What does design need to be effective in organisations? How can we, as service designers, leverage our skillset and knowledge to bring customers’ perspectives into the organisational context? What prevents service design from being impactful?
With these questions in mind, my colleagues Marzia Aricò and Ben Reason took the stage at the DesignOps Global conference. The conversation revolved around a brief backstory of Livework’s learning journey toward how to implement transformation projects effectively.
Service Design, organisations, and truth
The conversation began with Livework’s twenty-year story in designing, delivering and implementing services. Ben pointed out the downside. Although projects achieve deliverables, people participation and appreciation, services struggle to get implemented.
“It’s like you gave us a large underground tank full of concepts, we then have to put a tap on it and consume at a pace we could cope with.”
- Client feedback
Field experience and further inquiry uncovered the issue. Service designers are typically thrown into projects with little knowledge and tools to interrogate and navigate the wider organisational realities that have to deliver them.
Organisation as a service design subject
Marzia built on this by sharing the learning journey; as a service designer, she undertook to shed light on the organisational context and dynamics.
With their set of principles and approach, service designers strive to bring the customer logic into the organisation. However, organisations respond to the dominant logic, which could be market or digital logic, or both.
The question is, how do we connect the ‘fluffy customer things’ the organisation wants to achieve with the actual machine that needs to deliver it.
Although everyone would agree it is the right thing to do, it is not easy at all to achieve. It doesn’t only demand to interrogate the organisation structure, its ways of working, and what it prioritises; it heavily relies on the right mindset and capabilities.
The components of Livework’s customer centricity maturity model
The customer-centricity framework looks at where design needs to have an influence to make transformation happen. It assembles building blocks that together drive customer-centricity. Interestingly, while design is at its core, it is not the full answer. “Success lies in the coordinated activation and interconnection of all building blocks”.
How deep should service design dig up?
While the framework pictures the visible part of the ‘universe’ called organisation, service design suggests to go beyond the line of visibility; to navigate the ‘tacit’ assumptions, beliefs, and values that preserve the organisation in its current state.
“Dark matter is believed to constitute approximately 83% of the matter in the universe, yet is virtually imperceptible. It neither emits nor scatters light or other electromagnetic radiation. It is believed to be fundamentally important in the cosmos—we simply cannot be without it—and yet there is essentially no direct evidence of its existence and little understanding of its nature. The only way that dark matter can be perceived is by implication, through its effect on other things.”
- Dan Hill
If you can understand, engage and influence the ‘unseen’ systems, you can then begin to enable the structural components to work.
 Mancini A., Aricò M. (2020) The building blocks of Customer centricity.
 Hill, D. (2015). Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary. Stelkra Press.