Thursday, 9 April 2009

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 :)