So in part two of this two-part article, I explore why I connected with Helen Carnac’s own reflections, through #10thingsIlearnt? and what approach did I take to becoming more resilient and resourceful in my own practise.
I will share some of my own approach and journey from my background in craft to my new career in Service Design and will use the #10thingsIlearnt framework to try and anchor my own interpretations and express why her slow theme resonated so strongly with me.
Having already acknowledged that there are primary differences between creatives, I can only reflect on how I have developed my own resilience and resourcefulness in making the transition from the skills and thinking required in craft, at one end of the spectrum – working largely alone and creating unique artefacts, which can be valued by a relatively small number of people to Service Design, at the other – collaborating with others to create or improve service experiences, which co-create value for a much larger number of people, but can be personalised to feel unique.
I have also begun to focus on what constitutes my own “belief system” as a designer who serves others? I have asked myself rhetorical questions too, such as ‘if my brand values are passion, purpose and integrity, what kind of clients and contexts can I apply my design skills and experience to serve’ and ‘how will I communicate a “*meaningful selling proposition” for servicejunkie?’
*Thanks to Shan Preddy for that twist on unique selling proposition during her presentation at #10thingsIlearnt.
I wrote the comment below on Helen Carnac’s blog a few days ago, to show my appreciation to her for sharing her thinking…
Now for the 10 connections I made…
Her #1st thing “Slow comes in many speeds” makes me think that one needs to remember that the beginning is often a slow start in the creative process; when one needs sufficient time to understand the true nature and cause of a problem, but this can be uncomfortable for clients, who are not familiar with how strategic designers work. This is the stage of the project when there is often a high degree of complexity and ambiguity, which the designer needs to feel comfortable with first, by exploring the context of the problem in greater depth with the client though cycles of convergent and divergent thinking. Exploring the Why? can be a real return on investment, because by everyone taking time to think clearly and understand the challenge and define the project goals, this first stage in the design-led innovation process can significantly reduce the risks of failure, later down the line.
Her #2nd thing “Gestation…allowing space and time to analyse and question… having and giving time for reflection” is how i’d describe my own creative approach and I have been a designer long enough to realise that this needs to be made explicit at the beginning of a project for a designer/client relationship to work and produce the best outcomes for everyone.
In my experience, clients are often too rushed to reflect on the strategic thinking, the Why? behind what it is that they are asking you to design. “Designing the right thing, not just designing the thing right” quote: Oliver King of Engine Service Design
Design brief’s (which are often bullet point statements of requirements and business goals) are often rushed, and as a result are poorly planned, structured and written.
As a Service Designer, I always try to persuade new clients to get me in, ‘before the train has already left the station’, to help them manage the process of defining the brief through a design process. This co-creation process is designed to ensure that the Why? is carefully considered in a strategic context before committing valuable resources to a project.
This creative strategic thinking process will ensure that any outcomes of projects are more useable, useful and desirable for the customer and more efficient, effective and differentiated in the market. This is true whether the outcomes are new or improved products, services or processes.
Her #3rd and 4th thing “The value of Networks” and “Sharing and generating knowledge, collaboration…talking and listening”. Firstly, I think networks can be interpreted as neural networks, using the brain’s ability to connect seemingly disparate and unconnected thoughts to create new ideas and emergent thinking. This is creative fusion, when interconnected thinking can join little ideas together to create the big idea, distilled from a messy, complex problem.
Secondly, new networks and communities of practice is also something I have spent time and resources developing, during my own startup process. I have been networking and testing my elevator pitch at every opportunity, whilst working continuously and iteratively on servicejunkie my own Service Design consulting business, adopting a lean start-up approach in launching it with a minimum viable product. I have reality-checked my service offer with my peers and business networks and also with potential clients, and based on feedback, I have continuously developed my thinking and service offer, over time, during my extended start-up period. It has not been easy and I have had my ups and downs but have developed my resilience by trying things, failing quickly and often but learning from my mistakes.
Consultant designers accumulate knowledge over their career, knowledge of people, technology and business, often by working across different market sectors and organisational boundaries.
In using my resourcefulness to develop professional resilience, there are now four different designer roles, in which servicejunkie can offer added-value to the capabilities of a new or existing client.
