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

Posts tagged with “serviceinnovation”...

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

From Designing Services to Design in Services

This post is my first attempt to set down some of my thoughts on the difference between designing a service (or a multi-touchpoint experience that happens over time and involves the participation of user and provider), and the broader role of design in helping service orgnisations set strategy and organise how they manage their workforce and deliver their service to customers.

I think that the two activities are often confused - and with good reason because they are closely connected and most service design projects involve bits of both. However, I think that there are big differences between the two practices that have lots of implications for how we progress the practice, pitch and manage projects and ultimately teach service design to others.

Certainly, its been useful for me to mentally separate the two out over the past few years, and I don't claim to have all the answers here - this is an initial exploration and I very much welcome feedback and thoughts from everyone, either here or on Twitter.

The bare bones of my argument is that:

1 - There is an important difference between 'service design' and 'design-led strategy for services'

2 - Service design, or the design of multi-touchpoint experiences that happen over time and involve the participation of user and provider, is a challenging and seductive idea/practice for art school trained designers. It sounds like a great idea - design more of the experience a the same time and make more money from bigger projects!

3 - Service design requires different skills to other design disciplines, but it is not very far away from most user centred design practice - the biggest difference lies in the ambition of the service designer to design a 'total experience'. The core practice involves:
3.1 - Problem identification and definition
3.2 - Agreement on a Design Process
3.3 - Co-design (and research) activities with users and providers, either in the field or in workshops
3.4 - An iterative approach to experience prototyping through creative design activities that can take in any form of service touchpoint, including:
3.4.1 - Digital touchpoints
3.4.2 - Physical touchpoints
3.4.3 - People (person to person interactions)
3.4.4 - Business processes
3.4.5 - Marketing and proposition development
3.4.6 - Strategies and plans
3.5 - Specification of the final service design concept and the beginning of traditional design management processes in the case of traditional touchpoints

4 - Service design projects like this way are great for creating a unified vision of a total user experience, but they can not be delivered as total experience designs - they must be divided up and delivered as separate elements and thus can never be experienced as 'total experiences' for the customer.

5 - This is because service organisations are not setup to deliver innovative service designs across many touchpoints at the same time. And rightly so - if the whole organisation had to change all at the same time it would create a disastrous user experience.

6 - Instead, most service innovation happens organically across the organisation, and takes the form of small incremental changes that respond to customer demand. The problem is that this type of innovation is very inefficient (different teams responding to the same problem differently) and in turn creates confusing experiences. Which is why service managers commission connected 'service design' type projects to create a unified vision to work towards.

7 - And we're back at the beginning.

8 - Many agencies that have tried to deliver on big multi-channel mega service design projects (like IDEO and Engine) have realised that the challenge is not so much creating the unified vision of a service, but is in figuring out how to help everyone on the organisation to think of themselves as the designer of the organisation's service working towards that vision.

9 - In other words, the challenge is to help everyone appreciate that their service can be designed, and then to equip them with the ability to design it!

10 - Design-led strategy and capability building for service organisations is a more accurate way to describe this 'service design' practice.

11 - It's very different from the type of multi-touchpoint experience design practice described above (although it requires a good understanding of it, and the two types often piggy back off each other during client engagements) but it is closer to practices like 'management consulting', 'training' and 'change management'.

12 - There are various ways which 'design-led thinking' can help people who work in service improve their organisations and design better service experiences:
12.1 - Promoting the idea of an open design process that turns problems into projects
12.2 - Encouraging work in small multi-disciplinary teams
12.3 - Using the user-experience as the ultimate anchor for decision making
12.4 - Involving users in the creative process
12.5 - Visualising and prototyping ideas quickly
12.6 - Incentivising people to tackle the 'wickedest' problems

13 - A lot of these ideas are well articulated by the 'design thinking' community. One of the best ways to describe this kind of activity is to see it as the reversal of design management - from managing a design to managing as a design activity!

