Want to connect with Adam?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstjohnlawrence/
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Book
This is Service Design Doing - Review here

Events
Global Service Jam
Design thinking conference - through different eyes

Experience Designers Ep 3

(We use a mix of automated transcript software and editing for readability)

Adam: [00:00:00] 3 2 1. Testing

 

Steve: [00:00:04] Laughing.

 

Adam: [00:00:05] Don't be silly, this is serious.

 

Steve: [00:00:06] Sorry. I'm actually going to keep this in as well. All right ok. So i'm here with Adam, who I called John on the first day.

 

Adam: [00:00:14] That's my middle name contains the word John. It's quite a common error.

 

Steve: [00:00:17] And that happened to me and my middle name is John as well. So I apologise.

 

Adam: [00:00:22] Twins separated at birth.

 

Steve: [00:00:23] I apologise for that. Laughing.

 

Steve: [00:00:23] So, Adam tell the audience a little bit about yourself.

 

Adam: [00:00:30] Well, my name is Adam. I'm a European. I live in Germany. Grew up in the UK. Lots of links all over Europe and I work in helping organisations change the way that they work and how their people cooperate to create value. Some folks call what I do service design, design thinking, innovation. Words like this. My background is theatre and developing products physical products and in this field I am known as perhaps one of the co-authors of a book called This Is service design doing. And as the initiator of the global service jam, which is the world's biggest event which uses design thinking.

 

Steve: [00:01:13] Yes, I want to talk about that a bit more detail. I also have the book as well.

 

Adam: [00:01:18] Thank you.

 

Steve: [00:01:18] Its on my bookshelf. So, you had a role to play in the last couple of days you've been involved in some of the facilitation.

 

Adam: [00:01:25] Yes, I've been the difficultator.

 

Steve: [00:01:26] A great title.

 

[00:01:28] Thank you. It comes from the work of Augusto Boal who is an important theatre maker and he is the foundation for some of the work that we do in our work in design thinking whether it's research activities, ideation, prototyping, implementation activities. We use lots of theatrical methods for that. So get up and try it, get up and show me. Stop telling me about it start making it happen, in a very low fi way and he has a concept in what is often called Forum Theatre or facilitator. Whose task it is to sometimes make things more difficult for you, because often when we're trying to be creative we make it too easy for ourselves, we say the world will love this, will understand this everyone's gonna love my app and download it, they're gonna keep using it, but how many apps do we have on our phones we never use or use these ones. So the role of the difficultator is to challenge the group and say I don't think you're going to the difficult places. So my conference, that was my role to be the voice of the audience to say some of the stuff that was in the room that was uncomfortable, and perhaps help us actually go to some points that were not the easy places to be to discover what was lying there.

 

Steve: [00:02:39] Yeah, I thought it was brilliant, just because there were some difficult moments and actually if that wasn't if there wasn't an ability to voice that, then you don't know where that would have gone really.

 

Adam: [00:02:49] It's true. I especially enjoyed it. We tried to keep it low tech because we're encouraging folks to keep their phones in their pockets or in their even in their buddies pockets. So we use note passing good old you know primary school stuff folding up a note and pass it down the line to Adam and then people can anonymously express their needs. And it was challenging sometimes to reconcile those other peoples but, well we tried.

 

Steve: [00:03:15] Absolutely. So day 1. Yesterday.

 

Adam: [00:03:20] Day one yesterday. I got to cast my mind back on this one, so everyday we've had some, if you like keynotes in plenary and then we've had one or two breakout sessions.

 

Adam: [00:03:34] It's always been one large breakout session, I call it a break in session because it was in the main room for about half a conference and the rest of us were split out into breakouts and unlike most conferences we were allocated to our breakout sessions we weren't allowed to choose. I suspect there were some sneaky mixing going on, but it's actually quite an interesting choice I think of the organisers and I pay a very small part in planning the conference.

 

Adam: [00:03:58] It's a good choice of the main team I think to encourage you to step in the spaces you wouldn't normally step into and we know what it's like you're at a conference area sessions on you go to the things which you see as being immediately useful to you or the things that your friends are running. So what we do and we stay very much in our comfort zone is an massively overused cliche but it's a useful one. And in this one you ended up in the spaces where you were really not sure why you were here and that's often a very interesting place to be, at least for a couple of days a year. I think to do that.

