many actors who have to be involved, who have to act – nothing happens if all actors are not committed to the change. Johar states, that if we want to make a change, we must think and act differently: systems change requires a new way of organizing. It is not enough to say that you know what the problem is – it is fundamental to build a shared understanding of the problem. Shared understanding can be constructed through co-creation, for example in labs, and through shared understanding there can be commitment to the problem solving. Solutions can be tried out as small scale experiments, which can be indicators of larger scale transitions.
The presentation and the slides are available below.
Piret Tõnurist –Systems Change: how to get started and keep going?
Piret Tõnurist works for the OECD’s Observatory for Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) where she promotes practical approaches in Systems Thinking and Anticipatory Innovation Governance.
Tõnurist talked about systems change and according to her, systems thinking is a good approach to dealing with many societal issues, because they usually are quite complex. However, defining the problem through systems thinking and setting the development goals are usually not enough to make something actually happen. The most difficult phase in systems change is the phase of implementation, and that’s why it is said to be the phase where “the ideas go to die”.
According to Tõnurist, the challenges in systems change are associated especially to three following problems:
Knowing and “knowing”. You might know existing problems and challenges, but it is quite another thing to “know”, to actually internalize the problem. For “knowing” purpose, systems thinking is an excellent method: it is useful in framing complex, societal issues and it helps to understand how to get into the intended goals. However, the negative side of systems thinking is that it is quite difficult and time-consuming method, which needs a lot of effort and investments. So, it is worth to think about when it is a good time and place to use it.
Knowing and ”doing”. Knowing and analysing systemic problems is very different than actually doing something systematically about them. It is possible, that even though you are able to understand the whole systemic framework of an issue and the interconnections between different factors, it does not lead to solutions. The result of systemic analysis can be a complicated map full of different factors and connections, which leaves you just wondering that what on earth you are supposed to do. The systemic analysis doesn’t give you a direct solution and sometimes, in the end, there will be only a “complexity paralysis”. In order to be able to go further, Tõnurist argues, that first, the new purpose of the system must be defined. There should be done a problem framing exercise, where you can start comparing also what has to be changed in that complicated system in order to be able to deliver the purpose – the complexity of the system has to be analysed with the purpose and goal in mind. For example, “Mission Planning Canvas” is a good tool, where you can make the value proposition for the pubic and the private sector. In this way, it is possible to make all the actors committed.
Powerful feeling powerless. Tõnurist has noticed, that even very powerful people feel powerless, when problems are not directly under their control, under their mandate. In dealing with the complex problems, the organisational boundaries and silos should be surpassed, there is a need for new ways of working.
As a conclusion, in systems change, the challenge is not only framing and analysing the complex problems, but also building capacity to do it continuously. Tõnurist states, that in systems change, if there are involved people who are willing to act – anything is possible!
The presentation and the slides are available below.
Joseph D’Cruz – Reimagining International Development Cooperation to tackle 21st century challenges
Joseph D’Cruz works as a senior advisor in strategy and planning in the UNDP. He gave a presentation about UNDP’s initiative in which the aim is to find out a new approach to deal with complex and wicked development problems which currently are increasing more rapidly than the ability to solve them. Against this background, UNDP defined following three main questions:
How do we better tackle complex and fast-moving challenges?
How do we find the most relevant solutions that work locally?
How do we learn more quickly about what works and what doesn’t – and then bring solutions to scale?
For this purpose, UNDP has built a network of Accelerator Labs in 60 countries, with the aim of creating the world’s fastest learning network of solving development problems. The mission of the network is: “To catalyse positive change by finding and sharing solutions that fit the times we live in, and generating new ideas for the times yet to come.”
D’Cruz explained the structure and function of labs and network, and the very interesting part from design perspective was to hear about what kind of initial tools the labs are provided (Figure 1).
From the point of view of development projects, D’Cruz stated, that the key insight is, that the phase of solutions mapping should be done properly. Before, in many international development projects, this has been neglected, and the knowledge that already exists in the context have not been used efficiently or not at all. D’Cruz emphasized that people who are already working in the contexts where development problems exist, they are very likely already working with the solutions. The way to start is to find out, who have already identified the problem, which different actors are already working on it and then solving, how to bring them together as a network to leverage the expertise they have.
Another problem in international development projects traditionally has been, that projects have a linear approach to the problem. The result is that the learning process is very slow, because usually learning reflection is done at the end of a project, which lasts usually three to five years. So, instead of this, in Lab network, the aim is to design and conduct experiments around portfolios of solutions rather than individual solutions, which enables to learn about what works and what doesn’t – and this will be done in weeks or months instead of several years, so the learning process is much faster than before. The Accelerator Lab cycle is presented in Figure 2.
The presentation and the slides are available below.
For me, as a Service Design student, this event as a whole, was very interesting introduction to systems thinking, societal questions and global challenges. Especially from a service design point of view it really inspired to dig deeper into the topic of how to combine systems thinking and design thinking.
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.