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

Posts tagged with “designthinking”...

Service design is Dead. The New Product is Alive.

So, I changed my job title a few months ago. I dropped the ’service’ bit. I’m now just Sidekick’s Design Director. I’m now MASSIVELY EXCITED about a new thing – designing products.

But not your old products. No, I’m excited about designing a new type of evolving, networked product that requires a multi-disciplinary team just to keep it alive, let alone make it awesome. I’m calling this the New Product. Let me explain.

Service design is dead

Ok, it’s not that I think service design is dead, its just that its pretty much used up its interest for me, and I think for Sidekick. There’s two reasons for this I think. One interesting, the other less so.

First, the uninteresting bit. The problem with service design is not the practice as such, but more the way its practised. I’ve basically become a bit bored with the way in which the service design community is constantly trying to legitimise and define the central-vital-most-important-ultimate-more-strategic-than-whatever-you-do role of design in innovating and managing services. I’ve been guilty of doing this a bit in the past. Sorry about that.

Its quite an isolating view, and not very helpful for actually making change happen, and creating new cool stuff.

Second, the interesting bit. The flipside to this is that I’ve become really interested in the actual role of design in bringing new stuff to market, and creating useful things that people want (in particular digital services that solve social problems, which is what we do at Sidekick). Really importantly, I’m getting a good sense of how design fits in the mix with other disciplines in doing this, in particular technical skills, marketing skills and financial skills.

Probably this is just me getting older and more experienced, but I think its also a bit that I’m reaping the rewards of moving away from strategic consulting, and towards making and inventing new things.

As part of this shift I’ve come to the conclusion that organising the invention and making process around products is a really good way to get focused on creating good work – and ironically can help solve strategic questions along the way. Let me explain.

The New Product is alive

Everywhere I look, but basically on the web, the people I am inspired by are talking about products – product incubation, product design, product management. But this is a New type of Product, born and growing up on the web. When people talk about the New Product they’re generally describing businesses that provide a mix of content, service and experience. But the way they make that tangible is by focusing on product.

The UKs most important online property, the BBC, recently reorganised its entire online strategy around the idea of products. Writing about the change, Eric Huggers, the digital boss, says:

“The product management role [is] ‘a multi-disciplined person who operates at the intersection of technology, design and editorial and is able to bring all of these elements together’ to deliver products whose lifecycle is managed. We’ll no longer build websites which are published and which sit unattended and slowly degrade; products will be managed.”

Jack Dorsey, probably my biggest crush on the internet, and wearer of great suits, head of product for Twitter and Square (and CEO to boot) says (in an awesome video) “So, my point here is, this company is not going to be known by one person or by five people or by multiple people. It’s going to be known by the product that we put out… Support and feedback is what our customers are telling us. Product is what we are telling our customers.”

Finally, Denis Crowley, founder of Foursquare, says “I’ve always looked up to the people who went from being unemployed to doing interesting things with product.” Doing things with product. I love the active sense of this sentence. Doing things. Sounds like designing and making to me!

The New Product design is the new rave

When big, established and admired properties like the BBC, and small, ambitious, and equally admired startups like Square are talking about the same thing, its worth listening. Essentially, these businesses are using the idea of ‘product’ as a way to coordinate their digital service development activities across engineering, design, marketing and even organisational management.

The interesting thing here is that the role that sits at the heart of all of this, the product manager/designer, really sounds a lot like the stuff I’m interested in, some of which I was calling service design. In this world good product managers/designers focus relentlessly on user experiences, have a clear vision for where they want that experience to evolve to, they get that from close liaison with customers and users, they are able to translate this into briefs for technical, marketing and interface design teams – and they can wrap all of it up and sell it in to management.

Above all, they know where their product begins and ends – at the point of use. They are the ‘bring it all together’ people, but in a real, hands-on way. Because what they bring it all together into is a real, live product you can experience and use right now, just by connecting to the web. Right now. Go to, and

At Sidekick we’re embracing the new product design and management wholeheartedly. And since we’ve done that (and ditched service design!), our business has really taken off. All our current projects (bar one small research piece) have the idea of creating a ‘product’ at their heart. And once we’ve created product, we’re starting to get really good at managing it. Watch this space for big news on Buddy, our most developed product. We’ll be launching a client product in September, and there’s lots more to come over the next six months.

We’re doing a lot more at Sidekick – not least we’re really starting to nail a lot of the process stuff behind the business aspects of social innovation (but that’s another post/book) – but the thing I am getting most excited about is our products. They are the place where it all comes together. The place where you can touch, use and experience everything we’re learning about how design, technology and business can change the way social innovation happens.

