PhD Thesis & Originality

I spent the whole day re-structuring my thesis outline. Here is a taste of the result:

I was told that writing up process is tough, but I have a really ambitious deadline and am still confident in achieving it. I felt very lucky that I have friends to discuss different views and progress about writing up ‘the big book’. The other day, Lauren and I talked about the originality of a PhD in our email exchanges. To be honest, I have never really seriously think of ‘protecting’ my thinking or my PhD progress – tell me that I am wrong and maybe I am! But I do consciously select things that I would like to tell in this blog, simply because I don’t want to cause misunderstanding due to the immaturity in my thinking. Originality in a topic like Service Design seems to be easier, compared with working in a well-established knowledge, as the theoretical models and concepts are relatively underdeveloped, and most importantly people are more open to new suggestions and research approaches. My understanding of originality is that if you can *prove* that your thesis is original then it is fine. I mean we all know that our research question and its landscape changes, especially in a project lasted for 2-3 years it’s almost impossible that no other individual in the world, at certain point, had a similar idea to what we are doing. But our literature review suggests our originality of the inquires, our empirical studies ensure the originality of our findings. Nobody knows my research better than me. Even if there are others out there doing similar research, there is always something original about all these works. We just need to be confident enough to claim it and work hard enough to prove it. After all, PhD is a learning process as well as a research process, we are not working towards Nobel Prize level breaking throughs…

Well, I don’t really know what I am saying here is right or wrong… if you have done a PhD already, maybe it would be great to hear what you say about this matter.


Re-public's special issue: Innovative Service Design for All

I got a paper published on Re-public's special issue of their online journal: Innovative Service Design for All. The title of my article is 'Mind the Gap: Theories and practices in managing stakeholders in the service design process'.

All the articles are very interesting, two draws my attention especially:

Nicola Morelli's 'Beyond the experience: In search of an operative paradigm for the industrialisation of services' , which talks about the industrialisation of services in the public sector. Morelli says:

"The process of building the service starting from the customers’ experience can
be compared with a process of reverse engineering of such experience. The
experience is de-composed in elementary modules. A set of competences, knowledge and technologies is associated to each of those modules. [...] The
disaggregation of service systems in modular structures makes it possible to
shift the production process for those services from a centralised and vertical
logic to a decentralised and horizontal one."
This is very true in some of my case study experience, and also interestingly ties into the three themes of my findings: People, Process and Knolwedge. although mine still needs a bit thought-through ;-]

Soumitri Varadarajan proposed a design for the new university design programme of Service Design in India. A nice piece to read if you have the ambition to set up Service Design programme in your own university or maybe like what we do here in Dundee - integrate the elements of Service Design into the teaching of all kinds of design courses.


Service Design reading list

I was building up my Endnote database yesterday to get ready for writing up 'the big book' - yes, welcome to hell...

Not very surprisingly, my database covers a lot of management books, some design books, some experience books and couple of economic books... it makes me wonder if you are a Service Designer/student, what kind of books are you reading?

So here I would like to collect your comments on a reading list for people who are interested in Service Design and maybe want to do a bit reading for it. It would be great if you could spare 2 seconds recommend two books (or journal articles) you think every Service Designer should read - not have to be Design books, can be anything really!

Think I might kick off first here:
Bernd Schmitt, Customer Experience Management - not exactly a Service book or a Design book, but it presents a very interesting framework to build 'experience platform' which then spread the seeds of customer experience into different business functions.

Bill Hollins, Total Design. Perhaps also couple of his more recent books... to be honest, although I am not a big believer of standardisation, this little book does provid a nice flavour of the many other issues along with the design process that any development processes will have. Plus, it is a small book that doesn't look scary!

This list will go to our librarian for furture purchase and I will keep update the comments into this post here!

Alright, you turn now... Thank you in advance!

From Arne Van Oosterom (DesignThinkers):
Linked , Albert-László Barabási
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins

From Tom Allen:
A summary of the past thirty years of service design literature.

