Episode 28: designing to deliver - a conference 2018 recap and our reflections

We went to the Service Design Global Conference in Dublin where we attended lots of inspiring talks and hands-on workshops. Again, it was a truly amazing edition! It’s surprising how this conference manages to touch new topics & give new inspiration every year. Hats off to the organisation! 

We also really enjoyed the social aspects of this conference. Since this wasn’t our first SDGC, we saw a lot of familiar faces and like every year we had the chance to get to know many new people. During these moments we got the opportunity to interview some service design ‘rockstars’. You can find a compilation of these interviews here. 

Designing to deliver

This year’s conference theme was ‘designing to deliver’. Implementation is often mentioned as the biggest challenge in the field of service design. This observation is easily explained if you think about the fact that only 4% of all service design methodologies focus on implementation. Birgit Mager and Tina Weisser explained this phenomenon in their talk and they emphasised the importance of a strong project start. During the first phase of a project, one should take a couple of key prerequisites into account. They call it the six hygiene factors: compliance, inter-divisional staff involvement, personnel capacity, implementation management, implementation maturity and temporary organisation. 


When talking about implementation, people frequently refer to the lean and agile methodologies. Working in a service design agency, we implement these ways of working as much as possible. But often the problem is that these ways of working originate from an IT background and people are still implementing it like that. Chris Ferguson from Bridgeble had a good point about that. He stated that we shouldn’t deliver functionalities in our design sprints, but we should rather think about delivering flows. And how can we implement these flows in a more lean way? 

Floor from Koos proposed a nice metaphor on dancing and ways of working. As an agency of designers, you have a certain way of working that is probably very fast and agile, comparable with - lets say - breakdancing. Whereas big organisations have a more slowly way of working that you can compare with a waltz. With this imbalance in rhythm you can’t just immediately expect to dance together without stepping on anyones toes. We need to respect each others moves. 

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Jobs of the future

Many speakers talked about how we as service designers can help in designing peoples jobs. Stefan Morits stated in his keynote that 70% of people are not engaged at work. This is a huge loss of potential. Too often industries have an industrial and utilitarian view in which they see humans as resources, where instead they should focus on the need of potential. 


This was an often reoccurring topic, as this is an opportunity where we as service designers can play an active role. When we are creating new services, we inherently have an impact on peoples jobs. This is something we should take into account in our design process. One of many offered solutions is creating different profiles for your employees and designing their perfect journeys. Another way to motivate your employees is to have better insights on what their fears are so you can anticipate. 

Awareness of different kinds of fear

Fear, as one of the basic human emotions, is something we don’t explicitly address today. There are different kinds of fear: fear of having to work in new ways, fear of interacting with the customer, fear of having to face the citizen, etc. This was a wake up call for us. Fear is not something to ignore, on the contrary, fear is something we should be aware of and deal with. It should become a part of our design process. 

By discovering fear early on in projects, we can anticipate on it. What are employees afraid of? What frightens customers? Or even have a look into the fears of your own design team? When implementing a service it is most important to ensure everyone involved will be happy with the results and not afraid of the consequences. 

We all know FOMO, fear of missing out. But during the conference, we learned an acronym for a new type of fear: FOBO, fear of becoming obsolete. In light of digital revolution and transformation, employees feel like advanced technologies are emerging to take their jobs. When we think about the endless possibilities AI and robotics are offering, what is left for us humans to do? But instead of facing this transformation as a threat, we can also see it as an opportunity where people can have more meaningful and fulfilling jobs. Teaming up with robots means that you can actually start investing time in the potential of humans as creative beings.  


We hope you enjoy this episode with an overload of service design talent!

We are setting up interviews with all the Service Design award winners in the coming weeks. So stay up do date!

Some people that are part of this episode. Let us know if we forgot someone!

  • Floor Smit senior consultant at ‘Koos Service Design’

  • Jesse Grimes, editor of touchpoint magazine and service designer at Informaat

  • Alok Nandi President of IXDA

  • Chris Ferguson CEO and service design strategist at Bridgeable

  • David Dunne professor and director, MBA Programs at University of Victoria

  • Anna-Louisa Peeters Service Designer at Liveworks

  • Alex Nisbett strategic design director at Designit

  • Priscila Williams representative of the Mexican chapter

  • Annina Antinranta design director at Futurice

  • Tina Weisser phd in service design

  • Sarah Drummond managing director at ‘We are Snook’

  • Stefan Morits associate Partner at McKinsey Design