 

Steve: [00:04:33] So even the facilitators are getting something out of it?

 

Adam: [00:04:37] I think so and we were also challenged. I did one small session but everyone who was on the stage or running one of these breakouts was challenged to do something they had not done before, either the whole session was completely new or some aspect of it was completely new. So there were some opening nights here, there were some premieres of some content, some ways of doing things and so on and so we were encouraged to grow as session leaders as well. Not just do our usual patter things done a hundred times before but try something new. I love that.

 

Steve: [00:05:13] Yeah, I mean it just challenges you. You have to up your game and rather than go into automatic mode, oh I've done this before. It's a new thing.

 

Adam: [00:05:19] It's very focussing, you're trying to think is this working. Is it going the way I thought it would work. I know that some folks did full rehearsal and so on, I didn't have a chance and I went in and just said let's see if this works out the way I envision it. And it was it never does but you learn something when it doesn't.

 

Steve: [00:05:37] Yeah, it was interesting actually because I heard on a few occasions those running of tracks etc. I actually had on quite a few occasions. "Thanks for the feedback on that". Yeah. So that was really interesting.

 

Adam: [00:05:50] It's a great community for that. Everyone here I felt had a really positive attitude. It's a kind of a weird conference it's unusual conference. I think the tagline last year was it's a conference for design thinkers not a conference about design thinking. So there weren't project reports there weren't this is how you use a post it kind of thing. It was stuff which is at the edge of this world or stuff where you're really challenged to find a link sometimes. And I think that searching actually, say "OK that was a cool session". What has it got to do with my practice, with my life, with my profession? Is a super interesting question to ask yourself.

 

Steve: [00:06:30] So, yesterday was there any of the keynotes or speakers, or actors, that really stood out for you.

 

Adam: [00:06:37] Well, I was very pleased to see Anna Wilson on stage because I recommended her and Anna is normally in the technical world and she works with stuff I don't understand around computers, providing services to people. But she talked about what's going in on the Internet and its impacts on LGBT+ people and some of the challenges within the Internet around things like for example changing your gender or things like having more than one identity in different contexts in your life. And this is a great subject for this kind of conference. I think as myself you know as a sys man, I try and be empathic but I have no idea of the detail of the struggle of some people. And this may be, as Ann pointed out, a relatively small proportion of the users, but for them it's a journey they go through again and again and again and again, while trying to be themselves. So, if we're talking about empathy. Yeah this is a fantastic place to think about that.

 

Steve: [00:07:44] My awareness just went up so many levels. I was like "Wow. I didn't even think, because you just don't think, unless you obviously educate yourself and you're in the know. Even just the drop down - Mr / Mrs. It's that simple thing and what that creates for people.

 

Adam: [00:08:09] Especially, if you're non binary or especially if you're making a change. Especially if you don't things think it's anybody's business and I think that's a very valid point of view as well to have.

 

Steve: [00:08:17] Lots of work to do in that area.

 

Adam: [00:08:19] I saw a lovely one last week. A colleague tweeted, which was you had to select your gender first and it was the usual binary selection. Then you had to select your title and I don't know this person it was a tweet that they were they were tweeting and it was a woman and she tried to select Doctor and it said that title is not available for your agenda.

 

Steve: [00:08:41] Oooooooooooh!

 

Adam: [00:08:42] Yes. I mean really!

 

Adam: [00:08:44] So, I mean that of course is pretty stone age. There are people doing much much better than that but it's still a long way to go.

 

Steve: [00:08:52] Yeah of course. I got that sense as well. Oh yeah!

 

Steve: [00:08:56] And then today. Mm hmm mm mm.

 

Adam: [00:08:58] So today, I'm really tired, so I'm not sure everything that happened.

 

Steve: [00:09:01] I'm the same!