All we have to do now is ship. Which we will, because we have to.
July 1st, 2011 / Tags: design, servicedesign, designthinking, innovation, productdesign / Trackback / Comments

Service Design Thinks 2 - Videos and reflections on service design at scale

On the 29th of November 2009 a bunch of interesting people got together in the lovely Sense Loft to listen to talks and start conversations around the topic of Service Design at Scale.

We had three really different presentations from really different types of service designers. As with other events we had a mix of design-led people (in this case Julia) and some service designers who don't really identify their work with design practice (Steven and James).

We started with a bit of an intro around why we'd chosen the 'scale' theme. You can click through the slideshow below:

Following on from this, Steven Baker got up to tell us about his experiences of designing the wildly successful M-Pesa mobile banking service for Vodafone/Safaricom whilst working at Sagentia. It's a fascinating tale with some great insights into designing services with mass appeal.

The main message is around simplicity, and I love the elegance of the design, in particular the approach to customer acquisition - if someone sends you M-Pesa (mobile money) and you are not a member, in order to get the cash you need to go to an M-Pesa vendor with your mobile and your national ID card, which are the two things you need to sign up. Ace.

Following on from this, Julia Schaeper took the stand to tell us about her experiences as an Associate at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement. The NHS is a huge organisation (the 3rd largest employer in the world), and Julia is one of just a handful of people within it who is pushing design-led approaches to innovation.

In this presentation she shares her tips for amplifying the service design message and building support across different teams and practices through the design of processes, products and programmes:

Finally, James Gardner, previously head of Innovation at Lloyds Banking Group and now Chief Technology Officer at the Department for Work and Pensions gave us a presentation on his experience of creating an internal 'innovation market'.

The basic idea behind the market was to connect ideas for service innovation from the 'front line' of Lloyd's huge organisation to capital and capacity at the centre. In this presentation James shares some of the successes and failures of the market's design and operation:

All in all, a great evening with lots of inspiring stories. My thanks to all the speakers and to everyone who came along! If all this sounds like your sort of thing, please join our mailing list, and come along to the next service design drinks and have a chat!
May 1st, 2010 / Tags: servicedesign, designthinking, event / Trackback / Comments

Service Design Think 3 - Videos and reflections on designing services from scratch

On 30th of March a wide range of super interesting people got together at the fantastic sense loft to listen to three really different stories about designing services from scratch. (And to drink beer courtesy of Radarstation. Thanks guys!)

This was the third service design thinks event we've run, and to my mind it was the best yet. We introduced two new features, a case study and a panel Q&A format which hopefully added some more layers to the conversation.

I've embedded the videos from the talks below (All the talks are available separately for linking to on our Vimeo channel), with a few notes on some of the emergent themes at the end.

As with other service design thinks events, we're trying to find a balance between showcasing design-led approaches to service design alongside other methods.

In essence, this means asking interesting people, who don't have a background in design, to share their experiences of founding, running, managing and innovating services.

However, in the spirit of service design drinks, which is much more about design-led service design people getting together to share ideas and experiences, we also want to showcase remarkable design-led stories too.

So, at this event we showcased two non-design approaches, one very design-led approach and a case study that used designerly observational methods to understand a small service entrepreneurs approach. I've embedded the videos in the order in which they presented below, and then written up some of my own notes at the end - as always, your comments and tweets are very welcome!

If all this sounds like your sort of thing, please join our mailing list, and come along to the next service design drinks.

First up we had James Munro from Patient Opinion talk about his experience of getting the Patient Opinion service off the ground. James, along with Patient Opinion's founder Paul (who's featured in the panel discussion below), both come from a clinical background, and they used their deep experience of the NHS and their training as doctors to help guide and inform the design of the patient opinion service over time:

Secondly, Jaimes Nel, one of the co-organisers of Service Design Drinks / Thinks and head of research at Live|Work presented a short case study that told the story of Grace at St Pauls, a small, independent coffee shop in central London very near Lauren Tan's house (the other co-oganiser). Jaimes pulled out lots of lovely insights into how the owner of the coffee shop has designed his service and business, and concluded with a challenge to the service designers in the room - how do we make our practice relevant to service entrepreneurs operating at such small scale?

Thirdly, Sophia Parker of the Resolution Foundation and Katie Harris of Esro spoke about their experiences of setting up and running the Social Innovation Lab for Kent in partnership with Engine Service Design and Kent county Council. This was a very 'service designy' service design project - a design led initiative to design a service that helps other people (KCC employees and partners) design better services using design-led methods. Phew!

