In September 2015, Tim Brown and Roger Martin wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review, about how to use Design Thinking. They explored the idea of how to make great things actually happen, pointing at the move from the thinking mindset to the doing stage as the next level of the thinking approach. A controversial subject is arising - the acceptance of “the designed artifact” by the stakeholders in this kind of creative processes. The artifact as a representation of an experience, a strategy, a product or service.
Most businesses already understand the importance of taking a customer centric approach. This approach isn’t difficult to achieve and it makes perfect sense to discover insights from real people that are using their products and services. Collecting continuous feedback and improving long-term relationships, identifying the constant challenges and opportunities as customers develop with the services are already taken as part of the existing processes. However, this might not be enough if the information collected and the solution created is not well executed.
Many clients question the quality of the creative process outcomes, or even question the understanding of it during process stages. The creative process can sometimes be very abstract, subjective and easily misinterpreted. The problems compound when the outcomes don’t meet the client’s needs and expectations.
In between the abstract, inspiring and motivated starting point of a project, until every concrete outcome of the creative and co-creation process has been achieved, there are potentially big and invisible enemies that can trap the project in a big, deep dark hole. The usage of design thinking broke design out of its speciality (Bruce Nussbaum, 2011). While everyone can be a creative, maybe not everyone can be a designer.
Taking design to the “business level” was very valuable, until now. However by focusing solely on this aspect seems to have encouraged the market to forget, or pay less attention to the importance of other design execution aspects. Aspects such as aesthetics, semantics, interactions and functionality. Aspects that shape and make concrete and enduring relationships, both with clients and end-customers.
Giving permission to fail isn’t an excuse for not giving the best in the first place. Giving permission to fail and improve can’t start with a known problem. Problems that only former designers as specialists could avoid, such as usability problems, signalization, navigation, information hierarchy, consistency, brand identity, among others. Even the most simple prototype can already take advantage of certain design elements to influence, to convert or to guide.
Do you want to find the gaps? The problems? Critical moments and opportunities? Do you want help in creating a more meaningful dialogue with your stakeholders and end-customers? Service design has been shown to facilitate the process of answering these questions. The service design approach also allows the opportunity to get a holistic view of the service ecosystem that previously processes was a big problem. As far projects were advancing in more concrete levels, more difficult was to understand the big picture, wander off the path and end up creating a Frankenstein and very inconsistent services.
However, to make the abstract tangible, it is important to improve the outcomes and the way services and products are delivered. Design, as a whole, is a process that focuses on many aspects as it progresses. Designing is always about transforming the abstract into concrete. It is about taking big ideas and turning them into big inventions. It is about turning great problems into greater solutions. Design, as a discipline, has the power to make the abstract, tangible. The invisible, visible. The not knowing, to knowing.
It is clear that the service design approach is an important “doing” player in this thinking process, adding significantly to business strategy and project control levels. However to consider the entire design process, others competencies of design must strengthen the performance. Taking further important execution matters from concept until the delivery moment.
In 2011, James Garrett developed a diagram that represents the completion of a web project, from conception to concrete. The diagram below is a powerful example that shows how design competencies can contribute immensely to perfect delivery, diminishing assumptions and making the process tangible at each stage.
James Garrett (2011), The Elements of User Experience
While the diagram focuses on certain design disciplines, the process should not be restricted to them. There are very important aspects that the service design mindset brings to the process: the valuable contribution from constantly collaborating with other disciplines, in between the team and the services’ customers and the service ecosystem.
Making each stage more tangible helps the general communication of projects, diminishes assumptions and client expectations, makes outcomes clearer, keeps the goals closer and guarantees a successful delivery. Design has many levels, that range from strategy to execution. Focusing mainly on strategy will help you to achieve the dreamed of business level, but increasing focus on other design competencies will also help you to achieve effective long-term relationships and continual end-customer’s satisfaction.
A version of this blogpost was previously published on uxdesign.cc