 

Adam: [00:09:03] It's very intense. I don't want this to sound like some kind of cult situation. But what you got here is a bunch of very very open and interested people sharing, and the theme is empathy. In the last talk today from Anne Stenros. She talked about empathy but she also brought things like compassion, things like hope and what these mean to us and mean to the users, colleagues or whoever we work. Not just as a tool but also as a goal in the things that we create and at times it did feel a bit like oh my goodness me. Have I joined some come of cult here or is this some kind of therapy session, but I don't think it is. I don't think it's healthy to talk about these things and work on these things and divorce yourself from it. You can't, start thinking about your own hopes and where you need compassion or where you failed to give compassion. So yeah, it's been quite emotionally exhausting. I think that maybe a measure of value, I hope so.

 

Steve: [00:10:14] I think I felt this. After we spoke yesterday actually I walked back to my hotel but I took a really long route back purposefully because I thought yesterday was really emotional. I took in a lot in from that and I just had a bit of a moment walking through the streets and it was this spotlight from Stefan and I really had a very wide spotlight as I was just really aware of every human being I was walking past and I was just really thinking about what was their story and what's their story. And it was just the can't explain it. It's just this real moment that I had. I was just walking through the streets of Amsterdam.

 

Adam: [00:10:51] I'm sure if you're listening this on the bus or at home or somewhere that is really really freaky.

 

Steve: [00:10:54] I wasn't smoking anything either!

 

Adam: [00:10:57] I think it's a superbly useful conference.

 

Steve: [00:10:59] But it was from that it was really thought provoking. It was very cool.

 

Steve: [00:11:05] So, what next. Where is all this heading. Where are we going with all this?

 

Adam: [00:11:09] Well, it's super interesting isn't it. I mean, we're in a phase now where design thinking is a phrase which you can't escape. It's very very mainstream. That's why I think it's interesting to have conferences like this one, which do look at the edges of it and not just the routine.

 

Adam: [00:11:28] We're in a situation where the world is changing very very fast and getting faster. And even if we're going to just deal with that never mind I keep better. Just keep up with it. We have to have ways of working which on a very pragmatic level are simply faster and lower risk. Because we have multiple ideas we prototype many of them rather than having a vision and implementing some big thing which turns out to go wrong.

 

Adam: [00:11:55] I don't think it hurts at all to also bring in a very human side to that and say this is about empathy which is the theme of this conference this year and last year and next year as far as I know. To say is the stuff we're doing genuinely valuable to human beings and that's not just a transactional question, that's not just a job they're trying to fulfill. It's about the core of people and that is their emotions and they're very human needs. So, I think we're seeing right now a mainstreaming of service design, design thinking, whatever you want to call it.

 

Steve: [00:12:34] Yeah. I see that.

 

Adam: [00:12:36] But that also gives an opportunity for specializations, which are happening. Specialization in certain industries. But also I think for especially or a focus on getting better at the slippery stuff, getting better at the emotional side.

 

Steve: [00:12:53] One of the things that was also mentioned on a few occasions was around implementation and actually getting this stuff in and there were a few stories when I speaking to some of the participants, where they'd done some form of facilitation, some ideation and then it just doesn't go anywhere and they felt a lot of frustration in that.

 

Adam: [00:13:16] Yes.

 

Steve: [00:13:16] But I think that's another piece which I think needs to be looked at.

 

Adam: [00:13:21] I think it's crucial and I think there's a lot of, I don't want to put down anybody else's practice here. But there's a lot of people out there who really do confuse design thinking with an ideation, with thinking things up. I don't like the name design thinking for that reason. That's why our book is called Design doing.

 

Adam: [00:13:39] But what you have is a very easy misconception. So really, I say in a project like this you're going to have four main things you're doing. You're going to have research. Some folks call empathy or discovery. You're going to have ideation after some kind of sense making of analysis period. You going to create ideas, you're going to build prototypes you going to implement. I think those four things; research, ideation, prototyping and implementation have to be part of every single cycle you do.

 

Adam: [00:14:11] It's not a question of doing all this stuff and getting to the point of prototyping and then presenting that to an organization and saying this is what you do, that's the old agency model of graphic designers. Absolutely fine in its day and for that purpose. It's about incorporating the people who will be using and doing this stuff from the beginning as much as you can. So it's their project, not yours.

