Social business & service design


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In my last blogpost “Towards a new model of management & society” (which was a bit to long for a blogpost I must admit) I described the changing paradigm and structures in business and society as a reaction to ever more demanding and better informed customers & citizens, multi-directional real time networking via social media, a constantly changing world that faces important economic, social and environmental challenges combined with people centered technological innovation.

From a business point of view I was focusing on advertising, social marketing, branding and enterprise 2.0. But the broader view is the emergence of social business, greatly summarized in Graham Hill’s “A manifesto for social business“. If you take a closer look at his 15 themes for social business, you’ll realize that all of them can be classified into two major categories: A new view on value creation as well as multiple new network effects, mainly enabled by the technological revolution that is the Internet. In the same line of thought, David Armano’s “The social business manifesto” and Jane Hart’s “The beginning of a social employee manifesto” are worth mentioning.

If you consider that since its beginnings, human progress was always driven by the desire for better communication (human beings are social beings in their very essence), better transportation and better overall experiences, it is not amazing that the social potential and the experience potential of the Internet materialized so quickly in the past 15 years and is now revolutionizing the way we communicate, do business and organize our societies. The results are flattening hierarchies, co-production, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and other peer-to-peer activities, pushing many of the established stakeholders in business and politics to reinvent themselves to escape from simply being swept away by this major paradigm shift. (How else could Facebook have gained 500 billion users within five years, and by the way revolutionizing their social lives ?) Trust, crowd empowerment, transparency and co-management of almost every life activity are the new master concepts to adopt, or otherwise lose momentum.

It is thus not surprising that almost every business analyst, from whatever field they come from, management, business consulting, marketing, finance…etc predicts that customer experience and customer value in use will be the next big strategic thing, including major players like Forrester research – The State Of Customer Experience, 2010 – and big five consultancies like Cap Gemini. See also for example Emanuele Quintarelli’s summaries of the Enterprise 2.0 Summit 2010 and the “Social CRM Strategies Summit” (Day 1 & Day 2). More fundamental models in business and academia are underlining this new paradigm: Service dominant logic, and lean consumption as an application of lean management .

And that’s exactly the reason why service design (as a generalization of the formerly emerged discipline of User experience design – see Peter Morville, Smashing Magazine & Kimmy Paluch) and design thinking are starting to raise such a high interest: It’s these disciplines that have the tools, methods and people (the designers and design thinkers) necessary to discover & create customer value and experience, the new ingredients for success and competitiveness in business. The reasons are the importance of design research (to uncover unmet needs, experience desires & jobs-to-be-done patterns in context) which is mainly based on social sciences like psychology & anthropology (and it’s sub-discipline commercial ethnography) and the designers ability to think differently, what Roger Martin calls “abductive or integrative thinking“. In a world that gets more and more social on a peer-to-peer basis and where “good experiences” are the new value in the post-industrial way of living it is again not surprising that social sciences are gaining in importance in management as well as public governance theory & practice. Lucy Kimbell’s recent keynote “Service design at a crossroads” at the Service Design Network Conference in Berlin nicely addressed the current status of Service Design as “a new interdiscipline, a mix of concepts, methods and tools from several different fields, brought together to address the challenges that organisations face as they try to improve and innovate in services. As an interdiscipline it is presented as a happy fusion of the best bits of management or business, design and technology, and the social sciences.” and also Laura Forlano’s “What is Service Design?” recapitulating the current state of the art and additionally putting it into an contemporary urban context. .

What is true for business is as much true for public & social services. Although the constraints both sectors are facing and the environments in which they operate might be slightly different, they are both confronted with the same changing expectation patterns by people. A very valuable read here is Jess McMullin’s “Guiding Principles for Citizen Experience [BETA]” and “Innovation by design in public services” edited by Emily Thomas.

Economist’s, capitalists, entrepreneurs, public servants and policy makers are on their way to recognize the new source of (economic) value, “human experience” and the designers are delivering the tools & mindsets to create them. Great times for designers & design thinkers, great times for a new kind of multidisciplinary collaboration of formerly opposed mindsets, great new business & public service opportunities and a great moment in human development & history.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Sylvain Cottong
Economist by education, I now have 17 years of experience in business consulting, Internet consulting, innovation management, marketing & communication, IT, UX & service design, technology and trendwatching. Restless in my drive for discovering new knowledge and broadening my understanding on how successful things work and on how to use & implement new management models within changing markets & rising complexity, I continue to be involved in different communities and discussions around the world on the future of business, technology, government, urban & social life.


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