As we shifted from a product-based economy into a service-based economy, customers are more and more pampered with good services. To be successful, companies more than ever need to offer services that exceed the expectations of people. So in order to offer the best services, companies can do two things. On the one hand they can work closely together with external professionals. On the other hand, they can expand their in-house expertise by training their own employees to think more human centred. To introduce and present both ways of working, we invited two international speakers who shared their knowledge. 

In our 29th episode of our podcast you can listen to the ARENA round table discussion, i.e. an interview with the speakers of the evening and questions from the audience. Unfortunately we weren’t able to record the talks, but you can find the keynote at the bottom of the article.


First we welcomed Olga Scupin to our ARENA. She is the co-founder and managing director of Fuxblau, a service design agency in Berlin, Germany. She shared her experience in working as an external design expert. She talked about the importance of empathy in the digital age and how you can make companies more empathic. By sharing her insights and some project examples, she showed how you can teach your clients to be more human centred by inviting them into the research process. If you let the client participate in user research it enriches their knowledge about how the user perceives their service. 



As our second speaker, we welcomed Kara Kane to our ARENA. Kara gave us a different perspective on Human Centred Organisation. She gave us insights in how it is like to work as an in-house designer within the government. She is the User Centred Design (UCD) community manager within GOV.UK. Her job entails three main focusses: first to help departments grow UCD capability, secondly to help designers and user researchers work better together and thirdly to support the sharing of UCD best practices across the government. 

Kara explained that it is a huge, but not impossible challenge to scale User Centred Design within a big organisation as the UK government. By setting up and communicating 10 design principles, building a community, providing training, developing patterns, offering guidance, sharing learnings and printing posters you can invest in culture in an sustainable way. 



When asked what the advantages and disadvantages are of both working with in-house designers or external consultants, Olga and Kara had similar perspectives. On the one hand Olga stated that as an external expert you have a certain position of power. Often the client already has an idea of what the problems are in the organisation, but is in need of someone external to pinpoint it. They are reaching out and requesting help. 

On other hand, Kara also made a good point. A big advantage of working in-house is having a in-depth understanding about the context of the organisation. In this way, you’re able to work more collaborative. As an external expert it’s more difficult to tell people what they have to do, to change employees behaviours, tasks and responsibilities. But when you have a more complete perception and awareness of the structure of an organisation it is easier to work and delegate across departments, across organisations and across professions. 



It was really interesting how this edition of ARENA was different is terms of engagement. The evening inspired our guests to invest more in a human-centred way of working. We were pleasantly surprised by the impression the evening had on them. So what was it that sparked this interest? What both Olga and Kara did very well, was showing that it shouldn’t always be hard or complex to start working more human-centred. You can always start small. 

Olga gave some great examples on how to bring more empathy to your employees. She explained that within a project it is valuable to invite employees from different levels of the organisation to try out the service themselves. This can lead to surprising insight one would otherwise never notice. This is only a minimum effort, with a big impact. It makes employees (or clients) realise how important it is to design user-centred services.


Interesting links

Twitter Olga

Twitter Kara

Website Fuxblau

Website GOV.UK

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The slides of the evening: