Bringing Design Closer with Gerry Scullion

Ben Reason ‘The Velocities of Change with the Founder of Livework’

John Carter
February 21, 2023
53
 MIN
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Ben Reason ‘The Velocities of Change with the Founder of Livework’

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In this episode I speak with Ben Reason, Founding Partner of Live|Work in the UK. Ben has co-authored Service Design from Insight to Implementation and Service Design for Business: A Practical Guide to Optimizing the Customer Experience released in 2016. In this conversation we chat about a few things, but mainly around Ben’s own journey through Design, starting out in Liverpool in the mid-90’s and his entry into the world of Service Design later that decade.

We chat about the work Live|Work do and also a new framework titled Three Velocities of Change - what this means, where it originated and why this is so important to not only Ben, but to the LiveWork team.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/breasy/

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:7008020506171875328/

https://liveworkstudio.typeform.com/to/KQpMlnmc?typeform-source=www.linkedin.com


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Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] Ben Reason: We just came together for a weekend and we were like, maybe we're service designers, and that was the moment. And then when. I think Chris just registered the company and told us if we didn't show up on the 1st of January, then he'd do it on his own.

[00:00:16] Gerry Scullion: Hello and welcome to Bringing Design Closer, and this is H C D. Our goal is to have conversations that inspire and help move the dive forward for organizations to become more human-centered in their approach to solving complex. And societal problems. Now, before we jump in, I have a favorite ask. I've personally been creating content for, this is Hate City for nearly six years now.

[00:00:36] Gerry Scullion: All for the love of sharing knowledge to the global design community. And one thing that you could do is leave a review, preferably a five star one, as it helps grow our community and helps the findability. Of our podcast across the networks like Spotify, apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts too. And even if you don't have a chance to leave a review, you can go one better by just telling your friends or the people that you work with about [00:01:00] this helps us out so much.

[00:01:02] Gerry Scullion: Okay, now in this episode. I speak with Ben Reen, founding partner of live work in the uk, and Ben has co-authored service design from insight to implementation on Rosenfeld Media and also service design for business, a practical guide to optimizing the customer experience released in 2016. In this conversation, we chat about a few things, but mainly around Ben's own journey through design.

[00:01:24] Gerry Scullion: Starting at Liverpool in the mid nineties, Anna is entry into the world of service design later on that decade with live. Now we chat about the work that live work do and also a new framework titled Three Velocities That Change. We wanna understand what this means, where it originated, and also why this is so important not only to Ben, but to the live work team.

[00:01:45] Gerry Scullion: It's a great one. Let's jump straight in. Ben, it is fantastic to have you on the podcast.

[00:01:53] Ben Reason: Thank you for having me,

[00:01:54] Gerry Scullion: Jerry. Longtime fan first. Time caller. Um, you know, you've, [00:02:00] you've written some, uh, some of the seminal service design books, um, and you're obviously founder of livework, one of the, um, the pioneers of service design globally.

[00:02:10] Gerry Scullion: But for our listeners, I've given you a bit of a, an intro there, but for our listeners, um, maybe describe what you do on a day-to-day basis, um, and also where you're based.

[00:02:21] Ben Reason: So start with the easy one. I'm, I'm based in London, um, day to day, so I letting you kind of in on it a bit. Um, I kind of finally took on being the boss at live work, even though we've been around for 20 years, but it's always been a sort of a joint effort.

[00:02:39] Ben Reason: And then I'm the last founder standing. Yeah. Um, so. It's a relatively new role a couple, two or three years into doing that. So I, it's a mix. I work with the leadership team and kind of I am the line manager of all these new terms that we have been introducing as we've grown up. Um, I still do a [00:03:00] lot of, um, You know, work in, in kind of business development work.

[00:03:04] Ben Reason: And then a, so sort of a third, a third, a third, the final third being working with some of the project teams, um mm-hmm. or some of the teams, and particularly around, you know, when we're pushing things a, a little bit, so, We've been pushing what we've calling sustainable futures over the last few years. So when we've got projects where we are doing something we haven't done before, I like to get involved.

[00:03:28] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. And absolutely. Let's go back to, um, let's go back to the start. Yeah. If you, if you don't mind, like, so. What did you study in university? Cuz I know we spoke before about, um, that whole con transition period of coming out of university. Mm-hmm. into a world. What did that world look like back then? Were, were people driving cars?

[00:03:49] Gerry Scullion: I mean, wasn't that long ago ?

[00:03:51] Ben Reason: Um, I graduated in 95, uh, with a, a degree in fine art. So I, um, Yeah, I kind of came out [00:04:00] with the, with the, uh, false notion that I was gonna be an artist and rented a studio from one of my former tutors. Yeah. And then found it very cold and lonely and realized art school is great cuz you're full of like-minded people and you're kind of in this environment, but when you're on your own, uh, I realized I wasn't, uh, I wasn't a sort of a lone wolf kind of worker and, and I needed human, human beings around me.

[00:04:24] Ben Reason: Mm-hmm. . So I, I, in that time I was using, I, I bought a, a Mac with, um, some money that I was left and was making animations with it that I thought were art. And I showed a friend and he said, oh, you could come and, you know, cut up Jpx for us in our studio and help us make CD ROMs. So I, I, I kind of fell into to digital and then the internet through, uh, a kind of a luck of timing.

