This quote by Tim Brown recently describes the shift in Design Thinking activity with organisations that is happening worldwide. The shift is from the initial concept of product design and fitting that into a stable organisation. Now, service designers are increasingly called to integrate their work within the business itself. In his quote Tim Brown specifically refers to the design of the underlying end to end service. For those seasoned practitioners who have been working in Service Design, this should come as no surprise, as it is becoming an increasing reality in our work.
Is this good? The impact this is having on service designers is less about theoretical discussions about being right or wrong, it is driven by the market demand. And it is being driven by the market because Service Design is maturing into he next stage in its development; it is moving from an innovative and dynamic start-up, to a more accepted mature methodology, slowly becoming integrated into businesses. That in itself is very interesting, as it is another indicator that proves the worth of Service Design through its acceptance by mainstream businesses. So, it perhaps has to be accepted as a positive milestone on the path to providing greater value.
What approach and skills are needed to fulfil this shift? The question has been bounced around conferences and discussion in the last few years, and is being currently tested by those in the thick of the service design workplace. From recent observations with that work that is published and has demonstrates proven success, these are some of the points that are surfacing:
1. Familiarisation with business concepts and skills have to be present when undertaking service design in a business context.
2. Service Design and business transformation skills and methods have to go hand in hand at various points in application of Design Thinking, and the relationship with the client.
3. Design Thinking has specific unique principles and characteristics that are central to its definition, and traditional methods of transformation are mostly not aligned to these principles. Therefore additional transformation disciplines have to become realised through approaches and mindsets like Systems Thinking, Teal, and other modern concepts. This will allow Service Designers to leverage their new approaches into business services efficiently and effectively. In fact, efficiency and effectiveness need to become part of Service Design.
How to do this. These three points do not mean that all service designers have to become proficient in them, but designers will be increasingly co-designing their services in collaboration with like-minded team members who have got that proficiency. They have to work with those who share their principles of working and culture. Service Design agencies are already sourcing those contacts into their work.
The Role of Digital. Lastly and perhaps most striking, is that if Design Thinking has to include truly redesigning services, designers have to be able to wean themselves off the single minded focus on Digital as being the only means by which to achieve transformation. The transformation of services is far more about people, behaviours, purpose, and the workflow, than it is about any one specialisation. Why do I say that Digital might have to be not the only design specialism? Well, I deal with plenty of complexity with some services. This is particularly relevant in the public and health sectors, where as soon as we move away from the most simplistic services, we land right in there middle of complexity. And in service design, complexity is often not the best way to deal with that complexity. In England we have plenty of examples of that. If that is widespread, that will certainly push Design Thinking into wider contexts!
A recent example I saw recently, in a London Borough Council, was a new customer system for helping people walking in. It was for Housing. It went like this;
In the week I was there someone was so shocked by the service they were getting and they were in such a mess, that they took an overdose whilst sitting talking to the housing officer. They were in hospital for two days. And no, they did not have severe mental health issues. That same week, in another housing department in the country, a person set themselves alight in the same situation.
Whoever designed that Digital service has lots to learn about SD