Designer as expert – the more traditional perception of designers. All knowledge has value, but to hold value, new knowledge acquisition has to be a continuous process, balanced by continuous application of knowledge. By doing this, a consultant develops deep expertise in some areas. Experienced “designers with bandwidth”, who are used to working across organisational boundaries, can always contribute added-value more broadly than the client often expects. quote: Dick Powell of Seymour Powell
Designer as innovator – Innovation can often happen when two or more seemingly disparate thoughts fuse together. Usually this moment of inspiration only happens when the designer collaborates with people not like them, who are facilitated to contribute to the innovation process by sharing their tacit knowledge and ideas, in workshops during a structured process of co-creation.
Designer as facilitator – This collaborative approach not only creates a more evolved strategic relationship between client and designer, but also includes facilitating engagement with the customer/service user/service provider in certain stages of the creative process. Evolving from the traditional role of designer to facilitate the creativity of others, is often a role single-discipline designers are not trained for and not comfortable with, because they can no longer be the experts.
Designers as facilitators can usefully lend themselves to process consultation. “Process consultation is a set of activities on the part of the consultant that help the client to perceive, understand, and act upon the process events that occur in the client’s environment in order to improve the situation as defined by the client.” quote: Edgar Schein, MIT Sloan School of Management (1987)
“Process consultation takes a human-centred, open-ended approach that shifts the emphasis away from the expert who provides the solution and replaces it with the idea of a facilitator who can help the organisation understand its own circumstances and realise its own solutions. The skills of an experienced designer (communication, synthesising complexity, visualisation, teamwork, and creativity) seem perfect for taking such an approach.” quote: Design Management Review – Volume 22, Issue 4, pages 70–75, December 2011
Designer as researcher designers have a human-centred ethos and so design research into users (behaviour/experience/needs/motives/what people value) is within most designer’s capability, using the tools and methods already developed to understand these. This user research complements the more strategic research into trends beyond design, which influence the market in which client’s operate.
Her #5th thing “Being resourceful” I interpret slight differently and my current thinking was influenced by this quote in a thought-provoking article written by Emma Campbell from the Royal Society of Arts.
“Design & Society argues that design will be fundamental to closing the gap between behaviour and aspiration because of the particular resourcefulness that designers represent. Ready to improvise and prototype, brave in the face of disorder and complexity, holistic and people-centred in their approach to defining problems, designers have a vital role to play today in making society itself more resourceful.”
Other resourcefulness can be demonstrated by accumulating knowledge, gathered in a physical and digital library, full of ideas/processes/tools/case studies, which can be read, understood, processed and stored, so that these resources are available for the designer to retrieve, as and when they need it.
Her #6th thing was “Allowing for accidents to happen…noticing the un-noticed”, which I interpret as failing often and learning from one’s mistakes and …uncovering people’s unmet needs, by collecting participants stories, using the processes and tools of ethnographic and design research.
Her #7th thing I didn’t try to interpret.
Her #8th thing was “Long thinking”, which I interpret as the antithesis of the notion that good ideas can be an outcome of “everything being done in a rush”.
Her #9th thing,“Taking time”, made me think of dedication to one’s own craft over a lifetime of continuous learning. During a holiday in St Ives last year, I came across something written by Bernard Leach on a wall in the Leach Pottery.
“A potter is one of the few people left who uses his natural faculties of heart, head and hand in balance – the whole man. His is a way of life. Good pots require the ardor of vocation and the devotion of a lifetime.” quote: Bernard Leach, Belief and Hope (1951)
Leach’s quote strongly resonated with me, as I consider design to be my true vocation and I have certainly devoted myself to the pursuit of a design career, using my resources to evolve and develop in order to try and remain relevant and I have also learned how to be more resourceful in finding new and interesting work, over a career that has kept me purposefully engaged for 27 years.
Her #10th thing, “Developing and sustaining practice” I think relates to the likelihood that if your design practice begins slowly and organically at the start-up phase, the business is more likely to become sustainable over time, because you can test the validity of your offer and learn to continuously evolve it, to meet the needs of your clients but not grow too quickly or take on too much, so that you end up spreading yourself too thin.
As Sidekick Studios Nick Marsh, speaking at the same event pointed out, in his #10thingsIlearnt – the secret of success is to “do something you love with the people you love”
When servicejunkie grows, this is the 11th thing I learnt and have already taken to heart.
ⓒ richard louis arnott 2012