Archive for ‘creativity’

December 3, 2011

Joana Conill, Manuel Castells and Àlex Ruiz produced a new and interesting documentary that collects stories, cases and reflections on a different way of running economy and life. it’s about services, it is about new currencies, it is about local and sustainable production and consumption, lifestyles, social innovation,and many other things

April 6, 2009

Help finding scenarios

I’m organising a project on tracking systems for elderly people. The scenario is as follow:

Elderly people, their relatives, friends and assistance personnel living in a specific area can carry a GPS device (it maybe their own mobile phone) which make it possible to visualise their position on a map (maybe google maps). They can also send short messages as in Twitter or Google Latitude. The visualisation may be possible both on a mobile phone screen or on a computer at home, possibly using applications like facebook (or any other application that support any kind of social interaction).

I’m trying to figure out how this scenario could define new services for 

  • functional use (i.e. telemedicine, assistance services, ask for help)
  • Persona use (i.e. reassurance when living alone)
  • Social networking (i.e. inviting people for lunch, going out for a walk)


So, this is a call for contribution: any idea about how to use this opportunity?

I promise that I will publish a list of all the possible scenarios on this blog. We may also think of an award for the best idea, but if I promise for instance a trip to Aalborg I’m not sure I will have too many contributions.

December 15, 2008

Three good reports on service design

Three very interesting reports are on my desk in this moment. I’m very slow at reading them, but I think they are a must for whoever wants to work on service design, especially in the public sector.

The only one I managed to read so far is “the Journey to the Interface”, by Sophia Parker and John Heapy (Engine) (Parker and Heapy 2006). The other two are “Designing for Services – Multidisciplinary Perspectives “(Kimbell and Seidel 2008) and “Innovation by Design” edited by Emily Thomas (Thomas and Grace 2008). In fact there are many interesting reports on public services coming out almost every week and mainly from UK (Damn!!! How comes the other countries are so late in this?) Therefore I created a new page in the service design wiki on recent reports on service design.

The report by Sophia Parker and John Heapy is VERY interesting. In fact the report was written in 2006 and things seem to change very fast in UK, but probably this document was a good step towards the most recent announce of a design council program for the development of innovative public services in UK.

Initially, the reference to the journey and the interface made me think that this was yet another report on experience design. In fact the report doesn’t go very deep in the question of how to design the “mechanism” of a service, but it considers the whole strategic and political framework for the development of innovative services. The report considers the shift from fordism to mass customization and to new needs for services to be co-produced, thus it emphasizes the importance of designing the point of contact in a way that supports individual needs and local solutions.

I found the third part particularly interesting, because, for the first time, I’ve seen someone mentioning the need for measuring service performance. The authors propose to measure service performances not just in terms of traditional metrics (e.g. waiting time) but also in terms of user experience. “this form of measurement – in customer terms, not universal standards set centrally and sometimes arbitrarily based on what users might judge to be good – can be called my metrics” (p70)

Also part 4 – on the politics of service design – Considers the main assumptions in the existing public service system (about efficiency, personalisation and devolution] and analyses those assumptions in a service design perspective. By focusing on the relationship between services and people, rather than on organizational efficiency, service designers can really think of improving services on a day-to day basis. This can be done thourhg harnessing users’ participation, feedbacks and insight generation.

Another concept I found very interesting and very close to the way I see the question of innovation in public service is the investment in “in-between” spaces. Traditional public services are creating “light spots”, in which services are offered. Within those spots services are working at their best. However those light spots are also creating deep shaded areas, in which services are not very efficient or are not accessible. For example some elderly care services may work very well in an area, but may be very inefficient or may not respond very well to people needs in another areas. Childcare services may work very well for people working in standard working areas, but be inaccessible or inefficient for people with unusual working hours. Meal services for elderly people may work very well for people with relatively normal diets, but be inefficient for people with very special dietary needs. Serving those interstitial areas would be very expensive or sometimes almost impossible. Investing in “in-between” space, as far as I understand, means giving spaces for people to work out solutions in those spaces. This would be possible by making space for people to contact each other, thus promoting horizontal network and forms of collaboration institutions and the users of public services. (e.g. the patient opinion website,

In such interstitial spaces the wisdom and creativity of people emerge, harnessing this wisdom would be a big resource for innovation in services. Of course the intervention in those places requires a very delicate approach. In fact the authors pose the question of how can the government invest in those spaces without legislating for everything that takes places within them.