Fourthly, Zaeem Maqsood, Vice President at First Capital explored and explained what makes start up services investable. Zaeem has unique insight into this area - he's an investor and investment advisor, along with being an entrepreneur himself. His talk focussed on a service he designed for entrepreneurs and investors called 'The Gauntlet', which took the very ad-hoc, face to face venture capital pitching process and made it into a simple online tool. Part way through he also gets very candid about the failings of VC and VCs. Well worth watching!

Finally, the presenters sat down as a panel and answered questions about their work and their thoughts on designing services from scratch.

Some of the themes and challenges about the role that design-led/design thinking type service design practice can play in help services get going form scratch that I pulled out at the start of the panel included:

  • The role of planning - a lot of service design practice is about planning, but when you are starting up, most people talk about the need to be agile and change plans quickly.
  • Sector specific knowledge - service design is generally sector agnostic, and deliberately 'naive' - 'we just focus on the customer', and yet successful startup services tend to rely on having experienced, knowledgeable individuals who really understand say, health care, or coffee.
  • Personal risk - service designers working in agencies don't have any 'skin in the game', yet taking a personal risk seems to be an important part of making a start up successful.
  • It doesn't stop - service designers, like all designers, like designing things - documentation, specifications, deliverables etc. But when you are running a new service business it just doesn't stop! There is no deliverable or design really, just the effective operation and growth of the organisation.

So, lots to think about, and lots to talk about! The panel address these, and other questions in the video below:

All in all, a great event I think! We're already planning the next one, but in the meantime do please share your comments here, or come along to the next service design drinks and have a chat!
April 11th, 2010 / Tags: servicedesign, designthinking, event / Trackback / Comments

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

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

Big public service design ideas I'm big excited about right now

A complete blogging meltdown over the past few months. Hectic at work, and busy elsewhere with a range of plans and initiatives, not least the new site (I know, I know its not done). Anyway, thought I'd throw up a quick post about some of the big ideas that I've been getting big excited about recently, and that are finding their way into proposals and projectsI'm working on, or want to work on! They might seem a bit disjointed as I've copied bits from various email correspondence.

These ideas are generally bigger than 'service design' or design-led strategy for service organisations, but I hope they're exciting for anyone working on bringing design and design thinking to public sector innovation and reform. So, here they are:

Mutualising and atomising the public sector
Philip Blonds thesis, The Ownership State is one of the most interesting big ideas around at the moment. Read the report here.

Essentially he suggesting that any part of the public sector should be allowed to mutualise. I love the simplicity of the idea, but I'm sure there's an enormous sea of complexity to navigate to get there.

My dad has actually been working with some social workers in Kent to help setup employee owned 'social work practices' along the lines of GP practices, and he told me the biggest hurdle they're currently facing is pensions - just one example of the amazingly tangled, interconnectedness of public sector reform.

Treating public funds as social venture capital funds
Lee Bryant at Headshift has a fantastic idea (or at least he's fantastically eloquent at explaining it) to treat public sector IT budgets as venture capital funds - that is that they should expect a (social) return on investment, invest small amounts and scale up when they see success, and invest in entrepreneurs not companies.

This is in marked contrast to how IT budgets are currently spent, which is generally to contract out huge, highly specified projects to an elite group of very large companies. You can watch him explain it better than me here. (scroll down through the videos)

It seems to me that this model could work way beyond IT and would be a great way to conceptualise the role of the shrunken centre in Blond's ownership state model - Ministers and senior civil servants then become investment managers, responsible for nurturing social entrepreneurs by encouraging innovators to come to them in order to apply for funding. They then get rewarded for growing their investment portfolio, and each portfolio (aka ministry) could have a different investment focus (e.g security, health, etc). This would be in marked contrast to current managerial approaches.

Design as the bridge between innovative ideas and action
Engaging users in service design is hard. Blond says in his pamphlet, 'while engaging service users in new ways has long been considered desirable, it has proven extremely difficult to realise in practice'.

As many readers of this blog know, (many readers, hmm…) my work (and interests) focuses on bringing the tools and practices of designers and design organisations into the context of services.

I've found that many of the approaches used by designers to create new products (in particular interactive products) can be abstracted and easily translated into the context of services - examples include; the idea of user centred design and user research; the focus on the user experience of a design for evaluating success; the emphasis on small multi-disciplinary teams; the focus on turning problems into projects and rewarding/recognising people who work on the toughest projects; the focus on 'building to think' by creating prototypes of solutions and experiences and iterating them with users; and the idea of a 'design process' to guide a journey into the unknown - I could go on (and have done many times before!)

Roger Martin at the Rotman School of Management has a good paper of his that sums up the design thinking movement quite nicely (albeit very sales-y).

