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



Posts tagged with “publicservicedesign”...


Designing people-centred policy: how can user centred design help public services?

I've written an article for c&binet called: Designing people-centred policy: how can user centred design help public services?

You can read the article in full on their site, but the thrust of it focuses on the challenges faced by public servants and how design research techniques developed for product design can help overcome some of them.

The piece ends with some observations on the challenges of redesigning public services around the experiences of users:

... Of course, there are huge differences between designing better technology products and better public services, but there are some underlying principles that are remarkably simple and surprisingly disruptive when applied to the challenge of public service design:

Understanding of the user experience comes from ‘deep’ design research techniques. Genuine moments of insight come from an in depth understanding of the unique challenges faced by individuals, which is gained from time spent with people. The currency of ‘experience’ deals with emotions and moments in time that cannot be captured in statistics and trends analysis, and research outputs such as journey maps and ‘day in the life’ stories need to be carefully designed to capture these experiences for use by policy makers and service managers.

The user experience must be the primary source of insight, and the central organising principle of a programme of change. In the case of technology products the ‘user experience’ normally means the points of interface between people and products, in the case of services the user experience normally means the journey a user takes between interface points, as well as the actual touch points they interact with. Understanding and visualising these journeys (actual and ideal), and tying them to the emotional understanding gained from deep research creates a shared, empathetic platform for service re-design.

Users must be involved in (co)designing the solution. A user just telling a researcher about their concerns and worries gets us nowhere (well, it gets us a research report). Design research methods don’t separate research from action – they are one and the same thing, focussed on creating a better experience. This means that users must be directly involved in co-designing the solutions to their problems (and then maybe later maintaining the resulting service design), alongside expert designers who can bring their ideas to life through prototypes.

Designers must be involved to create prototypes. Participatory, user centred design research techniques give us the framework to understand and diagnose the real issues and problems behind users’ experiences of public services. However, in order to act on that framework, to imagine a better situation or system, you need designers who can make things real through developing and iterating prototypes of the solution. We’ve found that this is especially valuable when dealing with intangible design artefacts such as services and experiences. Prototypes bought to life through drawings, mock-ups and models create tangible evidence of progress and change and allow stakeholders to evaluate and improve on options through a hands-on process of iteration.

The research must be tied to a wider product/service development programme. The design research techniques employed by the consumer electronics businesses mentioned earlier are of course tied-in to their wider new product and service development processes. This must also be true of any public service redesign. Outputs from deep user research, co-design sessions with users and the refined service prototypes must be delivered into the parts of an organisation that knows what to do with them. Recommendations for system level changes need to go to policy heads, innovative ideas for new delivery mechanisms must go to the right service managers, and the change must be joined up often through shared communications.

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments over at the c&binet site. Another piece worth checking out is Paul Bennett's Creativity and the rise of optimism.
January 27th, 2009 / Tags: article, publicservicedesign, servicedesign / Trackback / Comments

Cultural Theory as a tool to help frame problems of public service design

Matthew Taylor has been writing some terrific posts over the past few days focused around introducing the idea of Cultural Theory, and applying it to real world situations. Cultural Theory is a simple and transformational idea that throws up some remarkable new ways of looking at big, complex (or wicked) problems.

Geoff Mulgan describes it as "a deceptively simple framework ... used to make sense of organisations and societies. It should be part of the mental furniture of any educated person, like the laws of supply and demand in economics, or the laws of thermodynamics."

So what is Cultural Theory? Geoff again: "Any culture ... can be mapped on two dimensions. On one axis is "grid," the extent to which behaviours and rules are defined and differentiated, for example by public rules deciding who can do what according to their age, race, gender or qualifications. Examples of "high grid" would include a large corporation, or a traditional agrarian society, or families with clear demarcations of roles and times (when to eat, go to bed). On the other axis is "group"—the extent to which people bond with each other, and divide the world into insiders and outsiders. The more people do with a group of other people, the more they experience testing trials, or the more difficult the group is to get into, the stronger this sense of group will be."

This creates a simple business school 101 style grid:

CT1

On the grid we can then start to map various types of worldview that help us think about how different types of cultures, and in turn organisations and individuals, look at the world. Broadly speaking there are four paradigms that emerge:

CT2

As Matthew Taylor explains, "The four paradigms can be understood as theories of change in themselves and as critiques of the other ways of doing things. Indeed, cultural theory argues that each paradigm gains its strength primarily from its critique of the others." So, to elaborate a bit on the foundational principles of each paradigm (apologies to Matthew for so slavishly re-printing his points, but he writes so well there's no point reworking the material):

CT3

Within each paradigm lies a self contained argument for why the other paradigms are fundamentally wrong.

CT4

And within each lies a paradoxical, tragic flaw that undermines the paradigm.

CT5

The really interesting thing about this way of looking at culture is that it provides us with an off balance, high tension way of thinking about competing agendas and arguments in situations where there is no 'right' solution, only better or worse outcomes for different groups (sometimes referred to as Wicked Problems within the design community.)

As Geoff explains "How should [we] use these insights? They cannot be translated into one precise method to be applied to any situation. Indeed, these insights are warnings against relying on any one set of tools to deal with such complex things as human society. But they are very useful when thinking about any given strategy to change the world. Bluntly, if it doesn’t contain some room for all of the cultural frames, then it will likely fail. For example, public service reforms based only on incentives are as doomed to failure as strategies to cut anti-social behaviour that rely only on coercion."

Cultural Theory is thus a tool to be used when tackling problems, more than a theory to explain a situation, and this is the appeal for me as a service designer - I'm always looking for ways to frame the often complex and contradictory problems I come across during my work, and Cultural Theory is an inspiring, thought provoking method of viewing these issues. I'm looking forward to reading more about it...
January 15th, 2009 / Tags: publicservicedesign, cultural theory / Trackback / Comments

I am Public Service

Lauren points us to the I am Public Service Website.

"Do you perform a public service in your job, in your free time as a volunteer, or in any other capacity? If so, we would like to hear your story. Tell us your story and let’s inspire our nation through your spirit of service"

What a good idea. Here's a short video they've made:


I Am Public Service from govloop.com on Vimeo.
January 5th, 2009 / Tags: publicservicedesign / Trackback / Comments