Typical topics in services

This is the collection around the issues in services.



The great trust shift | Rachel Botsman | 6:00

‘Trust is not at the all time low. Trust is like energy. It used to flow upwards to institutions, academics, authorities and regulators, but it now sideways. We are more like to trust our colleagues and CEOs, more likely to our neighbours and friends on facebook than experts.  we are moving into this age of distributed trust.’ – Rachel Botsman.



Space and physical environment

The Human Scale (2013) by Andreas Mol Dalsgaard

reflection: what is the human scale for different types of services (e.g. 24-7hrs, the shopping, the living, the ageing?) how can we use space qualities to shape the service experience (e.g. be littled, be more empathetic, be more curious, be more conversational, be more adaptive for social changes, etc?)







Finance/payment model




This is a video list about entrepreneurship

I’ve found watching videos are becoming more and more effective (both relaxing and insightful) way to gather information on how people talk about the subject. Many times the information is hidden in those expressions and contexts that can hardly be truly preserved or captured by a textual description. So as this blog is good for collecting those digital records as my semi public ‘book-shelf’, I am doing this again to start a list of videos in the topic of entrepreneurship/entrepreneurs.

Welcome your suggestion too. Feel free to leave comments.

Warren Buffett and Bills Gates’ talk in 1998 at Washington Business School


Jony Ive’s lessons learnt from Steve Jobs. Vanity Fair 2014

The issues of focus: it is not something you decided on Monday. If you are truly focused, there are so many things can be achieved… What focus means is to say no to the things that every bone in your body thinks it is phenomenon idea. And you wake up and think about it, and you say no to it.


How and why to start a start-up – Sam Altman & Dustin Moskovitz



BBC Secrets of Silicon Valley | Jamie Bartlett


Steve Jobs: The lost interview


The Power of Human Energy: Angela Ahrendts at TEDxHollywood


Research methodologies

Alan Bryman, talking about case study in social research

Alan Bryman, talking about mixed method research

Lord Giddens: Understanding Society – A Sociologist’s Perspective


Peter Downton, talking about design research


Research from other domains.

The dollhouses of death that changed forensic science | THE VOX

Frances Glessner Lees | the nutshell studies of unexplained death. 1940s-1950s


The mindhunter | Netflix

The birth of behaviourial science unit in FBI




The design research project (Commercial)

53. Tools for creativity: the story of paper, pencil and paste. | Standford Seminar.


Research skills section

Interview & Listening.

How to start a difficult conversation | Samartitans



The Channel 4 Design & Innovation


(Updated on 11th Oct 2015)

Sometimes, it feels amazing that there are so many videos out there from those great minds. Some of them gave talks on TED, others did Q&A somewhere else. As a researcher myself, I have been benefited from this open access to information.

So, as a side project of my PhD journey, I decided to start this channel for Design and Innovation. It is to collect those videos from different schools of thought to picture out today’s emerging discourse around design/innovation. Of course, as a curator here, I will select them based on my experience, understanding and research. At the moment, I separate them into academics and practitioners. Under academics, there are threefold: traditional management school, new design & innovation management school (a new thread from the management school which promotes “design is changing the management.”) and design school. Then, there are practitioners, such as design and management consultants.

This list of video will be constantly updated and some comments or reflection will be added along the journey. So stay tunes and hope you enjoy these great minds.


1.Design & Innovation management school

This is a group of management scholars who has been promoting design in the management education as well as management practices. They argue that design as a unique way of knowing can be applied to businesses and organisational management.

Roger Martin on design and management education. Dean of the Rotman School of Management.

Fred Collopy on managing as designing. Vice Dean of Weatherhead school of management.

Jeame Liedtka on design culture in organisation. Darden School of Business.

Bo Clarson on the PhD programme of management at Weatherhead school of management.