From Nick Marsh (Engine):
These are two pretty heavy going books that are worth getting:
Here's more:

From Deborah Szebeko (ThinkPublic):
The Tipping Point -Malcolm Galdwell
It's Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be – Paul Arden

From Ben Reason(Livework):
Natural Capitalism - Paul Hawkin et al
Reassembling the Social - Bruno Latour

From Todd Johnston:
The Timeless Way of Building (Alexander),
Biomimicry (Benyus),
Out of Control (Kelly)

Lauren Tan:
I would recommend the
Designing for Services reader that was distributed in the early stages of the project and also the report which combines reflections on the project from the designers, academics and the project leads (Lucy Kimbell and Victor Seidel).

Designing for Services - Multidisciplinary Perspectives: Proceedings from the Exploratory Project on Designing for Services in Science and Technology-based Enterprises, Saïd Business School (2008) Edited by Lucy Kimbell and Victor P. Seidel

I would also highly recommend:
Boland, J., Collopy, F., Ed. (2005).
Managing as designing. California, Stanford University Press.
This book is more general in terms of design in a business and management context but very helpful where ever design is crossing into other disciplines.

Richard Randolph:
The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. This is the one that started it all.
Experiential Marketing, by Bernd H. Schmitt
The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What To Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
Brand Sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound by Martin Lindstrom

Tom Kiehl:
My view is that good service design must balance customer satisifaction, profitability, and associate morale, particularly in businesses where front line associates are key to delivering service.
Four Things a Service Business Must Get Right by Frances X. Frei, Harvard Business Review, April 2008
Zero Defections, Quality Comes to Services by Frederick Reichheld and Earl Sasser, HBR, Sept-Oct 1990
The Trader Joe's Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon by Len Lewis
Nuts! Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success by Kevin Freiberg and Kevin Freiberg

James Samperi (Engine):
2 books which aren't focused on 'design' but any service 'designer needs to understand and know about. The latter book is comprehensive and pretty accessible - i can't vouch for the first but recommended by my colleague.
New Service Development and Innovation in the New Economy

From Products to Services: Insights and experiences from companies which have embraced the service economy.

Sarah Drummond:
simplicity- edward de bono
'In an increasingly complex world 'simplicity' is going to be a key value. The pace of change is not going to stop so we have to make a conscious effort to make things simpler.'

Marc Fonteijn(31VOLTS):
The experience economy
Subject to Change
Everything is miscellaneous
10 faces of innovation
The knowing-doing gap
And I second Sarah with
simplicity as a must read

proto partners:
Wired to Care by Dev Patnaik and Pete Mortensen of Jump Associates,
The Loyalty Effect from Fred Reicheld

Lucy Kimbell:
Vargo, S. and R. Lusch (2004), “Evolving to a new dominant logic in Marketing,” /Journal of Marketing, /68, 1-17
Vargo, Stephen L. and Lusch Robert (2008), "
Service-dominant logic: continuing the evolution," Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36 (1), 1-10.

Jeff Howard:
John Thackara's book "
In The Bubble: Designing in a Complex World" and a bi-monthly magazine published in Los Angeles called "Good."

Isaac Arthur:
Adaptive Path's 'Subject to Change' is the best all around service design book I've found,
Neumeier's 'Brand Gap' and 'Zag' are indispensable books for all designers, regardless of their specific discipline'
And a great article from NextD on design 3.0 (transferable philosophies and processes to service design)

Paul Thurston(ThinkPublic):
Designing Services with Innovation Methods

Garrick Wood:
'How Designers Think: The Process Demystified' by Bryan Lawson
'What Designers Know' by Bryan Lawson

Lorne Mithell:
One of the main folk I track in this area is John Seddon (Vanguard Consulting) who is visiting Professor at Cardiff University. He has adapted the Demming/Ohno Toyota Production System philosophy to Service Design in both the Private and, more recently, Public sectors. He is an excellent speaker as well. You can get his material at Vanguard Consulting - and you can see him on video at:

Bhavna Bahr
In the Bubble - John Thackara
Naked Brain - Richard Restak
Buyology - Martin Lindstorm
Why We Buy - Paco Underkill
The Hidden Dimension - Edward T Hall
How Customers Think - Gerald Zaltman
Universal Principles of Design
Ten Faces of Innovation - Tom Kelly
Visual Ethnography - Sarah Pink

Jonathan Norman:
Maybe too far off for your pusposes but we are publishing: Design for Services, edited by Dr Anna Meroni and Dr. Daniela Sangiorgi in March 2010

Birgit Mager
Touchpoint . The Journal of Service Design, Köln: Köln Interntional School of Design
Miettinen, Satu / Koivisto, Mikko (Hrsg.): 28Designing Services with Innovative Methods, Keuruu: Otava Book Printing,


any Service Design in China?

