What are the future developments in design thinking inspired service & business design?
The days of Customer Service are thankfully rapidly vanishing into the realms of historical technique. The forced smiles of staff and burdenesome complaint systems - now that we have something far better to replace it with - the 1980's are finally on their way out.
Customer focus is tired and ineffective
What is undeniable today is that Design Thinking principles are creating a new impetus in the world of innovation. Rather than being led by a central lead organisation or agency, what is interesting is that this trend is fed by a seemingly emergent experience of what works. It allows real practitioners to beat a path that works - a true bottom up emergent creation.
Design Thinking is well entrenched with digital, and in fact service design agencies are predominately rooted in Digital. This is due to the fact that digital design and design principles have met in a way that matches the dynamic culture spawned from the new internet age. This meeting of digital and design has taken a life of its own, and spearheads the trend today.
The more recent developments in this trend have taken Service Design forward, through the complexity of truly engaging with the customer - to bring the organisation a permanent and direct link with the customer through the Service Design team.
And what will happen tomorrow?
If we look today at Service and Business Design activities - what can we see that is the ongoing push into new territory? Where is the market pull, what are the conference discussions proposing, and who are agencies hiring? There appears to be a renewed interest in Teal organisations - stripping the hierarchy as though it were the root of all evil! The search for an 'enlightened' organisation design is on.
When Digital is a barrier
One of the key characteristics of the success of Design Thinking inspired work is that it is innovative. This innovation has been driven by digital. But what happens when digital restricts our innovation approach? Can we assume that all Service Design will always be digital? No, of course not. Much of what happens in organisations is complex - wicked issues. We are familiar with complexity
The evidence of what works and the best solutions in complex situations is that sometimes digital is able to be the enabler for variation in service and offer personalised responses. But the evidence has also shown that demands and communication with an organisation is best served by having a dialogue. The best method of having dialogue - if it is complex, is a person. And to get a personal dialogue, digital is not helpful as the method - but it could provide the medium for that communication.
In the public sector much of the resource used by local government goes towards dealing with a small percentage of the population. And they are often complex issues, or those people are facing complex issues in their private lives. Evidence has found that digital solutions in these cases are at best a hindrance to effective service, or they prevent people from approaching the organisation for help.
Service Design for the workflows
Digital is only one part of an organisation, so lets park digital for a moment. Lets look at the whole organisation. If we look at applying Service Design, not to the products and services of that organisation, but to the actual workflows within the organisation, then what happens?
Applying Service Design to the workflows is about taking what matters to the customer and redefining the design of what the front line and managers actually do and behave to that customer. The Design Thinking principles become incorporated into the DNA of the organisation. There is a shift in the hierarchical control through procedures and policies, to one of focussing on the customer needs directly. The result is an organisation that is designed around the customer. No translation through anything is needed. Its like talking to someone who can just do what you as a customer need them to do.
This approach, which incorporates Systems Thinking and Lean, is currently developing with a national insurer and a major bank in the UK. And it has been adopted in a few public sector services. It requires that a team set up an alternative approach as a prototype, and trial the workflow.
- The workflow is stripped of what it does not need. - The staff are driven by the customers needs. - The managers develop empowered teams where operational decision-making is delegated. - The mindset drives a new culture. - Agility is key.
The results are a transformation in what has gone on before - both in terms of outcomes service and business results.
Whats in next?
Design Thinking approaches are not just Digital or technology. They are primarily innovative and person centric. So, the most appropriate solution may be human.
The expansion of methodologies that enhance the innovative reach of Design Thinking is continuing at a pace. And the great thing is that it is developing based on empirical evidence and what works - rather than what a group of learned people think. Many approaches in the past have stumbled and failed, only because they became codified, measured, defined, and audited. Lean, TQM, OD, to name a few, have all fallen foul of this standardisation. It is in keeping Design Thinking free to develop that is its key to effective growth.