[00:04:52] Ben Reason: I always feel like if I was a few years younger, Yeah, there would've been lots of design graduates who knew what they were doing. But um, [00:05:00]

[00:05:00] Gerry Scullion: you were kind of lucky in that sense, in that, in that the timing. Yeah. Where there was a sort of a, there was an interest in, in the internet in 95 was kind of an interesting Windows 95 dropped as well.

[00:05:11] Gerry Scullion: Of course. Yeah. That kinda was a bit of a game changer. So what did that look like in terms of, um, strategic design? Because say the double diamond hadn't. Created, if you look at that as being a moment mm-hmm. from the design council. So there was, there was interest about using design, but what did design look like in 95 when you, when you finished, as regards to opportunities for design to evoke change?

[00:05:38] Ben Reason: So I think the, the first job that I got that was more than, um, you know, McMonkey work was with, um, kind of early stage. Company that was emerging out of the sort of marketing, the, the, the directors were from a marketing advertising background and they were exploring the internet. So we were primarily [00:06:00] making websites and actually digital advertising stuff.

[00:06:05] Ben Reason: Um, I don't think, not particularly strategically. It was, um, it was like that at that stage where you've got this new medium and you're trying to figure out if it's of any use. To the companies that you're working with and it, it's kind of fascinating cuz they were, you know, we were working with all these brands who were just trying to put adverts on the internet and they, it was, it was kind of dumb, I think.

[00:06:29] Ben Reason: And then, We stumbled across. The first thing that I felt was meaningful was we, we did some work for the Royal Automobile Club for the RAC in the uk, which is the breakdown insurance company where we were actually putting some services together. You know, like route finder services and other things that might actually support their members, or, or, or motorists.

[00:06:53] Ben Reason: So that was the first time I was like, oh, you could actually, you can use this for something interesting. Yeah. [00:07:00] And that, that kind of steered me. So I did feel like at that time there was a career fork. I was working with these guys who were from, you know, proper, the bottle, Bo Haggerty, people who were like, and, and they were like, come and make acts with us.

[00:07:16] Ben Reason: And then I was like, no, I think I wanna make something that's actually useful. And yeah. Um, more like practical for, for people. So that was, that. Couldn't have. Took me down a path into, you know, carrying on, working with, with what we called web design at the time. Mm-hmm. .

[00:07:33] Gerry Scullion: Um, so you, your first introduction to service design, what did that look like?

[00:07:38] Gerry Scullion: Because you know what I, I probably had heard of service design in, you know, the mid two thousands, um mm-hmm. and. I'm keen to hear what your experience was around that period of where you saw the night. So this is

[00:07:55] Ben Reason: the sort of live, work, foundational myth and truth. Um, [00:08:00] so I, folks where , it's a bit like that.

[00:08:02] Ben Reason: I mean, I feel a bit, uh, bashful about it, but, um, so I was working. With, um, with this web company that was, you know, building websites and we were doing projects. We built the first Acardo website and we built some websites for, uh, you know, some, quite a few startups like a, um, Real estate startup. And so these were services that we were making.

[00:08:26] Ben Reason: Yeah. Or, or we'd get hired by a bank to try and put 'em on the internet. And then, um, I met Chris Downs, who was my fellow founder at Livework. Um, and we just hit it off and, and had a lot of fun. And also, but we're also kind of fed up with the firm we were working with and. It was, it was kind of a technology led firm, you know, that was the bulk of their revenue.

[00:08:45] Ben Reason: So we, we decide, we sort of were like fantasizing about starting a design firm. Yeah. And then we brought Laron over from Scandinavia, who the two of them had been at the Royal College together. Okay. At the same time I was doing a [00:09:00] master's, it was called Responsibility in Business Practice. So I was trying to figure out how to do something more meaningful.

[00:09:06] Ben Reason: Yeah. And, and around, um, you know, ecological issues. And I read a, a book that had a chapter that was about services and services being a way to drive, drive, resource sufficiency. This guy called Emory Loves and Paul Hawkins. So they were talking about things like car sharing and I was like, oh, that's, , that's like my in, that's where I could be useful to this issue.

[00:09:29] Ben Reason: Yeah. If I can make services that make us use less stuff in the world and create less waste. Yeah. Um, Larenz and Chris had been talking about the fact that they were both industrial design trained, but they'd always worked in the service sector. Yeah. So they were trying to, they were kind of having a design and the.

[00:09:46] Ben Reason: Existential moment, and we just came together for a weekend and we were like, maybe we're service designers. And that was the, yeah, the moment. And then when we, you know, think Chris just registered the [00:10:00] company and told us if we didn't show up on the 1st of January, then he'd do it on his own and we'd set off.

[00:10:06] Ben Reason: So we, we were quite deliberately sort of saying this, you know, then we did our research. We found that there. You know, there was service design big at Margaret and Cologne. Then show stacks, service blueprinting work that I D O had done. But we were aware there weren't any firms that were service design pure kind of play.

[00:10:24] Ben Reason: So we were on a early days. It was a very experimental try and prove that. Oh, that's

[00:10:31] Gerry Scullion: 2000, 2001, was it? That's right. Yeah. Yeah. It was around that period. So, you know, that that whole kind of journey, um, I I didn't really realize that your masters, um, had such a sustainable, um, perspective within it. Mm-hmm.

