Choosenick. Notes and observations on service design, as well as other interesting things/thinking. By Nick Marsh.

Archive of March 2010

The silent majority: How design thinking can help all service designers find their voice

This article originally appeared in The Guardian on 13th March 2010 entitled 'In celebration of 'silent designers'.'

To stay ahead in the world of commerce, or stay relevant in the world of government, 21st-century managers know they need to keep a connected supply of innovative ideas flowing at every level of their enterprise. In product-focused organisations, innovation management is relatively simple. It generally happens in dedicated research and development teams. Managing innovation in service organisations is more slippery, because the important innovation that creates real value is found all over the place — at all the different points where employees interact with customers, users and internal stakeholders.

Think about a social worker repeatedly visiting a foster child, or a private banker constantly discussing investment opportunities with clients. Over time, the service provided is adapted to fit the changing needs of that child, or that investor, and the improving skills of the social worker or banker.

This type of incremental innovation is equally applicable to mass services, such as call centre support, or internal services, such as IT provision within a business, and it explains why the quality of a company's service innovation is broadly connected to the quality of its staff.

This means that, to an extent, everyone working in a service organisation can be said to be responsible for research and development and at least partly responsible for the design of the organisation's services — even though most of them would not ever think of themselves as designers. In a 1987 research paper, Peter Gorb and Angela Dumas of the London Business School described these people as silent designers.

Cartoon from the fab Tom Fishburne

Through my work with many different types of service organisations, I have found that these silent designers frequently find it difficult to act on their ideas. It can be hard to connect their ideas to parts of the service beyond their everyday roles and responsibilities. A powerful solution to this challenge is to introduce them to the fundamentals behind design practice – and to tie these approaches into how they work on improving their service.

These design-led methods that can be useful within the intangible world of services include techniques to creatively explore ideas through customer or user research; visualisation methods that designers use to express ideas; and quick, low-risk prototypes that help them learn about the best way forward through hands-on experimentation.

For managers, this means encouraging everyone in the service organisation to think like designers, and to blend this with their specific experience and skills to make them more confident in exploring, expressing and exploiting ideas.

In other words, design thinking can help silent designers find their voices, as a voice coach might. The singing part, however, is quite a different matter.
March 13th, 2010 / Tags: servicedesign, designthinking, serviceinnovation, article / Trackback / Comments

Going mainstream: The Guardian Service Design supplement now online

The Guardian service design supplement is now online. There's loads to explore, including my article on 'silent designers'. (I'll repost this here later too!)
March 13th, 2010 / Tags: servicedesign, designthinking, publicservices, serviceinnovation, article / Trackback / Comments

A brief guide to Service Design with Paul Thurston

An abridged version of the ‘Brief Guide to Service Design’ presentation that I gave with Paul Thurston from Thinkpublic is now online. This version is focused on connecting service design practice with UX practice (it was created for the guys at UX Brighton).

If you run an event and would like to discuss how a presentation similar to ‘A Brief Guide To Service Design’ could be tailored to your audience please get in touch.

March 6th, 2010 / Tags: presentation, servicedesign / Trackback / Comments update - A month of service design events!

As some of you may know, this year we launched a revamped website to collect together the various and varied global service design drinks, thinks, talks and other events that have sprung up around the world, in part inspired by the original Service Design Christmas Drinks here in London two years ago.

Interest in putting on service design events around the world has grown and grown (we're adding a city a week at the moment), which is great news for all of us as it means more and more people are interested in talking about service design, which means they must be interested in doing more service design - which hopefully means better services for everyone. Which is good.

As a case in point, in the second half of march, if you have very deep pockets, you could go to a service design event almost every other day!


So, if you are in Sydney, Amsterdam, Cologne, London or San Francisco in March, and you're interested in meeting up with other people interested in exploring and understanding the role that design can play in improving services and service experiences, get on the site, and get in touch!
March 6th, 2010 / Tags: servicedesign, event / Trackback / Comments

Service Design Thinks 3 - Service Design from Scratch

The next Service Design Thinks is here! We've had fantastic feedback and support for the previous events, and I'm really excited about this event, which will be all about 'service design from scratch'.

Getting new services off the ground, as startups or as new offerings within existing organisations is a huge part of service design practice, and we've got a range of speakers with lots of experience of doing just that.

As with the previous events, we're trying to expand perspectives on what constitutes service design by bringing in voices from outside the design world. Of course we're not excluding design-led service designers (Sophia and Katie are flying the design-led flag this time), but we are trying to push everyone's understanding of how services are designed by all manner of people, in all manner of ways.

In addition, we're changing the format a bit this time - hopefully we'll have a fun case study from a local service entrepreneur, and we plan to do the Q&A session more like a panel at the end of the event, in order to cross pollinate the ideas and get the conversation going between presenters.

Tickets are available from the 10th on the eventbrite page, I hope to see you there!

Below is the text that went out to our email subscribers yesterday.


Please join us for three talks and one big conversation exploring what it takes to get new services going from scratch. Our diverse panel of speakers will share their experiences of founding, funding, managing, growing and designing service organisations and teams.

They’ll explore questions like:

  • What makes a new service business attractive to investors?
  • What kind of people, processes and propositions make a new service more likely to succeed?
  • What does it take to grow a new offering inside an existing service organisation?
  • What can’t you plan for?

We'll hear from:

the entrepreneur Dr James Munro, Patient Opinion
This is our NHS. Let’s make it better: Dr Munro will share his story of growing a social enterprise from scratch, and outline the lessons that all service designers can learn from Patient Opinion’s experiences.

the investor Zaeem Maqsood, First Capital
You’re funded! Zaeem will share his unique experiences of designing venture capital investment services, and explore what makes a startup service investable.

the intrapreneurs Sophia Parker and Katie Harris, The Resolution Foundation and Esro
Innovating social innovation: Sophia and Katie will share their story of starting up The Social Innovation Lab for Kent with Engine Service Design and Kent County Council

The fantastic Sense Loft venue is kindly provided by Sense Worldwide and drinks will be provided from the lovely people at Radarstation

Entry is free, but you must have a ticket. Tickets are available from the Eventbrite page from noon on the 10th of March. Hope to see you there!

March 6th, 2010 / Tags: servicedesign, designthinking, event / Trackback / Comments