Kimbell, L. and V. P. Seidel (2008). Designing for Services – Multidisciplinary Perspectives: Proceedings from the Exploratory Project on Designing for Services in Science and Technology-based Enterprises. Oxford, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford: 56.

Parker, S. and J. Heapy (2006). The Journey to the Interface – How public service design can connect users to reform, Demos.

Thomas, E. and C. Grace (2008). Innovation by design in public services, Design Council – Solace Foundation inprint – The Guardian: 64.

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April 20, 2008

Creativity of everyday

For a moment I try to sift the perspective from the macro level of economies and large political and social systems to the individuals that represent the molecules of such systems. Every moment in people life is based on individual choices, which in turn are based o the context in which such choices are developed.

Apart from some emerging phenomena, such as Second Life or other social forms we can now observe in Web 2, the real dimension of the consumption process is still local, whereas production process are globalising: products are produced in different parts of the word, but the process of consuming, or experiencing a product is related to the place and time in which it is located. Of course the context in which individual choices is also connected to other contexts: for instance getting info on holiday resorts and the availability of adequate (time and moneywise) forms of transportation, puts me in the conditions of deciding to spend the holidays in contexts I have never seen before (and of course this also implies an environmental cost), however the process of consumption (the experience of holidays in an exotic place) is locally and temporary placed (the holiday resort, the holiday period) while the experience of dreaming before the holiday itself, and organising the trip appropriately is located in my everyday context of life.

The context in which each action of our life is placed represents the dimension in which our action and our choices are framed. Globalised production doesn’t just produce products and services, but also a cultural model in which such products/services will be used. In every moment of their life individuals are proposed such models and face the dilemma whether to abide by those models or shape their own individual choices using the resources and products they have, including global and local products/services and their individual capabilities. Each individual develops his/her own life strategies, deciding whether to adapt to the context conditions or to add new properties to it, in order to make it more suitable to reach his/her own aspirations and individual needs. Such an autonomous choice is a design act, whose degree of freedom depends on how much individuals are able to shape their own life independently from the global models.

For this reason individuals are always dealing with a tension between adaptation to global parameter and criteria and active Production processes at the local/individual level. Such processes are producing individual solutions.

Every time individuals abide by the model proposed by global consumption processes they give up their own chance to produce individual solutions, to invent their life. This is perfectly justifiable, as adaptation to the context conditions are as a way to reduce the effort and the stress of inventing new things and may save energy and resource to prioritise aspect of the everyday life that are more relevant. However the prevalence of adaptation behaviour or the persistence of such behaviour in long term may reduce individual creativity to the point it may become a scarce resource. At the social level the loss of individual creativity means a loss of diversity (diversity by itself is a biological/social/human resource) and a reduced potential to face the complexity of the problems generated by the modern socio-technical system.

The tension between adaptation to global models of consumption and creation of individual solutions and individual ways of living highlights the profile of individuals as actors rather than consumers; i.e. as active participants/designers rather than passive receivers of products/services and experiences. This perspective also changes the perception of the idea of people as the sum of actors that create a society or a social context, rather than a market. The active role of such context depends on its capability to generate autonomous proposals/projects about their way of living. In other words, it depends on the creativity of a social group or a social context.

Creativitry should not be seen as a monolithic resource in the hands of a group of professionals specialist, but rather as a diffuse resource that produces multiple and flexible solutions and also multiple perspectives: different ways of looking at and interpreting reality, which is particularly relevant when reality is very complex. Diffuse creativity implies a social learning process and is the engine for new forms of production.

Those reflection are partly inspired to the book “Sustainable Everyday” by Ezio Manzini and Francois Jegou