[00:10:46] Gerry Scullion: and it kind of has emerged as you said, there are alluded to maybe a 10 minutes ago. It's kind of emerged out of the, uh, I guess the brand if you want, in the last four or five years. And it's kind of permeating everything [00:11:00] that live work is. It's, it kind of makes sense now if. Chris and Laron have left and you're there now.

[00:11:07] Gerry Scullion: It's kind of, it's, it's Ben's baby and, and that stuff can, can effectively grow so well. What are the challenges, um, that you see from, uh, the, the existing world of service design at the moment? Like, what's holding us back Right. To, to get to this point where we can actually start thinking about creating more ethical and sustain.

[00:11:33] Gerry Scullion: Services.

[00:11:35] Ben Reason: I guess what's holding us back is we're just one part of the existing system, right? And we're geared up to work within that system. So, I mean, there's been a lot of discussion and, and soul searching by designers about, you know, Things that we design and the impacts that they have are things, I guess the things that we make desirable.

[00:11:56] Ben Reason: Um, and the, I guess the general [00:12:00] alignment of design, especially, well, especially in a, in a kind of commercial setting with a consumer economy. So we're kind of part of that system. Um, so there's a bit of a, a recognition of that. And then I, I think the other interesting. Discussion going on is whether the concept of human centricity is part of the problem.

[00:12:20] Ben Reason: If we're, you know, your prior, and, and if you go, I, I do kind of read a lot and then, you know, if you talk, you sort of dig into some of the, the kind of more ecological thinkers, they will say something similar about help humanity has. Separated itself from its environment as if we're different, as if we're kind of, yeah.

[00:12:41] Ben Reason: Floating above it or as if we can just use it for our own ends and, and we've lost touch with our connections and our dependencies and, and things like that. Yeah. So I guess you could, you know, human-centered design is part of the human humanistic worldview that we're, that we're in, um, [00:13:00] So that, is that answering your questions?

[00:13:03] Ben Reason: Kind of holding

[00:13:03] Gerry Scullion: us? Yeah, no, absolutely. It's, yeah, it's, it's kind of, um, the whole, the whole bigger question really is, um, if, if, if that's what's holding us back. What about the, the, the work that you're doing at the moment around three Horizons? Yeah. And how do you see that that's going to. You know, sort of unlock an awful lot of those resistance points.

[00:13:28] Gerry Scullion: Um, like for, for, for, maybe before we get into that, let's talk about, I'm call it three Horizon. Sorry. But it's the three velocities is the proper term. You can smack me, . So let's, uh, let's talk about where this came from first of all, because yeah, you sent this to me a couple of months ago and I was like, oh, okay.

[00:13:45] Gerry Scullion: This is, yeah, this is pretty interesting.

[00:13:47] Ben Reason: So you, you rightly noted that. So I guess this issue has been a concern of mine for a long time, and it, it sort of went away and I found, I found the, the world of sustainability, which is kind of called, [00:14:00] um, didn't have very many inroads for design. It seemed to be a very technical world of kind of counting carbon, um, emissions.

[00:14:08] Ben Reason: And so, and it, and you know, we got distracted and did other things that live worked, but about probably 2018 there was a, a combination of. Me wanting to push things forward, but also quite a few of the younger live workers coming and saying, you know, we can't, what's our position on this? You know, I'm not happy to, for us to pretend it doesn't exist.

[00:14:30] Ben Reason: And then, um, Extinction of rebellion kicked off in the UK and my partner was like, come and join me. I'm on a bridge of blocking a bridge over the Thames . Like, I literally came from a client workshop with a, a folder full of, you know, post-Its and scribbles from some kind of corporate brainstorm and ended up with all the, all the res bridge.

[00:14:53] Ben Reason: And which was really catalyzing. Um, so there's that, there was, there was that, that was, you were asking about kind of where it comes from, but, um, I guess I [00:15:00] found some of the, I think it's quite a big challenge for design and I found some of the debate about, okay, so we just moved from, um, this is not fair, but if you kind of move from human centricity to planet centric or something.

[00:15:11] Ben Reason: Yeah. Doesn't quite answer the question for me about, you know, what do we actually do and are we actually challenging? You know, do we have, does is design still relevant? You know, is if it is, you know, if you think design comes. Industrialization and the need to, you know, make these commodity products that are useful, usable, and desirable.

[00:15:30] Ben Reason: Is it still relevant in a world where we need to challenge some of those thoughts? Yeah, so, um, the, the three velocities as, uh, it's kind of an early stage. Concept for where we think live work can be useful to clients in, I guess the ecological transition. So the three things we're saying is the sort of one velocity is understanding, which is probably a slow burn kind of mindset shift into a more ecological [00:16:00] way of thinking.

[00:16:01] Ben Reason: Another one is acceleration. So there are certain things we need to do really fast, like transition. Renewable energies. And the third one is, is with we're calling Prepare, which is a bit more of a futures facing. There are changes that we might need to be ready for that maybe we don't know if they're coming or not.