Hyperlocal media as a service for users and communities
Finally, I'm getting more and more fascinated by the power of hyperlocal media to connect and empower geographic community groups, and not just communities of practice. It seems to me that a good understanding of the role of media as a service to users (not a broadcast tool for organisations) is going to be vital to connecting together the various bits of the ownership state, connecting those bits into communities, and providing the low cost channels for service users to assert their ownership of the new public sector.

My local blog - 'Brockley Central' - is a great resource and hub for local people to raise issues, discuss local projects and initiatives and connect with other people in the community. I love it.

William Perrin is setting up a social enterprise funded by 4iP called 'talk about local' that is trying to connect together policy and people in this area. There's a good overview on his website (second video down)

So, they're the big ideas I'm big excited about, lots of other people are too, and I'm looking forward to 2010 when we can start smashing them together through projects and events! If you have any other big ideas that I should be big excited about, please tweet or put some links in the comments.
December 2nd, 2009 / Tags: servicedesign, designthinking, publicservices / Trackback / Comments

Why is service design so heterogenous? And does it matter?

The practice of service design is seemingly pretty hard to define. Many different people have spent a long time trying to develop a working definition. (Indeed, as James pointed out to us at work this week the latest edition of Touchpoint spends a lot of time just trying to convince us/itself that service design is a real thing.)

Whilst efforts to define service design are to be applauded it always feels to me that they fall short on some aspect or another - either because they're too big and try to cram everything in, or because they're too small and personal.

At the same time, despite the differences of opinion about what service design is, more and more people are getting on with it and practicing service design. I'm starting to feel like an old hand to be honest. As a consequence of this, the implicit and explicit methods used by designers practicing service design are starting to be pretty well understood and documented.

So, if we're all busy service designing, why is it so hard to settle on a definition of what we're doing? I think, in part it's because we're asking the wrong question. Instead of asking 'what is the definition of service design?' we should be looking at ourselves and saying 'why are there so many different definitions and descriptions of service design that do work?!' In other words, why is service design so heterogenous?

I've put some thoughts below, and I'd love to get your feedback in the comments or on Twitter.

Framing the question

In his (excellent) book, From Products to Services, Laurie Young provides a useful matrix developed by Johnston and Clark that helps us to get a sense of the wide spectrum of what constitutes a service.

The matrix plots the number of buyers of the service processed by a typical unit per day against the amount of contact time, customisation and uniqueness provided per buyer/transaction. I've recreated the illustration below:

The difference between the services offered by service providers at different points on the spectrum is huge. At the top left of the diagram are completely bespoke, very low volume, very high margin professional services such as strategy consultancy and investment banking. At the bottom right are 'mass services' provided at huge scale with very tight margins and often driven by technology such as fast food restaurant services or a web service. The margins, approach to market, types of people employed and relationships with customers vary enormously between these two extremes of 'service'.

There is a natural tendency for firms at both ends of the spectrum to move towards the middle of the matrix.

As professional service firms become more experienced and meet similar problems several times the solutions become more standardised, are given names and provided as 'products' on a bigger scale. Young calls these 'professional service shops'. At this point other suppliers come in to provide the offer and eventually the approach can become commonplace and can be captured in software, trained in academies and eventually undertaken by clients themselves.

At the other end of the scale, mass service firms are always trying to differentiate their commodity offers by providing customers with better experiences, more flexibility and customisation (at scale) which allows them to increase prices without increasing costs, thus boosting margin. This is often done through leveraging data and technology.

So what?

Buried in here, I think, is the reason that service design is so heterogenous, and within that answer to the paradox of service design being hard to define, yet the practice of service design being pretty well understood.

Looking again at the matrix, where do we put the service of providing service design consultancy? It's in the top left - a professional service that is very bespoke and customised to suit the needs of clients down to the very last detail. I know this because I've pitched, won and run many service design projects, and every single one has been different, has involved large amounts of client contact and is always adjusted to suit the changing needs of the client as the project progresses.

On the other hand, looking again at the matrix, where do we put the majority of the services designed by service design consultancies? They're in the bottom right.

Most service design projects I've worked on are for large service providers looking to differentiate and improve a mass service offering. There are of course lots of exceptions to this rule. Many projects undertaken at Engine are about helping our clients improve their own internal service innovation capacity - a top left service to design a top left service!

Anyway, I'm wandering off track. The point is that the service of service design itself is a highly bespoke, high margin, capability and experience focussed offer, that is constantly being tuned to suit the needs of the client. Richard K. Lyons, head of innovation at Goldman Sachs (a very, very top left service provider), talks about service innovation in professional services being 'fluid and continuous' and largely built upon lots of small micro interactions with a client/customer that over time leads to significant and very distinct knowledge about that customer's needs, and a lot of small discreet innovations to support those needs.

