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Dave Seliger

The Core77 Design Blog

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Posted by Dave Seliger  |  11 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Civic Service is a program from Parsons' DESIS Lab co-founded by Eduardo Staszowski, Elliott Montgomery, and Core77's Dave Seliger. Civic Service hosts a range of events to encourage interagency collaboration in local government and inspire civil servants to become intrapreneurs within their agencies.

Civic Service is about many things. It's about dedicating your career to serving the public. It's about the innumerable services that a city delivers every day to its residents. And it's about using design to make these services more user-friendly and human-centric. Civil servants are a reflection of the cities they serve—in New York City, we are dreamers, visionaries and creators. We founded Civic Service to empower civil servants with inspiration, tools and a network of like-minded colleagues.

This past weekend, we took an exciting step toward bringing service design as a tool for change to local government. With the help of civil servants from a variety of New York City agencies, we prototyped our first Civic Service Workshop. Four fantastic Parsons Transdiciplinary Design graduate students—Meagan Durlak, Reid Henkel, Mike Varona and Joe Wheeler—carefully led the participating civil servants through the service design process.

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Posted by Dave Seliger  |  26 Nov 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Civic Service, a new initiative from Parsons DESIS Lab, is about creating a culture in local government that supports innovation and design. Since June, Civic Service has brought civil servants together on a regular basis to have safe, open conversations about how to use service design to transform government and hear from inspiring speakers that include Public Policy Lab, Code for America, and the Center for Court Innovation.

On December 6–7, Civic Service is launching their first, free Civic Service Workshop to teach civil servants about the service design process by working through real, local problems. Each Workshop will feature a different NYC agency and different challenge. Applications for the first workshop close Friday, Nov 29th. Help them spread the word to civil servants working in local NYC government!

Posted by Dave Seliger  |  30 Jan 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Over the past weekend, Core77 ventured up to Boston to check out the inaugural edition of the HarvardxDesign conference, a collaboration between the students of the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The conference explored ways to use the principles of design to transform business and education and included both a speaker series and a design challenge. We hit the ground running on Friday night with a series of rapid-fire presentations from the likes of Hunter Tura, CEO of Bruce Mau Design; Paul Pugh, VP of Creative for Software Innovation at frog; and Marco Steinberg, Director of Strategic Design at the Finnish Innovation Fund.

Hunter Tura preached how imperative it is for designers and businesspeople to collaborate as early in the product development process as possible in order to create the most holistically successful results. "The Design School students need to introduce themselves to the Business School students," said Tura, "because these people will one day control the fate of your brand." Tura continued with describing how innovation, certainly the buzz word of the conference, has become like irony. "It's very difficult to define, but you know it when you see it," said Tura, while showing examples of products that have changed stagnant markets. Most importantly, though, innovation is not some stand-alone goal to achieve—"innovation is not something that exists in a vacuum"—but rather something that is dependent on the design process.

Paul Pugh talked about bucking the stereotypes in design in order to find happiness. He put up the typical design thinking process, with steps like Discover, Concept, Refine, and Deliver. "These are really marketing diagrams about how design works," said Pugh. "At frog, we try not to stick to that." The very rigid process of design thinking can be limiting, so teams at frog are allowed to come up with their own processes and ways of working, all in the pursuit of turning a sort of happy chaos into the best end results. Pugh described how software design projects are often regarded as trivial, especially in comparison to social innovation projects. "But look at software design as a humanitarian project," said Pugh, flipping the modality on its head. "People sit in front of screens all day—we can make them happier and make their lives better. Always think about how products can change a person's life."

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Lastly, Marco Steinberg stole the show with a passionate and down-to-earth talk about using design to face the world's biggest problems. "Our challenges are on such a grand scale. Combine that with diminishing resources and now it's about redesign, not just making the systems more efficient," said Steinberg. He described the aging populace in Finland where the tax base is shrinking, yet the need for services is quickly increasing. This seemingly necessitates the need for service designers, yet solely using service designers as the solution "will only make the services more pleasant—we'll just die more pleasantly," but not solve the root of the problem. Government needs to engage all stakeholders into to administer its services better.

During the panel, Steinberg continued to inspire the audience with his stories of struggling to change the culture of government through embedded designers. "The public sector has no history [of design]," said Steinberg. "If we can figure out how to get in, then we're not burdened by any legacy." However, unlike the oft-repeated design thinking maxim of failing early and often, designers in government cannot be allowed to fail since there won't be another opportunity to try again. Steinberg also offered two "sinister" strategies that he uses to effect change more rapidly: the Trojan horse—"we give you what you want, but load it with what you need"—and creep—"do small things, work at the margins, then take bigger and bigger bites." Although we had never heard of Marco Steinberg before today, he is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Saturday started off with a somewhat status-quo yet highly enjoyable lecture on using design to shape business strategy from IDEO's Colin Raney, who proffered Richard Buchanan's Orders of Design as a basis for understanding business design. The Orders of Design start with graphic design, then evolve to products, to interaction design, and finally to system design, which includes businesses, government, education and other organizations. "Business is the platform for design," said Rainey. He then described the steps for integrating the design thinking process into business strategy, which include visualizing the system, looking for areas of potential leverage, and then implementing a series of systemic changes to redefine the system.

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Posted by Dave Seliger  |  29 Jan 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Since its inception in 2008, the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation has become the poster child for internal innovation practices. The Center for Innovation focuses on engaging all of the stakeholders in the healthcare system, from doctors to patients to staff, and introducing the design process as a means of taking healthcare to the next level. We had the chance to sit down with the Center for Innovation's Gerry Greaney and Molly McMahon to talk about how design is reshaping healthcare.

Core77: What is the Center for Innovation?