[00:16:21] Ben Reason: Um, yeah. And, and in some ways these three things are three things that I, you can see in the world. So you, if you, if you sort of look at the world and how different groups of people are responding to say, climate change, some people. Saying, well, we need to get, we need to sort of philosophically change.

[00:16:37] Ben Reason: Other people are saying, well, we just need to change technology very, very fast. And, you know, we can ask this for technology. And other people are kind of prepping and going out and, you know, setting up new community. So I, I quite like the idea that these things are, are disparate, but actually they're all relevant and they were all different modes of kind of parallel thought.

[00:16:57] Ben Reason: Um, and just to finish off your question, [00:17:00] so I. There's still a question, like where does, what's the design role in here? Yeah. So I, I think we're, we're feeling like the, the understand thing is about retuning design, empathy to think beyond human beings and start thinking about systems and Absolutely. Um, and the accelerator is, sorry.

[00:17:19] Gerry Scullion: No, no. I was just gonna say on the understand piece, because yeah, the, when I initially saw it, I'm probably not the first person to say that I. I'm a bit confused about the understand piece and why it looks like over time the effort decreases. Yeah, and when typically, if you look at, you know, wicked problems to use that term, the, the closer you get to, to the problem, it exponentially increases.

[00:17:45] Gerry Scullion: And, um, it, it shouldn't diminish. The, the amount of effort required to understand is my take on it. And I was like, okay, I'm, I might be missing something here and I'd love to be able to speak to Ben about this. And I was like, oh, [00:18:00] brilliant. Podcast. Couple

[00:18:01] Ben Reason: weeks, . Oh, thanks Jerry. So we did put this, so Jerry's referring to a graph that we have with a link in the Yeah, yeah.

[00:18:10] Ben Reason: And um, the understand one does sort of start off intensively and. And then become a kind of an ongoing thing. And it might not be right. You're not the only person to question this. And I think, you know, the understanding might be something that actually builds over time. I, I we're taking the feedback on, um, I guess the, the thought was it's, it's probably a slower, you know, mind shift change doesn't happen so quickly.

[00:18:34] Ben Reason: So it's probably an ongoing, ongoing, slow burn kind of thing. But, um, colleagues of mine were thinking it also needs to start with quite a, kind of an intensive. Piece of work to understand like what is the, what is the situation. So yeah, you're, yeah.

[00:18:49] Gerry Scullion: Okay. So you're on the money . Well, you know, we all love to be, to be challenged, but um, Let's talk about the accelerate piece.

[00:18:59] Gerry Scullion: [00:19:00] Okay. Because, you know, I'm interested in the use of language as well. Mm-hmm. . Okay. Um, w where did this come from, the term accelerate, and how, how does it differ to say, um, Different, different frameworks that, and I guess it's not really a framework, it's, I'm, I'm interested to see why there's a need for speed.

[00:19:22] Gerry Scullion: I cannot believe I've said that phrase again cuz that's the third podcast in a row. I've quoted Top Gun .

[00:19:28] Ben Reason: There you go. So beyond it being exhilarating, you mean, why is that?

[00:19:32] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. You know, yeah. And Wing and all that .

[00:19:36] Ben Reason: Yeah. Well you, I mean, the really simple answer is you've seen things like these reports around climate changes that there's only so.

[00:19:44] Ben Reason: For a transition to take absolutely place. Um, so, you know, the need to move from, you know, a fossil energy system to a a renewable energy system and the speed, speed is, is a critical factor. And I, you know, I think there's a guy called Alex Stephan, if anyone is [00:20:00] interested in, in kind of ecological and design, he's a amazing writer.

[00:20:05] Ben Reason: and he's been talking about, you know, speed being as important as the change. You know, like late is okay. Late is also a problem. It's not like, I guess other transitions where the, the deadline is is less. Um, Critical. But also it's quite interesting cuz we've, you know, part of this has come from observing work that we've been doing with clients, um mm-hmm.

[00:20:28] Ben Reason: and we've worked with some car manufacturers who are on that electric vehicle transition. Yeah. And, you know, there are deadlines from government about when they have to stop making petrol cars. And the feel, the kind of, the urgency that you can feel from them is quite different from other work we've had.

[00:20:47] Ben Reason: Um, . And the other part of it is, is a sort of a need to really focus and not do a whole load of stuff that you might normally do. You know, like there's some real basics that need to be put in place and you can't. [00:21:00] What we've seen on some of those projects as well is we are used to kind of all of these additional features and kind of, so if I give you an example, a kind of electric vehicle transition, do you really need a loyalty program that goes with that?

[00:21:14] Ben Reason: Or do you just really wanna focus on the core business, which. Supporting people to adopt a different kind of vehicle. That's, I think the thing. Um,

[00:21:24] Gerry Scullion: okay, so, um, The bit that I'm kind of, I, I understand. I don't wanna say the need for speed again, but I understand acceleration. Okay. Like an, an accelerator is there, is there a, um, some sort of an in innovation loop happening, whereas you can test the, the hypothesis of the prototypes and get them and get that feedback loop and, and build on it like, Is that what I'm seeing here in terms of it being a cyclical process?

[00:21:52] Gerry Scullion: Or is it just a case of getting that, that massive change and doing it quicker, I think.

