A great cross-section of professionals, academics, and students was in full attendance at this year's Emergence Conference in Pittsburgh, PA this past weekend. Building on the success of last year's conference, the organizers (student-run, by the way), opted to stick with Service Design as the overriding theme, yet did their best to extend the conversation to areas of design that might inform the issues around service . We weren't able to take in every session, but here are a few to provide a taste.
The keynote kickoff was an inspiring talk--a demo, really--by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viegas from the IBM Research Visual Communication Lab. ManyEyes is a web app that allows users to upload data sets and visualize them in tag maps, charts and graphs, word trees and other sweet eye candy that help reveal insights into the data. Examples shown were Shakespeare's favorite words, the Sunlight Foundation's tracking of government pork, and a comparison of gas mileage by car type and manufacturer. Check it out and upload your own stuff at www.many-eyes.com. (Remember that everything you put up there is public.)
Mark Jones from IDEO took us through some of their thinking in the work they did with BlueCross on call centers customer care centers, breaking down the main touchpoints and trying to reveal opportunities for intervention innovation. A killer problem, for sure, given that most people positively hate their insurance company. The audience loved it when he played an audio prototype of a call scenario. ("Hello, yes, of course we can pay for that. No paperwork will be necessary!") Okay, it wasn't really like that, but the methodology was compelling.
Todd Wilkens from Adaptive Path's talk--"The End of Products"--was near to our hearts. Building the argument for ecosystems rather than products, he talked about the need for less service design than a "service mindset," concluding with the admonition: "I hope we're nearing the end of the product design mindset."
Chris Downs, founder of live|work, started out by apologizing to his colleague Rory for missing his wedding for the conference (yikes), and provided an engaging keynote to start off Sunday morning, asking the (proverbial) What is Service Design? How important is it that we measure the value of service innovation and design? and How do we ensure that service design achieves its potential? His Q&A provided one of the juicier bits of the conference, where he commented that perhaps service design shouldn't be "owned by designers," but rather by management consultants and the like. There was a softball follow-up, but the remark hung in the air as a nice provocation. (Chris provided a great link to Jeff Howard's list of service design articles here: www.howardesign.com/exp/service. A gold mine.)
A definite highlight to the conference was Jennifer Leonard's presentation, titled "At Your Service: The Blind Men, the Elephant, and the Design of the World." Charming, heartbreaking, inspiring and ultimately instructive, the presentation took many twists and turns, transposing the "economies" from her Massive Change days (she wrote the book), to "ecologies"--a clever, pitch-perfect insight there's frankly no turning back from. She had lots of takeaways near the end (lists like "Service depends on Responsibility, Accountability, Vulnerability, and the Ability to give to ourselves") but you really had to be there to get the emotional hit of the thing. Jennifer, in the truest sense, "shared" her presentation with us--and in the end, isn't that was service design should be all about?
Congrats to Shelley Evenson, all the student coordinators, and the volunteers on a successful event.
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