Market shockwaves are all around. The exchange place has never been so liquid and vulnerable. In this scenario, intuition gains momentum when compared to the sciences because everybody knows that to act instantly one needs to learn how to let instincts take over.
The temple of the technological wonders that used to be called R&D opens space for the search of a new construction mechanism, more human, collaborative, and decentralized inside organizations.
Call this what you may, a New Design, Design Thinking, it doesn't matter... The only approach fit to deliver such a human and business balance to these companies is Design.
And don't be fooled. I'm writing from Brazil and the winds of change that bring these shockwaves, have already swept through our shores as well, it started long ago, and culminated yesterday at the historical 16th of June night, when hundreds of thousands of people took the streets and the congress, to protest against corruption, lack of public services infrastructure, and an forthcoming World Cup that is causing the government to deviate money that should be used to improve health, education and other basic services.
But the implementation of a culture that allows companies and governments to adopt a Design—like mindset isn't child's play. Neither can it be done overnight. Since I've started Livework in Brazil, I've been involved in projects directed towards the implementation of a culture of innovation through the lens of Design in several organizations, among them Itau, the biggest bank of the southern hemisphere, Bradesco, its biggest competitor, Petrobras—yes, the oil giant is also interested in Design—and many other clients.
This means we've helped those organizations learn how to think Design, not only use it into their projects, but also make good use of it in their small day-to-day decisions. It was Paul Hawken in his book Natural Capitalism who said, "Natural Capitalism is not about making sudden changes, uprooting institutions, or fomenting upheaval for a new social order, Natural Capitalism is about making small, critical choices that can tip the economic and social factors in positive ways."
It is a fact that, for a big change to happen, it is necessary for organizations to invest into the creation of an internal culture that is self-sustained and able to innovate through Design—i.e. without necessarily having to hire consultants for doing that for them.
In a perfect world, the involvement of such consultants should be more for a highly specialized set of skills than for an externalization of intelligence. That's the dream: Having services that are increasingly born out of a humanistic perspective and not twisted to the point where there is a need for external consultants to be involved to straighten them up. Yeah, I know... as someone who has founded and directs an innovation and design consultancy firm this may sound like a suicidal attempt. Who knows? Time will tell. But I believe in the development of Design inside these huge and complex companies as a decentralized open-source process.
So without further ado, let's jump straight into how we've been doing it, how we have been helping those organizations to create internal capacity for Design and what we have learned from this experience.
When I started introducing big corporations to the concept of Service Design, I noticed that those corporations had a real need that was very different from the classical "come and help me improve a service" routine. They wanted to acquire the capability and the culture that would enable them to create new offers natively through the design lens of the world. These giants were looking for ways of incorporating Design Thinking, not only by borrowing it through the use of external help, but also instilling it deep rooted into the backbone of the organization, as a form to contaminate their culture to act on daily basis with empathy, collaboration and experimentation in mind.
The details from the projects themselves are confidential and their results completely different among each other. Well, it couldn't be different, since each one of those organizations had different structures and spirits. But looking back, I noticed a pattern in the development process and even in the barriers found in those endeavors. Something that, even in an abstract way, was present among all the projects. I decided to build a strategic template out of this pattern and have named it "The Meta-Service Design framework." The 'Meta-Service' term is here to state that we are not building or improving a new customer service. In this type of project, we are constructing the company capacity to apply Design. It is, really, the Design of the Design capability.
The framework that follows was extracted by reverse-engineering this kind of projects in Fortune 500 companies. It is worth reminding the reader that this was not hard-coded during the execution of those projects in order to force results to show up categorized by each phase. Instead, this was discovered looking back and analyzing the chosen path we took to face those challenges.
Also, each organization has peculiarities that must be observed and, if needed, the framework here presented can be adapted. But, just like the Double Diamond was empirically recognized by the Design Council UK, the Meta-Service Design framework offers a powerful and effective abstraction of the moments those companies go through until Design Thinking gives the first signs of breathing into their cores and how to proceed after that to keep the mindset alive and floating in the organization.
I have divided the framework into four stages: Know, Construct, Show and Sustain. These stages must be observed but the designer shouldn't forget to explore possible variations they may take.
The Meta-Service Design framework focuses on the construction of the engines that make up the culture and not on the design or repair of a specific service, this way it uses the traditional organizational values as leverages instead of directly fighting them. Some of those values are:
· The constant pressure for short term results · The internal competitiveness · The pressure for always getting recognition · The habit of externalizing intelligence · The pressure cooker of time-to-market clocks.
In each of the stages of the framework, these and other values are explored, instead of fought heads on. This creates a friendly corporate interface to Design and allows it to gain gradual relevance in the agenda of the organization.
I have included a link here, where you can download a PDF version of the Meta-Service Design framework. In it, you will find the four stages and two swimlanes, one called Setup and the other DIY avatars.
» Download the full canvas for plotter [PDF]
» Download in labels to print in A4 and mount on the wall [PDF]
Besides the four stages, the framework presents also two different swim-lanes:
This lane takes care of everything that will take place in the project phase. All the project activities throughout the implementation phase should be evidenced here.
This lane highlights what's been built, the project deliverables, tools, processes and strategies that the organization must employ in order to create and maintain the desired cultural values. All of the results of the project, including the new processes, service proposals, touchpoints, knowledge management strategies and everything that was created as a result of the Setup lane activities, to nourish the innovation in the organization, shows up here.
This fine tuning between the actions of the design team and the natural pulse of the organization creates a significant growth in the propensity and buy-in for the Design mindset, bringing forward a natural attraction of the champions towards the mindset, increasing the reaching out in the organization.
The Meta-Service Design framework is a prototype. And it always will be. But it is really a new way to look at the challenge of implementing an innovative culture through Design in organisations. The framework poses itself as a pair of lenses, and the content generated through the use of those lenses will depend on the quality of the work you co-create with the organization. Moreover, the role of the designer will always be that of adapting the tools to the challenge, not the opposite. So, you are free to adapt the framework to your reality. Also, keep in mind that this is a case where only the most relevant and adapted design solutions can prevail, after all, the smoky organizational monster fights against the newly created mechanisms, and, be aware, this monster is a hell of a fighter.
This is the first time I've published the Meta-Service Design framework. This framework will also be present in my soon to be released next book that unfortunately will only be available in Portuguese: 'rules' of a publishing world that could use the Meta-Service Design framework to reinvent itself. Moreover, this subject is difficult to find in programs or workshops. The only discussion forum I know about this subject is the course called Meta-Service Design that I teach at EISE - The School for Service Innovation.
As organizations realize that Design is the new competitive advantage, it becomes clearer to them that it cannot be completely externalized. Recently the acquisition of Fjord by Accenture is a good example of this. Every organization that completely externalizes Design, outsources its soul. The Meta-Service Design framework is a way to instill Design into the core of the organizational culture while, at the same time, freeing the organization of becoming fully dependent of external design firms.
Try the Meta-Service Design framework: explore, improve, and share it.
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