[00:21:58] Ben Reason: I think that's where we've [00:22:00] been discussing it for everyone. This is early stage kind of hypothetical. Yeah. Um, thoughts, but we're, we're kind of hoping that the prepare work pops out things that then become accelerated when the timing is is right.

[00:22:14] Ben Reason: So, okay, for an organization to accelerate something, it has to be very clearly the right thing to do. Um, whereas there are lots of unknowns and kind of maybes around there. So I think the, the, the prepare work is probably gonna have a lot of ideas in it that sit there. And one thing we've been discussing in terms of innovation, So my colleague El also sort of said, it's not so much kill your darlings anymore.

[00:22:36] Ben Reason: It's like, chill your darlings and wait for the rat time. .

[00:22:39] Gerry Scullion: I love that. Isn't that good? ? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That should make t-shirts with that. Okay. Um, that's, we'll do that, that's cool that I get the reaction going from

[00:22:47] Ben Reason: me. We can wear them at all the geeky conferences

[00:22:50] Gerry Scullion: and I mean, like, , as you said, like this is a, um, it's an exploratory piece.

[00:22:55] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. , um, uh, that you're doing. And I, I guess at this stage, what are you [00:23:00] hoping to achieve by putting this out into the wild? Is, is conversation one of them? Because we're here talking about it is, is one thing. Yeah. And

[00:23:08] Ben Reason: sort of pull ourselves forward in some way and, and, but also provide a framework where we can um, we can kind of look at the work we're doing in this space and.

[00:23:18] Ben Reason: What's the balance that we, that we need? Um, we've done one piece of work which has kind of touched all three, where we've looked at this sort of, so creating a, a community of practice around design for sustainability within an organization. So you've got that kind of understanding piece going on and then, then their priorities izing certain things that they're taking forward, but they're also thinking longer term, like what's our compass?

[00:23:43] Ben Reason: So, Useful to sort of codify something that was, let's say a, you know, an early indicative methodology. But yeah, and, and, and obviously, We're trying to match something we can do with something that [00:24:00] organizations need. So there's a commercial Yeah. Aspect to it.

[00:24:03] Gerry Scullion: One of the things that struck me, um, Ben, and this is not me being anyway, facetious, is the, is the work that you're doing now and how it seems to have matched the design culture.

[00:24:14] Gerry Scullion: Okay? So the, the culture that you've built over the last 15, 20 years. Okay. I don't know what it was like, uh, in 2000 tens and stuff, but it seems that there's been careful curation happening around the people that I've spoken to, cuz there's, there's been a number of live workers that I've spoken to over the last couple of months.

[00:24:37] Gerry Scullion: How have you managed this in terms of, um, the hiring process? Mm-hmm. and how do you maintain the design culture? Because as you said, they came to you. In 2018 and they go, what's our position on this? Like, you know, how are we gonna respond to these things? Mm-hmm. , and it sounds like in somewhat the employees have risen.

[00:24:55] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. Um, um, they've, they've kinda asked the questions and you've [00:25:00] responded. Um, I'd love to get your thoughts about. What you've done to enable that design culture, because I think a lot of people will be really interested in that and especially if you're now able to, as you say, go into the final third and convert that into meaningful work.

[00:25:18] Gerry Scullion: Yeah.

[00:25:18] Ben Reason: You know, I think that's a tricky question. It's like, you know, initial of self-reflective element of it. Um, what do I know? So I think, I think we've always been. Encouraged a, a kind of an openness about, you know, so there's no, there aren't particularly, there aren't kind of, we don't shut down people's questions or doubts or, or things either.

[00:25:44] Ben Reason: Generally, you know, over time people, you know, and, and I, I, I guess it also starts with me. I mean, I've always been, this, this is something I've talked about all the time. Um mm-hmm. So it's not, it's a kinda an, an open. Um, on a more formal, formal side. And [00:26:00] actually to answer, sort of address your earlier question about like what the challenge is to the design world, we did kick off a process last year that's taken most of the year with sort of deliberately, um, taken our time around, like just renewing our updating liveworks purpose statement, or we didn't have one.

[00:26:18] Ben Reason: We had kinda different mission vision stuff, but we were just like, okay, what's the company. And had a lot of conversations around it. And, uh, the first time we kind of opened the discussion and I think I scared everybody by sharing some sort of more bleak eco thought, including this guy Al, Alex, Stephan.

[00:26:38] Ben Reason: But there, there was, there's a sort of a, a fear factor involved here about stepping into the unknown. You know, I think we all, we all swim in this human-centric water and it's second nature and, and it's, you know, it's kind of how, how we define. Who we are to some extent. So to sort of say, well, we're gonna do, you know, it's like, do I need to go back to school or do I need to challenge [00:27:00] my clients in a different way that I'm not used to it?

[00:27:02] Ben Reason: I'm not sure if I've got the data or the, you know, the gravitas to do that. Um, so that's, that's, you know, fear is always sort of something that holds you back, isn't it? Um, so deliberate. I mean, that's the one thing I can say we've done. Over the last year to deliberately say, this is a collective thing, you're not on your own.

[00:27:21] Ben Reason: Yeah. You know, we've talked about saying we're going to have this kind of, you know, the sustainability lens is something that we bring to all projects, even if the client says, well, that's not relevant for now. Um, and also we've been running a, a kind of sustainable futures in stealth mode. So we've picked a few clients where we've said, let's just have the conversation in the background.