 

Adam: [00:14:34] And there are opportunities, especially in research phases, in ideation type workshops in prototyping to bring in actually quite a lot of people. My colleagues at IDEO and Lufthansa did a great project four or five years ago now. Barbara Frans told me about it and it's in our book, where they prototyped their business class experience. Which ended up with them building an airline on the ground with working kitchens, working seats the whole thing in Frankfurt and flying 59 times to New York without leaving the ground. And that's a really great opportunity to prototype. But it's also an opportunity to bring in literally thousands of colleagues who sit in those seats and be part of this prototyping experience and come out of this, not saying "oh there's a new thing coming", but saying "oh that's my new thing coming". When the project rolls out they feel some degree of ownership of that. That's not just smart politics. It's a genuinely better solution. Because nobody knows this world like the people who are delivering the services.

 

Steve: [00:15:50] Adam. Why is this not happening?!

 

Adam: [00:15:53] I think there is this misconception, I mean I heard someone today during a great speech. It may be a slip of the tongue, sort of equating design thinking with brainstorming. Thinking its some kind of creativity thing about getting ideas. And if you come along with ideas they're not going work. They're not going to be implemented. I mean there's a wonderful guru around consulting called Edgar Schein writing back in the 70s and the 80s, business process consulting is his thing. And his books are very good for me. I need to sleep because they're really really thick and lots of long words and I'm not very good at absorbing stuff through reading. But if you read his books, what he's basically saying is, "Look if it's not their idea, forget it". Go home, just just give up.

 

Adam: [00:16:38] So, it's a question about facilitating or difficultating organizations through that change process. And I've been trying to follow the tweets from a parallel conference also happening this week. I couldn't be at both conferences, so my company split. Half of us went here, half went there.

 

Steve: [00:16:56] What was the other conference?

 

Adam: [00:16:57] Which is the Service Design Global Conference in Dublin.

 

Steve: [00:16:59] In Dublin, yeh.

 

Adam: [00:16:59] Which is happening right now and I believe my friends are actually keynoting right now. And there was a great slide somebody photographed and put on the tweets which said the tool of a service designer is the organization. Or words to that effect. And this is very very true. This is what you implement with. So, if your tools are still pens and sticky notes you're not getting it. They are a mechanism by which you have to use the lever, the machine, the power which is an organization to actually make change happen. Collaboratively with the people in that organization, that needs to be part of your thinking and you're doing from the start.

 

Steve: [00:17:43] Yeah. So there's a lot of work to though isn't there. It's good!

 

Adam: [00:17:46] Yes it is. And one of the tricky parts here and I'll make myself unpopular with some colleagues here. I teach at design schools and I teach at business schools. And I've got to be honest. It's much easier to teach the business guys enough design to be dangerous, than it is to teach the design guys enough business to be dangerous. Because many many people, young designers, this is not their fault. You can't drink experience out of a bottle. They don't know how organisations function. And if you understand that the organisation is your tool, it means you don't know your tool. It's like trying to be a painter who doesn't understand how brushes work.

 

Steve: [00:18:23] I understand that completely. Because each environment comes with its own different complexities and issues and moods.

 

Adam: [00:18:34] Every firm is different, every organization is different as well. That's another reason to be collaborative and to respect the expertise of your co-creative partners from within the organization because they do know their world!

 

Steve: [00:18:48] There's lots of layering to that. I totally get that. Interesting. So how can designers bridge that gap, the other way around.

 

Adam: [00:18:57] Learn Six Sigma, learn agile.

 

Adam: [00:19:01] And I'm not joking. I don't understand six sigma but I've been trying to get to grips with agile for a while. It's absolutely brilliant, it's an amazing way to organize stuff. It's way way more fascinating than I expected. It's not just for software development anymore, but you know, it's do whatever you can to speak the language of these organizations. Hang out with them, speak their language, wear a suit. If you're going to be in an organization, they often love you to look different and be freaky, but what is the conversation you have with the freak or the clown. Compared with a conversation you have with someone who looks like you. Yeah. So we try, in my organization we try and dress like our clients. We try and use the same vocabulary that they use. We'll call it Design Thinking or Service Design or whatever word they use and try and fit into that world as much as we can and keep your ears open.

 

Steve: [00:19:56] Yeah, because also if you're trying to make a change internally. If your the stakeholder in trying to influence internally. But you're coming back with a whole different terminology and feel and look about it then it was even harder to pitch internally.