I think this explains why its hard to say exactly what service design is - because as far as I'm concerned, when I'm trying to win a piece of new business, service design is simply the solution to a clients problem, and when I'm running a project and managing a client I'll do (design) whatever I think is the right thing to keep them happy! Thus, the heterogeneity we see in service design is actually just a symptom of the heterogeneity we see in people who are clients for service design, and our need to constantly tune our offer to suit their specific requirements.

Perhaps this is a very particular view of service design, one bought about by the fact that the projects we do at Engine are generally 'strategic' in nature, in that they often focus on the big picture and are generally about creating big plans (although we do design touch points and service specifications too).

There are other consultancies out there that have a more focused definition of what service design is, but that's because they have a more focussed definition of who their customers are - for example mobile service design company Fjord.

What next?

Over time, I fully expect some parts of the service design offer to become more commoditised, and move down the spectrum towards the 'professional service shop' point. Some obvious candidates include multi-channel customer experience auditing and journey mapping and the development of on brand customer service behaviours.

Nonetheless, I also expect service designers who are interested in tackling the biggest, wickedest most complex problems will continue to innovate their offerings to clients, and therefore continue to outpace our ability to actually pin down what they're doing in a simple definition. Promising fields here include transformation design (as I see it a kind of internal organisational / change management design discipline) and designing for behaviour change across all design disciplines.

In the end, I don't think we should be surprised to see a lot of heterogeneity in service design. Heterogeneity is a strength, not a weakness - it allows service design agencies (and service designers) to constantly reframe their offer, adapt quickly to the market and tackle the most interesting, most complex challenges. Pinning all of that into a simple definition seems rather silly really.

What do you think? Does this fit with your experiences of designing services? Let me know here or on Twitter!
May 9th, 2009 / Tags: servicedesign, designthinking / Trackback / Comments

Two non-design service design books every service designer should read

Inspired by Jeff's recent post on the best books in the service design library, I thought I'd share these two - New Service Development and Innovation in the New Economy and From Products to Services: Insights and experiences from companies which have embraced the service economy.

Both these books are written by 'non-designer' service designers and both are essential reading for 'design led' service designers. They provide whistle stop tours of 'the other' side to service design - i.e the side that's not full of designers and marketers going on about user-centred-experience-design-touchpoints-over-time-etc.

Laurie Young's book, From products to Services, is clearly and concisely written and gives a wide overview of the workings of service focussed businesses. It's not the most exciting read, but what it lacks in sensationalism it makes up for in sensible, clear ideas. This is not a one hit wonder business book full of anecdotes - instead its a practical how-to guide for delivering change within service businesses (or businesses that are getting into services).

It sets out in plain language many of principles and practices around the internal workings of service organisations that design schools just don't teach you about. HR, operations, service marketing and the important differences between service business units and other business functions. Illustrated with lots of case studies and many useful diagrams, this is the best business book I've read in ages, and definitely the most directly useful to my practice - unlike many trendier pop business books, which tend to be more generally inspirational and have made their only real point by the end of the first chapter. Readable and relevant.

Edvardsson et al's book is tougher going than Laurie Young's. But, despite the donnish language and dense copy its a great tour de force of the wide range of new service development techniques employed by companies, with a particular focus on how the digital economy has changed the economics of service. The authors introduce lots of design management and new product development concepts that most designers will be unaware of, and then start exploring how their application to the design of services changes their structure and features. Again, lots of case studies and engaging powerpoint style diagrams give you something to latch on to - my copy bristles with post-its and I've referred to it many times during projects.

Both books are practical, clear, and provide lots of ideas that you don't hear about in the design studio - get 'em now!
March 4th, 2009 / Tags: servicedesign, publication, designthinking / Trackback / Comments

Simple, visual, business model design tool

Alex Osterwalder has posted an article, focused around a Master's Thesis defense, that looks at the digitisation of his business model design practice. At the core of his business model design thinking is this 'Business Model Ontology' diagram that is used to describe the underlying flows of value within a business model:

Business Model Ontology

Understanding, visualising and then being creative with the business model behind a service design is often vital if you're working on anything more than just enhancements to a customer experience. Alex's model provides a simple template to easily get stuck in to thinking about, in a visual fashion, the underlying business factors behind a design. Very useful.

Check out his blog for more thoughts on the model.
January 19th, 2009 / Tags: business, designthinking / Trackback / Comments
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