[00:27:45] Ben Reason: Yeah, and if you feel comfortable, you can see whether some of these questions are relevant, and it's been really successful actually. I still, you know, we work with, with some clients where we haven't been, this hasn't been part of the brief or the contract that we've had. You [00:28:00] bring them in, we, we bring it in.

[00:28:01] Ben Reason: And actually, in terms of, I think part of what's, what's important is been figuring out where our, uh, kind of spaces where we do. Permission and value. So we're not the, we're don't, we've deliberately said, we're not the people who have to shout and scream at companies and say, you know, you need to sort your shit out And Yeah.

[00:28:17] Ben Reason: And stuff they, you know, most firms will have some kind of statement and yeah, intent, but it really needs translating into what they actually do. And it, you know, all of the difficult bit, which is the. It does design

[00:28:32] Gerry Scullion: space. I'm seeing a pattern between, you know, the founding of live work and where you're at now.

[00:28:39] Gerry Scullion: Like in terms of Chris down saying, I've registered the domain, you show up for work here now, and, and then find the work. And 2018, you know, change happens, you know, founders, whatever. Yeah. And now you're at that point again where it's like, there's, there's a, an element of. I don't wanna say risk taking, but you're, you're, [00:29:00] you're kind of, you're happy to, to throw it up in the air somewhat and just saying, well, this is what we believe in.

[00:29:06] Gerry Scullion: Like, like you did way back in 2000, 2001. Mm-hmm. saying, this is what we believe. We, we see this and now you see it now. Okay. Um, in terms of your preparedness for the next 10 years, where do you see the critical skills? Being within live work and what, what are you doing to, to kind of, um, work with that?

[00:29:32] Gerry Scullion: Yeah,

[00:29:34] Ben Reason: so I like that observation, Jerry. I think we, you know, it's almost our strengths and our weaknesses. We're always like looking at the next thing and, you know, being a kind of, Um, yeah, we, it's always like, oh, that's an interesting challenge. We're not very good at rinse and repeat, which is also Yeah.

[00:29:49] Ben Reason: You know, a business, I, I picked that up. A business challenge. Um, so the things with, I think we are on with another thing which we've been doing for quite some time [00:30:00] now, um, is, is deepening our ability to work with the organizational change. So we had, I think probably 10 years ago, we. Challenge from clients.

[00:30:10] Ben Reason: It's like we love the stories you tell about what, you know, the services we could create in the future. But you know, the machinery doesn't work like that. And we are like, I don't understand your machinery. So we've been like, we need to understand the organizational, you know, dynamics, people, process system stuff and we've that.

[00:30:26] Ben Reason: So that's something, um, And that I mentioned Marc said to you and, and Angela, and, you know, we've built, brought in a lot of people and, and deepened that a lot. Yeah. So I think the ability to work with organizations is almost the material of design, just Yeah. Carries on. Um, so that would be one thing. And then the other thing I think is being able to engage with these, the, the kind of the systems and understand at a system level, What dynamics are going on.

[00:30:54] Ben Reason: You know, if we have an organization and it's in a, it's in a policy context, it's in a market context, you know? [00:31:00] Mm-hmm. . So what, that's something that we've seen we need to do with any of these sustainability challenges is, is, you know, understand what's pushing and pulling everything around. Um, Beforehand.

[00:31:14] Ben Reason: So yeah, you can't, you can't just go and talk to a, a bunch of users and come up with solutions. I think , it's what we're learning, but, but I'm seeing

[00:31:23] Gerry Scullion: like within, within Liveworks, um, I guess DNA and within the team structures, there's, there's roles there that are non, if you want design, like there's, there's no, like, there's sustainability experts and there's so forth.

[00:31:36] Gerry Scullion: Like you, you're really, it's. You, you're building a different kind of a team. Um, and that's, I'm saying different compared to other typical a consultancies, right? Um, that would be pitching for service design work that might just have design research and. Interaction design. It seems that there's, there's a, there's a different formula [00:32:00] and a different approach happening.

[00:32:02] Gerry Scullion: Uh, and I'm keen to understand like, is there something beyond this that you're, you're hoping to see the rest of the design world catch up to? Because I believe like what you're doing at the moment is, is really interesting. Um, and you, you are able to do what a lot of businesses wish they could. Take the risk, um, hire, you know, people who, um, in my mind probably make the best designers.

[00:32:25] Gerry Scullion: They're, they're non-design trained, right? Um, and. You're able to bring the work in, uh, and, and work in interesting projects. Um, is that a fair assumption or have I have I completely missed the mark. I, I think

[00:32:38] Ben Reason: you've, I think you've, uh, you've got, you've shined it. Um, and it, it sounds, I'm not sure if it's, uh, if it's a hundred percent true.

[00:32:45] Ben Reason: I think, um, we feel sometimes, you know, we're quite concentratedly designed, but it is a very, it's quite a broad, you know, more of a strategic. Then, um, you know, we we're definitely not in the, [00:33:00] in that kind of specialism that you were describing in certain ways. Yeah. Most of the team are quite broad and either we have been, it's less the case of bringing in a sustainability expert and more a case of allowing a, a really good design mind to broaden into a space that we have, you know, we have another designer.