Robert G Cooper about Stage-Gate innovation


2. Design school

Apart from the scholars from the management schools listed above, there are several groups of academics in design fields who also position themselves in the junction of design and management. These academics come from various design fields, such as interaction design, design management and service design. They focus their research on the expanding role of design in other fields (i.e. policy making, management, etc) and demonstrate a new way of thinking and applying design discipline in those new fields.

Richard Buchanan, the editor of Design Issue. Professor of design school in Carnegie Mellon University. Weartherhead school of management.

Daniela Sangiogi on design for citizen engagement.

Ezio Manzini on social innovation.

Sabine Junginger, Systemic Design Approaches in the Public Sector: Are we ready?  2017




3. Traditional management school

Peter Senge on system thinking.

Andrew Pettigrew, A celebration of the scholarly life and career of Andrew Pettigrew, OBE, FBA (on his life and academic career in )

4. Anthropology perspectives on innovation

Panel discussion on anthropology of innovation






Peter Coughlan from IDEO on organisation and design.

Jon Kolko, from Austin centre for design on empathy and design strategies.

Ben Terrett, head of design in GDS, UK, on public/digital transformation

David Halpern, the Behavioural Insight Team on behaviour science in public policy design.

Nesta labworks series

Christian Bason from Danish Design Centre.

Research methods

Alan Bryman, key professor in research methodologies on research methods.

His views on research methodologies education.

A reflection on design in policy making

taken by me

I went to a discussion held at the V&A research department this week. The topic of this mini event was design in policy-making, reflecting the current practices and the trend for design to become a new language in policy-making practices, i.e. Policy Lab UK. The discussion with those experts in design and research was interesting, and it gave me a deeper insight into what design is and might be. I want to share some of my thoughts here and as always please feel free to leave your comment and critical feedback.

The mascot, “D”esign and its future

Perhaps design has become an iconic symbol that encodes acts and values, such as diversity, experimentation, positivity, pragmatism, optimism, etc. It may sound ridiculous – as if many other disciplines or professions do not embody these similar values in different ways. This might be because our traditional perpection of design is a sort of iconic and tangible cultural symbol just like the concept of the Olymic mascot. I guess design has become utilized in many other contexts, such as policy making and organisational management. People with ideas of design being just product design may question the very presence of design in those contexts. “is it just a cliche coming from design vocabulary?” they might ask.

Here is my question. Is or should design be a stabilised or fixed concept? The perception and practices of design have always been changing in different contexts, i.e. cultures and professions. They have always been changing in history, whether early 19th century craftsmanship or inventions from the industrial revolution. The history of design education in the UK reflects such changing patterns of design and its practices. So the answer regarding the design in policy making or other contexts is this: once we recognise how designers or other professionals use design in those new contexts, whether it is its vocabulary or tools, we might identify a new set of meaning and practices that design can deliver. We might understand better how design can contribute to policy making.

My argument is perhaps that instead of questioning the displacement of ‘design’ to those emerging areas (i.e. policy making, management), the right question might be what the practices and perception of design are in those cases. From that point, we might actually understand design now and its future and not limit ourselves to what design was and is.

Design as another lens on our world

One of my assumptions about the application of design in policy making or management comes from my reading in a book called The Organized Mind:

As we specialise or gain expert knowledge, we tend to drop down to the subordinate level in our everyday conversation. a sales agent at Just Chairs won’t call the stockroom and ask if they have any accent chairs, he’ll ask for the mahogany Queen Anne replica with the yellow tufted back. 

It is interesting that perhaps by just deploying the word ‘design’ in a new context, it might help those traditional professional to ‘revisit’ common sense, reframe problems and create new perspectives. In that sense, design may be another new ‘toy’ but a new ‘toy’ with the heritage of being effective and creative. This might be the new value of design and we need to start to explore and identify it.

‘Engineering Thinking’ and ‘D’esign

Perhaps we are lucky in a sense that design has become a discourse in current society. It makes me recall the exhibition in the Science Museum on the age of industrialisation. The buzz words of the day were engineers and engineering. They were inextricably linked to those steam engines and had the impact on everybody’s lives and the environment. We were doing ‘engineering thinking’ at that time, reflecting from the Taylorism/Fordism of working to the life and family pictured by the animation of the Jetsons.