I was looking at this world map of Service Design activities [via Jeff's blog], and was surprised that there is nothing about Service Design from mainland China...
I notice some visit of this blog from Shanghai and Beijing... so... anyone know anything like that happening in China?


Service Design Research

Nice that the research people are getting actions as well :)

You can find some really interesting interviews on the Service Design Research website! Hopefully there will be more good stuff like that in the future.

Thanks to Jonathan for the information.


what is Social Innovation?

Find this very interesting article online that reports some inspiring reflections on what is going on in the Social Innovation in the UK. Thanks to Redjotter for the link :)

Also, i was very impressed by the really powerful Google Translation function for webpages!


process, people and knowledge

I have been avoiding blogging for a while - just try to concentrate on the project. After all, I am now officially in my final year…

Although away from the internet, but I was working as hard as always~ Firstly, big big ‘thank you’ to all the inspiring conversations I had with the brilliant designers from Livework, Engine, Plot in London, We Are Curious in Glasgow and Professor Alan McKinley in St Andrews!

This morning I was editing the article for Re-public's special issue on Service Design, which hopefully is going to be published soon online!

As usually… the discussion/conclusion paragraphs got me dead… and as usually I start to doodle on post-it notes

Process can be a chain of stages where people feed their relationships and knowledge into.

Process can be carried out in such ways that it actively form itself to fit into people’s relationship and capture their knowledge.

Maybe there should be a third one:
Process can be guiding people through to build new relationships and create new knowledge.


D2B2 impression

I presented a paper  in the D2B2 Design Management conference in Beijing last week and also heard a lot of very interesting speech from presentors from all over the world.  Together with the keynote speakers, there were over 50 presentations in total, covering topics from branding to sustainability to a bit of Service Design. Most of the presentations are inspiring, although I guess the use of double languages (Chinese and English) makes it a bit complex when it comes to question time. Happy that I actually benefited from both languages- ain't doing a degree abroad for nothing ;] 

One of the most impressive presentation might be James Woudhuysen's critical insights towards  Design Management by saying" design is not going to save the world, technology and science might save the world, but design can help them". I can't say that I completely agree with him, but I do admire the courage to start a contradictory argument in a conference basically show casing the benefit of design to business. However, it is true that we not only study what design can do, but also study what design cannot do. The role of design is changing, which is also true to many other professions in the world, but it doesn't mean that we can either over or under estimate what design can do. 

This reminds me of John Thackra's talk on Design Council's podcast suggests three lessons they learnt from DOTT, which might give us some thoughts on what design might become.
1. We are not going to innovate in the desert. It's already here. In the country our job is to discovery and accelerate the existing grass-root innovation by bring in design skills, bring in technology platforms, bring in resources s and when they are needed.

2. Build unlikely connection (innovation!) and build trust.

3. Think about how do we want to live. Start conversations at local, not telling people how they want to live. "

By the way, James Woudhuysen is having a new booking coming... Energise! it is about energy, science, and our future society. I have not read it yet though... let me know what you think if you did ;]


a mind explosion on Service Design

This is a quick thoughts dumping before I go off to holiday and forget everything I have in my mind now... it's a bit long and chaotic... but... enjoy!

I had a great time in London - lots of interesting conversations with lots of inspiring minds! About half way through my PhD we had a break through point to narrow down the research focus to the stakeholder management in SD process. (I always like to use 'we', as many decisions are made through discussions with my dear supervisors, don’t think that I can take all the credits here! ) Often ideas and thoughts got shaped during the conversation with inspiring minds from all sorts of backgrounds, I guess my PhD is really a collective work in a way. Therefore, I would love to share some reflections I collected along the two weeks via different means. To be honest, there is no statement or conclusion here, everything is pretty random and always open to discussion.

