EPISODE 3: Practical Service Design with Megan Miller and Erik Flowers

Erik Flowers is the Principal Service Experience Designer at Intuit, and Megan Miller is a Senior Service Designer for Stanford University’s central IT organisation. Together they are the founders of Practical Service Design.

In this episode they explain the importance of the word “practical” in the service design community, and the need for a channel to get people who are new to service design on board. Megan and Erik are both in-house designers in a large company, implementing service design skills from within the organisation. Since this is a different approach of how we work we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of being an in-house designer as opposed to an outside consultant.

I do think that if organisations want to make a lasting change and transformation they need to bring design in-house, but I also think we need that budget for the agency and the third party to come in, because when I’m in-house, I can’t do the radical shake up that an agency could do coming in.
— Megan Miller

Most surprising insight

Our most surprising insight is a metaphor by Erik that explains the need for more practical resources in Service Design: 

Imagine you have a job where you need to move a bunch of heavy rocks and pull up trees, and you hear about this thing called “physics”.  So you go and read books written by Einstein and Newton, and you get frustrated because those books aren’t helping you move the rocks and the trees at all. You need to take a step back and say “ok, there’s a fulcrum, a lever, and pulleys, and these things can help you move these rocks”. For people who are really into theory it’s important to know why the fulcrum, the lever and the pulleys work, but a lot of people just want to use these tools to make their work easier. It’s exactly the same in service design, a lot of people want to use the methods to enhance their work but there’s another group of people who are enthusiasts and passionate about it, who want to know why these methods work, spread the word, and help others apply it and benefit from it.

The service design community needs more practical resources. This doesn’t mean removing the theory or the abstraction of it, but trying to make it relevant to the day-to-day work that people are doing.


What we learned

At Knight Moves, the solutions we create tend to involve some sort of change management, and this often means organisational silos need to be broken down. Instead of breaking down the silos, Erik and Megan see service design as the opportunity to build bridges between them, so that the communication and the flow of information and knowledge can happen more seamlessly. They believe service designers have the skills and tools to let the silos work together and deliver holistic solutions, because in the end that’s what the customer experiences.

People with a service design toolset in any company can build the bridges between the different silos, smooth out the internal scene, get the information flowing and have a higher-level view, like a bit higher altitude and watch what’s going on at multiple silos at once and coordinate between them. […] That’s why our logo for Practical Service Design is a hot air balloon.
— Erik Flowers


behind the scene story

While we were enjoying a beer during recording this episode after a busy workday in Belgium. Erik en Megan just had their first coffee in San Fransisco. Our 9 hour time difference resulted in a interesting dynamic. :)