The discourse of ‘engineering’ was more to do with engineer and machine. It gave rise to so many debates on what was not functioning in this ‘engineering thinking’ (i.e. dehumanisation, etc). Perhaps ‘D’esign is the equivalent of that age, where design theorists and practitioners should broaden their existing views on design and engage ‘D’esign in much wider contexts. If that analogy is making sense, we are lucky that we can do so much more with this ‘buzz’ trend of design.

(Special thanks to Harriet for editing my blog)

What is service design (part one)

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Er, is it another word for user experience design?

Most of us who study ‘service design’ or work in this field are facing a question of what service design is.  Among ourselves, we also debate about the boundaries of service design and its core definition. Many people assume service design is just another term for UX design but I disagree. So here, I want to share some of my thoughts regarding service design, from everyday practices to academic debates. Of course, it will be an on-going reflection of my observation and practices in the field and you may agree or not. Please feel free to leave comments and I’d love to hear from you.

Service design is about stakeholders

Since my journey at the RCA, I wonder if there is another element of service design separating this discipline from others (i.e. UX design). When we work on public service projects, one of the important pieces of design is about understanding and engaging different stakeholders. Social housing and public health services (NHS), for example, often require a deep understanding of the stakeholder landscape. In those systems, different actors may have different objectives and values, and most importantly different measurements of success. In a typical service design project, one of the important aspects is to focus on those stakeholders and understand their roles and agenda in the service. Given a deep understanding of the landscape, service design generally aims to empower those stakeholders, which improves the feasibility and reduces systematic conflicts. If we apply the lens of radical innovation, the natural focus of stakeholders in service design may lead to a systematic re-construction of those stakeholders, which may in turn create competitive advantages in a single package of service. Itunes/iPod, Uber, Airbnb, for example, have seen some of those radical innovations by creating an eco-system of stakeholders and linking them into an integrated service.

Service design is about engagement

Following the focus on stakeholders, engagement is another key aspects of service design. Through my journey at the Service Design Studio at the RCA, we utilise various service design methods as engagement tools for working with stakeholders. The idea of ‘designing for and with users’ is reflected constantly in the way we approach problems and reframe them through engagement. The engagement here is not only an approach for designers to understand problems and create solutions but a key element of creating an environment for an organisation. This is conducive to different departments and stakeholders functioning holistically and integretively. Because service design is to propose a change in delivering system, it requires service designers to understand and deploy design as a new change management method to allow a new service rooting inside the organisation.

Service design is about measurement

The nature of a service means the production and consumption often happens at the same time and space. In comparison with manufacturing, ‘service’ does not have the luxury of having quality control during production (i.e. factory). It means that restaurants need to ask customers whether the food and everything else is good or not. The insurance companies need a feedback questionnaire from the customers who have just spoken on the phone with their call centre. The criteria of measurement is very important indeed indicating what employees should care about and do everyday and capturing the actual rational and irrational feeling of customers. Because service is not tangible in its nature, as service designers we are constantly trying capture the impact of the service we design and thinking about measurement.

(To be continued…)

Service design workshop and a bank project

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This is a caption of a service design workshop delivered by a London service design consultancy (‘Agency 1’) at RCA.

Tools and purpose/application

These are the tools being used by Agency 1 in their service design projects.

  • actor mapping in use. They often start this exercise with clients and help both to understand the stakeholders and their roles/values/meaning in the service. Sometimes, this tool also makes suggestions for research planning, in terms of identifying and recruiting stakeholders for design research. These give hints and suggestions for next steps.
  • touchpoint mapping. The touchpoint helps clients and consultants to align the objective of innovation and agree the potential innovation opportunities. In the case of a shopping project, Agency 1 uses shadowing technics and spends an hour to understand customers’ living context (more explanation) and another hour shopping with them.
  • problem statements. Problem statements work very well to understand clients’ objectives and agendas (i.e. financial, cultural, vision).
  • ‘future to be’ scenario. This works both for clients and consultant to picture the details of future interaction/service. It acts almost as the initial film script that helps screen writers, directors, producers and actors to figure out the roles and potential direction of the projects. Obviously, this detailed prototyping/scenario imagining could just be one single scene.