The management/transformation of knowledge gets a lot of attention recently. Hugo Raaijmakers started a heated conversations on the LinkedIn discussion board on SD methodology and there are also some very interesting thing going about the challenge to define SD in relations to the existing design disciplines or even at a broader sense, the existing knowledge, in the PhD Design mailing list. Today I got an email from a PhD peers, Fabian Segelström urging us SD PhDers to share some thoughts on this matter. (Thanks Fabian, I seem to need couple of these kicks to get me to writ my thoughts down!) Fabian pointed out that the matter of articulating the implicit knowledge barriered in SD practice needs to be explicited and linked back to existing concepts and literatures. I am with Fabian here. How do we know we are not reinventing the wheel? How do we know that we are actually making a difference and even improvement by introducing methods and methodologies to service organizations and public audience?

It is really important that we as researchers hold the critical point while exam the practice and learn from it at the same time. But it is turethat the knowledge base of SD is really unclear and I do have a feeling that a lot of established literatures in management, consulting and policy development are overlooked (agree with Nick @LinkedIn discussion). Maybe it is time to go back and try to make some sense of SD in a larger sense outside the design domain. If we are talking about SD as a main response to the notion of inter-disciplinary work, then understand where SD fit with other disciplines is crucial to any research or practice. Do we know who are the giants whose shoulders we are standing on? Do we have a clear idea of the knowledge structure of SD so far?

Some very interesting insights came from Engine while I talked to Nick, Erick and Jo earlier about how Engine (could) manage the knowledge internally. I was really amazed by the dynamic interactions and the knowledge transformation going on in that small group. It was a pity that this is not the focus of my current research, but there is potentially a very innovative business model for SD there with all the practice they have explored by themselves initially. While Re from Radastation also told me a lot about the networking nature of how he works with other SDers and various clients. Maybe there are couple of future research topics on business model innovation for design consulting there!

Last week I had a very interesting conversation with Lucy Kimbell (she organised the D4S research project in Oxford, possibly the first SD research in the UK). One of the very interesting came off during the conversation was that, there might be no SD in 5 or 10years... it becomes a concept rather than a discipline. But it can be a positive thing that SD becomes part of something that is more powerful but may not under the name of design anymore, or it can be picked up by other more established discipline as a means to move forward. Well, if you think this one is too critical, read the next one...

Maybe doing research on SD is not about service at all. I don't know if it is because of the nature of my own research or is there any other researchers in the field share a similar feeling as mine. We study a lot about design itself, its tools, its process, the experiential bit about design, and knowledge management in consulting environment, how many of us really talk about service? The service provides a context for design. Is it possible that we might have been rushed a bit trying to establish generable process, methodologies or even theories while forget the fact that concepts and tools have to work and should be studies in its context? So how much do we actually understand our context?

Well, finally, finally… guess I might raise some arguments here, but told you, I am really thinking and talking on the fly… have to admit there are a lot of self-criticize here as well... would love to hear what you say :)


Has Design Thinking got a problem?

Came across this piece on Sam Ladner’s blog 'Design Research', talking about Design Thinking's Big Problem. Sam says

'So-called “design thinking” is the new It-Girl of management theory. It purports to provide new ways for managers and companies to provide innovative, creative solutions to old problems. But design thinking alone will not solve these problems because a lack of creativity was never the issue.

The real issue is one of power.

[...] '

I am not going to say that I totally agree with Sam, but I like the way she talked about power, as it seems to be something designer try to avoid talking about. Designers love creating, some of them love thinking as well. The power of creating is so familiar to designers, that they don't see it anymore. I came across service designers talking about change people's mind or people's perception of problem solving and being creative, surprisingly, few of them mention power. Designer holds the power - the power to change people's mind simply by amazing them with the process of creating, by getting them involved in the journey of discovering the stories of a product or a service, by sharing tool to create the life they wanted. It may not be hug step forward but at least they nudge - small change make big differences. But somehow the recognition of such power was often underestimated by designer themselves, a strategic approach to claim that power, therefore, gets neglected along the way.

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