[00:33:17] Ben Reason: Focusing on the relationship between service design and urban environments and, okay. So, so it's, um, that's probably more the, the approach we're taking. Yeah. Because we, you know, I'm, I'm aware that, you know, there's a lot of trends out there that I think we're not pro, we're not, definitely not leading around, you know, bringing design and business skills together and things like that.

[00:33:38] Ben Reason: There's,

[00:33:39] Gerry Scullion: yeah. Yeah. Ty typically, um, whenever you're, you're asked to, uh, to come into businesses, um, what are the kind of things that they can expect to have happen when live work, uh, arrive in into the space, and assuming there's, [00:34:00] there's permission to play, as we'd say, like, you know, how, how has your approach changed over the last five to 10 years?

[00:34:09] Ben Reason: Um, so the sort of two questions, what can they ex, what can they expect and what can

[00:34:13] Gerry Scullion: they expect and what has

[00:34:13] Ben Reason: changed? Yeah, yeah. I mean, I'm gonna, I'm gonna throw a client feedback at you for the what to expect cuz they, it was just very satisfying. Uh, recently we're told that, you know, we, they, they felt like they, they got the kind of the collaboration and.

[00:34:35] Ben Reason: Well, I guess they didn't get the arrogance of a consultancy, but they didn't get the, I will just do what you say from an agency. They got the kind of the right level of challenge, but also the right level of like proactiveness. So I think you can, the main thing I would expect is you, you know, you are, you get a team that is, wants to work with you to, to kind of fit into where you are, but also to push it forward in, in ways that are useful and not, and, [00:35:00] you know, not annoying.

[00:35:01] Ben Reason: Um, and then you can expect, you know, research and workshops and prototypes and performance stuff. Fun stuff. Yeah, I

[00:35:10] Gerry Scullion: mean, I was, go

[00:35:12] Ben Reason: ahead. How it's, how it's changed. I think I've, I've sort of mentioned in a way you how it's changed as we will do a lot, you know, we'll go a lot more into understanding the organization than we, than we would've done quite probably

[00:35:23] done

[00:35:23] Gerry Scullion: before.

[00:35:24] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. So it, it seems. Live work, um, is, is at a point okay. Whereas a lot of organizations, um, mightn't be at that point. Okay. They mightn't they might have spoken about, you know, sustainability. Yeah, yeah. They might have kind of, you know, realized that, oh, okay, a change is afoot. Um, you know, we might need to do something about that.

[00:35:47] Gerry Scullion: Organizations typically are a lot slower to respond. Um, and when you bring service design in, it sounds. There's some deeper work going on, some deeper organizational work, [00:36:00] um, done by yourselves. When you're in there, it, it takes a certain type of practitioner to be able to facilitate, facilitate those conversations.

[00:36:09] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. , um, Something that really, um, takes, it takes a, a special type of character as well. And I'm gonna lean on a conversation where I had with Melissa Nova, who created a book called This Human a number of years ago, and I was chatting to Melissa the other day. Um, and those design characters, um, to quote Melissa's new book, um, are really hard to find.

[00:36:35] Gerry Scullion: I feel, I feel, and it's, it's making sure that when they go into those organizations, , a lot of those conversations happen outside of the boardroom. Mm-hmm. , they're not happening at the presentation pieces. Mm-hmm. like when you're leaving the live work DNA within the organization and they're having these conversations and slowly they're permeating into the, the fabric of that organization.

[00:36:57] Gerry Scullion: What I'm really keen to hear is, cuz I've, I've spoken [00:37:00] to some very impressive people in live work, and again, I'm not, I've no ties to live work, but I found them to be very impressive. I'm really keen, and I, I kind of touched on it before about how you're handling the design culture. Okay. And, um, I wanna understand, is there, is there something there that you can talk to other people about how they can ensure that they're hiring for the right design character?

[00:37:25] Gerry Scullion: Hmm. It's a hard question. Yeah, it is a hard

[00:37:28] Ben Reason: question. Um, I think

[00:37:31] Gerry Scullion: yeah, because it's not just skills, this is the thing. Like you can do a service design course, um, and learn a lot of the, the methods that we use and stuff, but there's something beyond that. Yeah. So I,

[00:37:44] Ben Reason: I'm gonna, I sort of latching onto you saying the live work dna.

[00:37:46] Ben Reason: So we did, well we started the company, we, and, and we always have sort of ever since been as interested in service as, And, and what we find, you know, and if you sort of early on [00:38:00] from reading the literature there, you know, there's so much more, um, literature about product and production than there is services and the idea of like how services are productive is, is still kind of, services are like the, the poor cousin in a way.

[00:38:15] Ben Reason: In, in, in the industrial yeah. World. So I, I think you'll, you see a lot of design, which is, um, I guess heavily weighted on the design and we do have a culture which is really interested in service. Um, so, and the idea. Reorienting a company or to think about the services they produce or them actually being a service company.

[00:38:38] Ben Reason: Mm-hmm. So, I, I mean, some of my, my most satisfying work has been where that's been successful, either where you've, you've kind of gotten to see, ah, you know, it's not just about the products. It's how do you get people there? How do you help them choose the right one, and how do you support them to get the most out of it?