14 - These two different practices - service design and design-led strategy for service organisations - both of which are valuable, have very different requirements on the 'service designers' who work in consultancies and in service organisations

15 - In turn, this has deep implications for how service design is taught and how service designers, service design departments and service design studios position and pitch their practice

Clearly, there's more than a blog post in the argument above, and there's lots missing, not least examples examples examples (unfortunatley most of my Engine examples are confidential) and a lot more detail to the latter stages. and indeed the whole thing. However, I think its best to get the prototype out first, however jumbled and see what people think. What do you think? Is it worth separating these two types of activity out? Can practitioners do both? Do you have to do the first before being able to do the second? Hopefully this will lead to more specific posts in the future!
September 14th, 2009 / Tags: servicedesign, serviceinnovation / Trackback / Comments

Innovaro Briefing on Service Innovation

Innovaro, the innovation consulting firm have an in depth (and very, very wordy) monthly newsletter that I enjoy. This month they're focusing on service innovation. From the newsletter:

Service innovation is fast becoming the most interesting and successful area of innovation for businesses. Now accounting for 70% of the aggregate production and employment in OECD nations, service innovation is widely seen as critical for longer-term growth and prosperity. While the economic downturn has hit some parts of the services sector very hard, it is clear that the trend towards service domination in the major economies is here to stay. The ageing population will have a greater need for social and health services; both the obese and the health conscious sections of society will drive an increase in wellness and nutrition services; and the opening up of all levels of education will drive innovation in the provision of teaching and learning.These are just three drivers of growth in the service sector.

Of course this growth in services and service innovation is not just a function of the demand-side trends but also a reflection of the new paradigm of technological advance that allows for new and innovative service developments including location-based services, real-time access to a raft of data sources, and quicker and more powerful communications. So, it is a combination of the consumer demand for more and better services and the ability of the market to provide them through technological progress that has driven this area of innovation. That said, although service innovation is now an important part of top companies' competitive strategies, it is relatively underexplored compared to the attention given over the years to product and process innovation. This is something which we seek to redress in this briefing.

There's lots of depth, including Innovaro's 'Service Innovation Model' (a.k.a a nice diagram.) You can sign up for the newsletter by emailiing your email address to They also have a blog, where I assume they will publish the service innovation briefing at a later date.
December 15th, 2008 / Tags: serviceinnovation, publication / Trackback / Comments

Innovation in services: the role of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM): call for evidence

Link to Royal Society Website "The Royal Society has opened a study on the role of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in services sector innovation. Organisations and individuals are invited to contribute to the study by responding to our call for evidence. Innovation plays an important role in these sectors yet it is widely accepted that traditional innovation models and policies tend to focus on a narrow conception of innovation mainly the support of R&D in manufacturing industries. Other approaches may be required to support innovation in services. Although there is growing recognition of the importance of innovation in services, understanding of the role of STEM in services sector innovation remains poor. To support the development of an evidence-based approach to UK innovation policy, the Royal Society now seeks evidence on the role of STEM in services sector innovation processes. We are interested in these disciplines and any others used alongside or in support of STEM (e.g. social sciences including economics) in innovation processes."
July 1st, 2008 / Tags: serviceinnovation / Trackback / Comments

Taking Services Seriously: New report from NESTA

NESTA has published a research report called 'Taking Services Seriously: How Policy can stimulate 'hidden innovation' in the UK's services economy.' 

From their website: "Services have not yet been properly incorporated into our mechanisms for stimulating and supporting innovation. Even our current methods of measuring innovation often under-represent innovation in services. This is one aspect of what we call ‘hidden innovation’... This report examines how we can help our services firms to become more innovative and more productive. We think that it provides significant new evidence for policymakers and should prompt a new phase in the discussion on innovation in services".

June 1st, 2008 / Tags: publication, servicedesign, serviceinnovation / Trackback / Comments

Very Interesting Online Service Design Tool

"Successful Product Service System (PSS) innovation asks for a strategy that focuses on designing and selling an interconnected system of products and services. Methodology for PSS (MEPSS) helps you to think ‘outside the box’ and actively use visualisation, analysis and stakeholder management in your design process." Lots to examine here... Link
March 25th, 2008 / Tags: designthinking, website, serviceinnovation, servicedesign / Trackback / Comments