Sunday, August 31, 2008

MBA Design Leadership elective - session 4

What do designers do (II)?

This class focussed on design methods. Complementing the earlier class on process, this class looked in more detail at the tools and techniques designers use in their work. In particular we looked at ideation (eg brainstorming, as described by Tom Kelley and researched by Sutton and Hargadon), and the ways designers visualize ideas. Sketches and prototypes function as boundary objects, having an important role in organizations. Different kinds of designers and engineers mean different things by these terms so it's important to understand how these artefacts can be used within the design process, sometimes to open up questions and sometimes to specify design features. We also considered the challenges of creating prototypes of experiences (rather than of products). Finally we considered the service blueprint (or customer journey): a visual narrative of the interactions with touchpoints and staff that a customer goes through within a service, which together impact on his or her experience. Originally proposed by Shostack (1984) in services marketing, this method has been further developed in the practices of service design consultancies.

The practical exercise involved groups of MBA students creating a service blueprint/customer journey diagram for parts of an experience we had all shared: air travel. One group tackled check-in (online, kerbside, at a desk); another looked at luggage; another at waiting for the flight; another at the gate; and a fifth group looked at (in-bound) immigration. The value of this design method was clear: creating a visual representation that focussed on the human experience of the service, manifested through engagements with touchpoints or front-stage customer service representatives. The approach contrasts with the sorts of diagrams produced within operations management which tend to focus on flows and efficiency, but pay less attention to usability and desirability. This design method enables the various parts of the organization to come together to look at a visual representation that makes visible the customer experience, but shows how the different functions (marketing, operations, IT, and partner organizations) come together to deliver it - and where the failure points are.

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