Gerry Greaney: We're a very interesting and diverse group with backgrounds in design, healthcare, finance, budget management, IT, and we're taking the design thinking and design research approach to try to transform the delivery experience of healthcare.

Have you seen the Center transform, along with the culture and behaviors at the Clinic?

Molly McMahon: Definitely. When we first started, we moved out of this kind of raw space in the back area that wasn't finished and that was also right inside the patient clinic hallway. Our team was split—we didn't have a dedicated space for ourselves. Then last March, we moved into to this new, open space with everyone on the same floor. Space is a [scarce] commodity and really valued at Mayo. If you're given more space, then you're worth something. It shows that the Clinic has made an investment in us as well as through the work that we've been doing.

GG: I think what's happened over the past couple of years is that more and more groups throughout Mayo have engaged with the Center and as they've done that, they've started to really understand what the value is. When you bring something like a design approach into a medical institution, it's very different than the scientific, analytical lab approach that's prominent there. It's hard to understand initially what the value of this is—until you experience it. And then once you go through that, you can see the benefit. And when that happens, more people talk about it. It's about getting a foothold.

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What kinds of attitudes have you seen? When you say, "I do design and innovation," do people balk at that?

MM: I would say it's more of a slight confusion or an 'Explain more,' because as soon as you say the word 'design,' from their perspective, they're looking at it as, "Are you designing the curtains in the room or the bed? What are you trying to design around or change?" From that, I think it's more of a confusion around the term 'service design' and how it fits into how what they're doing and what we're going to provide to their services.

GG: I think there are times when people may wonder why we're needed and we have to show why we are. Maybe we go a little further to do that and to really capture the stories people tell and things we're told by patients and then translate it into something that applies to the work that needs to be done.

So why is the Center for Innovation needed?

GG: I think it's because there's only so much you can do to address the change that needs to happen in healthcare with the approaches that have been tried already. So there are certain things that you can identify through equality efforts, things that have made huge progress in improving efficiency. But there are certain things that you don't see when you look at things that way. By looking very carefully through a patient experience and trying to understand the greater context of health for patients, you start to see some opportunities that you might not see if we were only focused on purely the medical side of things, purely the care aspect.

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Posted by Dave Seliger  |  28 Jan 2013  |  Comments (1)

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Bruce Nussbaum is a luminary in the business and design fields, as well as a professor at Parsons the New School for Design and an occasional contributor here at Core77. A year-and-a-half ago, Bruce famously declared that design thinking was dead. We had the chance to sit down with Bruce and see how his thoughts on design have evolved since then.

Core77: How has your thinking about design thinking changed in the last year-and-a-half? Now you're hearing business professors talk about design thinking as the new thing and a year and half ago you said it was dead!

Bruce Nussbaum: Well, that's what happens when you're there at the beginning of a concept and you live through it, you see it mature, and you believe that it is now a wonderful foundation for something else. Then you come to a place like Harvard where they're sort of discovering design and embracing design thinking. My reaction to that is that it's wonderful because for this situation, for this time, for them it's great that they're understanding the power of design and what design can do, not just in terms of objects, but in terms of relationships, experiences and education. For here, it's great. For those of us who've been inside, we're trying to push the envelope and move forward and Harvard will embrace that too as time goes on.

Does this mean that design thinking is enduring? Or that there's kind of a lag time between these concepts emerging and their adoption down the road?

Yes, well, government is just beginning to adopt design, much less design thinking. But there are institutional lags, cultural lags, there are all kinds of forces at work. There's the force of fad. I remember when design was hot and then not and then innovation was hot and it's kind of peaking now. You can see more and more creativity is moving up that S curve. And creativity is getting hotter and hotter. My book is coming out on "creative intelligence," which will have its moment. To me, they all become scaffolding for other ideas. You're moving down and evolving one's thinking about all of this, whether you call it design, innovation, or creativity. We're all in that same space and trying to do a better job of understanding the phenomenon and the process and most importantly the practice.

When I moved from Business Week to the New School at Parsons, that really changed things for me in terms of my frame and I wanted to be more inclusive. Design is very powerful, it's very particular, and it involves a small number of people. Everyone feels that they're creative and everyone probably can be creative. I just found over the years that when you talk about design, people lean back a little bit and will be a little wary and they'll hear you out. But talk about creativity and they'll start telling you about their kids and they'll talk about how when they were in school they did that. Or they'll talk about their job and you'll tell them, oh, that was very creative. They'll say, Really? And the fact is what they were doing is really creative. So it just brings everybody into the conversation, that's why I went there.

They're still talking about design, design thinking, focusing on user needs or the experience. That's just the tiniest, tiniest bit of what we know in anthropology and sociology about what I consider the most important thing, which is engagement. That's what it's about. How we engage with products, how we engage with services, how we engage in a social way and it's the design of that engagement which is so powerful. And that's what Apple used to do so well. It was that engagement that we had, the meaning we found in that engagement, which they seem to be losing.

CI.jpgBruce Nussbaum's new book will be released in early March

Why do you say that Apple is losing that engagement? What was that shift?

Well, the map thing was a disaster. The latest iteration of iTunes is pretty problematic. Perhaps the most important thing is the promise of things to come. In the book, I talk about aura. I want to bring back aura. And the reason I want to bring back the concept of aura is that it is quintessentially about engagement. Aura is this thing that beckons you, that pulls you in, that you have an engagement with, and that very often is an emotional engagement. I would argue that there is such a thing as simulated aura, that you can in fact create aura, that you can create an engagement with people. I have a friend who just bought an Apple Mini. She loves it! And she looks at the Mini the way prisoners will eat their food, she circles it. If I were to get between her and her Mini, she'd kill me! That's aura, that's passion, that's emotion. That's the power of engagement.

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