 

Adam: [00:20:07] Sometimes they like that. Sometimes they like the idea of something being new and different and off the wall. But I think that's a rather short term need. At some point you have to engage with all the cogs of that organization.

 

Steve: [00:20:21] Yeah amazing. So, one parting gift can we give to the listeners. What gem or knowledge or something from the conference we can give.

 

Adam: [00:20:33] Well. It's very hard to express what happened to me personally at this conference, explicitly using words or verbalise that. Because a lot of it is a bunch of implicit impressions. A bunch of memories, a bunch of insights perhaps that I can't put to words and perhaps never will be able to. Maybe that's an insight in itself. That not everything which is important can be written down on a post-it.

 

Adam: [00:21:05] It can't be expressed in a PowerPoint deck, maybe it can be built in a prototype, maybe it can be modelled in an experience or interchanged between people, because that gives it space to remain implicit.

 

Adam: [00:21:21] So the idea that we need to be together in physical spaces and doing stuff is a very valuable one I think. It's not easy to do all this stuff through the usual. And I'd like to pitch an opportunity to do that to be in spaces with people working in this way, which is coming up on the last weekend of March next year and it's the global service jam.

 

Adam: [00:21:46] Its this worldwide festival of messing about and trying things out and producing prototypes. It will happen in around 100 cities around the world. On one weekend with a surprise theme that no one knows until they kick off their jam and at the end of it you made some prototypes, you also learn a bunch of new skills, or new ways of thinking. You've met collaboration partners, you jam! Like at the Irish Club or like at the jazz club. You don't do it to record an album, you do because of the jam. That's the reason for it. If anyone is interested in that just google global service jam and you'll find it or go to a website called globaljams.org

 

Steve: [00:22:25] I came across this last year. I'd just missed it. I don't think there was anyone from Sweden, or was there? I can't remember.

 

Adam: [00:22:34] I think last year was a gap in our Swedish jam.

 

Steve: [00:22:40] I'm hoping, maybe I could be involved in the next one?

 

Adam: [00:22:42] You can always step up and do one yourself. All you need for a jam is a space and some connectivity. So some jam hosts like to really go to town and they organise food and they organise speakers and even produce you know templates and stuff. Branding! It's amazing. Other people just open their doors and say, "Right chaps, here we are, what do we do?". And make the responsibility of organising the jam, they give that to the jammers.

 

Adam: [00:23:10] And there's many many ways in between as well. So it's a thing which literally anyone could step up and do, its'a great way to establish design thinking, service design in your area. It's a great way to meet the people already doing it in your area. It's not a conference of talking it's a weekend of doing and I just think people will enjoy it.

 

Steve: [00:23:27] Just to clarify. This is for anybody, regardless if it doesn't matter any walk of life, any industry, any work? That's really cool?

 

Adam: [00:23:34] You don't have to use design thinking approach to have to use anything. What we do is we connect you to a community of other hosts and they will say, "I need help" and someone pops up and gives you help. They'll make suggestions to read or here's a link but it can be complete beginners.

 

Adam: [00:23:48] There was one jam back in the early days. I think even in the first year of jam, 2011, which in the Gold Coast of Australia. I would do a very very bad Australian accent now, sorry. Please forgive me Australian readers, but this is a summary of a story which is actually more complex but there's a bunch of guys on the Gold Coast who they decide to do a jam they rent a beach hut to do it and which is just fantastic. And I suspect there may have been a few stubbies in the cooler. They sort of mailed me on like Friday afternoon their time and said "They Adam, what's service design?" And I said, "Google it". And I don't know what they did for the weekend but uploaded some great prototypes at the end of it. I hope they learnt something and that's fine. If it's just a bunch around a round a table, give it a shot. What can go wrong. The worst thing that could happen, is you get a fun weekend. What's wrong with that?

Steve: [00:24:39] There's nothing wrong with that. Expect to see the name Usher from Sweden at some point.

Adam: [00:24:43] Fantastic. I look forward to that one very much.

Steve: [00:24:46] So, Adam thank you so much.

Adam: [00:24:47] Thanks for having me.

Steve: [00:24:48] Thank you for your time.

Adam: [00:24:49] It's been great.