Reflection of a bank project We went through a bank project with those four tools. Here is a collection of thoughts and reflection.  

  • large timeframe in the customer journey. When we exmained the brief and mapped out the journey from the awareness of the needs, preparing for the deposit to getting the deals done, we realised the journey here could in some cases be in the time frame of more than 5 years. This create challenges for designers and businesses in understanding the details of the journey, picking out the important and relevant timepoints, and deciding on the innovation opportunities.
  • roles, powers, values, objectives.the stakeholders/actors landscape here is complicated. We are talking about young buyers, family members, current landlords, friends(peers pressures), sellers, real-estate agencies, solicitors from each party, financial advisors, middle man mortgage brokers. The power dynamic (i.e. knowledge, money), the agenda/objectives/constraints (i.e. busy mortgage brokers), the perceived/structured roles, are very interesting in terms of the relationship among those actors.
  • Information layers. contents, channels.The information you need to complete a mortgage is very diverse and almost stacks in multiple layers. There is information about legal issues (i.e. land/renting, buying, solicitors), financial issues (i.e. taxes), banks and mortgage information, your personal financial paperwork, etc. Almost every participant in the middle of the process joins the interaction because the very information of those professionals may be delivered as a part of their services. In terms of information channels, there are communication channels, such as emails, phones, faxes, etc, working as interaction mediums between actors. There are knowledge/eductional/informational channels, such as youtube, websites, twitter, schools/workshops/events, from which knowledge is gained about the subjects, helping and informing decision making.
  • Interaction. Some of the common issues in the interaction in the mortgage dealing processes are waiting time (i.e. negotiation and communication, preparation, etc), unclear processes/steps (unknown journey/blackbox), interaction channels (i.e. digital and physical), actors roles/objectives/values/agenda.
  • Market segmentation and generic design research. My assumption is that design research would form the second steps of market positioning that gives the designer a clearer focus and better alignment with organisational strategy. However, I wonder if the sequence may be different depending on the context of projects. For example, in a client-agency model, their first collaboration may well be targeting a small scale optimisation in services. The radical innovation which requires radical understanding of customers’ behaviours, i.e. their new living patterns, the new segment of customers, may produce more budget (both financially and timewise) for ‘designerly’ ways of thinking and acting. This very early stage of comprehensive design research may produce tools for imagining the strategic direction of the future.

Jackie’s experience In terms of field knowledge and potential research opportunities, we identified a mortgage broker company called, CMG Advisory (suggested by C). We talked about her experience of getting mortgage, such as time frame, steps/stages of processes, interaction, actors, issues and problems. I will add a drawing here and will not go in details here.

Life moments Designers from Agency 1 suggest that the major events of life act as the milestones influencing mortgage/housing/financial status. They suggest mapping out that big picture of turning points (i.e. age, graduation, jobs, promotion, dating, marriage, baby, etc) and think about the intervening points. We did an exercise on that and funnily enough this made us picture the financial/income curve of a young person (how they perform financially).

The element of incident Services do have unexpected incidents due to their IHIP characteristics. However, there seems to be two ways of engaging with the incident. In Agency 1, they map it out as the risk element, for which services need to build up resilience against those incidents. In traditional services, such as restaurants and hospitality organisations, they plan and design the incident deliberately, which create good surprises for their clients (i.e. complementary food, unexpected little gifts). If we apply the blueprint framework to those activities, those incidents can be regarded as plannedactivities out of the customers’ sight of visibility. This visibility line is dynamic in the process of services, in which it is revealed as a magical and happy incident.