[00:38:55] Ben Reason: Um, and when you say that, that kind of the kind of people and the kind of [00:39:00] culture, I'm just thinking, we've had a team that's been working with the British Parliament on, on the services that are provided to, to politicians and their staff, you know, so basic kind of in a way p clunky services like IT support and also, you know, archiving and these, these things.

[00:39:18] Ben Reason: And, and our big win is getting them to think of themselves as a service provider and to orientate how. Structure, what they do around those services and that shifts them from, it's like throwing, throwing together bits of it and disparate, uncoordinated, siloed activity. So I, I'd say that's it in a way.

[00:39:37] Ben Reason: For me, the culture is like, cuz the, if you start, if you're just about design, then you are mainly about your method. Yeah. And, and if, but if you're about service. You know, you're also about the design object. You're really concerned with, like this thing and what it is and what you know, what makes it function in the same way that you, you know, if you are.

[00:39:56] Ben Reason: You know, if you're a fashion designer, you're all, you know, you are all about that [00:40:00] garment and

[00:40:01] Gerry Scullion: yeah, I love that. Uh, I, I love the separation and it's, I've had a similar conversation with a few people, um, over the last couple of years about that, and it's, it's really true. Like, I think the service design.

[00:40:14] Gerry Scullion: Practice is in love with the design side of things and we sometimes we forget that we're actually, believe it or not, designing service. So, um, it's a, it's really refreshing to hear that

[00:40:25] Ben Reason: and it, it is a, it's nice, it's a really great question for you cause it helps to clarify cuz there is also, you know, there's this culture up there of around digital product and Yeah.

[00:40:35] Ben Reason: And uh, we were having a, we've had quite a few discussions about like, how do these things work together? You're seeing companies adopt digital products. Mindset, language process. And that's really important because, you know, they wanna ship these things and you need that kind of production methodology and mindset.

[00:40:53] Ben Reason: So, um, Luis in Sao Paulo and I put this thing out. So one is the relationship between these two things. I don't, [00:41:00] you know, Service isn't always the answer, but it's our, it's kind of our answer in a way. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:41:07] Gerry Scullion: So where's your own personal, um, journey going in the next five years? Because, you know, it, I can almost trace a line between your own personal growth and liveworks growth.

[00:41:18] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. and also the employees growth cuz you. I think you're attracting a certain type of, um, practitioner in, into the business. Who are you reading at the moment and um, what are you hoping to learn in the next five years, Ben? Gosh. Um,

[00:41:34] Ben Reason: so I, I can do a bit of a plug here. So I, uh, with the ecological stuff, I've been reading a, a philosopher called Timothy Morton, and um, we're gonna have a book club on LinkedIn as an experiment where we'll discuss Nice book he's written called Being Ecological.

[00:41:51] Ben Reason: So he, he's kind of informed some of that thinking about how the, what, you know, he, this, this book, he talks about how the whole Shakur kind of [00:42:00] ecological fear thing is not necessarily the, a useful way to approach things. Um, so I guess that. I'm, I'm, I feel like, you know, I could say, you know, that my journey is, is along those three philosophies that would be neat and tidy, wouldn't it?

[00:42:17] Ben Reason: So there's an understanding journey and, uh, et cetera, et cetera. Me too salesy though, Ben. We wouldn't do that. Yeah. Would be terrible. Um, yeah, I mean, I'm still learning about this, this role. Um, you know, and, and I think we really need to learn. There's a lot of learning about. On the back of, of this early thinking in order to, I'm really excited about this.

[00:42:40] Ben Reason: This kind of like, it is a hypothesis for us at the moment and having it does feel like a new lease of life. For me, it was very exciting early on with live work where we said, look, these are the, this is what we think service design is, but we need to prove it. You know, we need to sell it. We need to see the community.

[00:42:56] Ben Reason: So I, I kind of feel like I'm at that point again. So there's a, there's [00:43:00] definitely a bit of me that wants to be more practitioner again and think about how

[00:43:04] Gerry Scullion: there's probably a, a sense of unlearning as well. Yeah. Yeah. I think, um, I, I'm, I'm hearing and I'm, you know, doing pseudo. Therapy , which is a certain amount of unlearning, I think, for all of us.

[00:43:18] Gerry Scullion: Um, is what I'm hearing from, from the industry is regards what we need to do as practitioners for the next five years in particular, because yeah, it's not going, these challenges are only gonna, um, you know, get bigger and bigger. But as the years go on, years go by, um, what do you think? Um, What do you think in terms of the, the, the people coming into the business, what are the skills that you feel that you're gonna need, like outside of yourself?

[00:43:47] Gerry Scullion: Um, so if, if there's anyone from academia or. Education that are producing new talent. I'm really keen to hear your thoughts on, on [00:44:00] what they should be doing more to cultivate excellence. Because obviously, you know, over the last decade or so, there's MAs of service design. Mm-hmm. , there's a lot more of those.

[00:44:10] Gerry Scullion: Um, and, and from what I'm, I'm understanding from a lot of those, Master's courses, they create really talented people. Hmm. Um, but there's something beyond that that we need to maybe consider. Yeah. Just,

[00:44:23] Ben Reason: um, trying to, I'm remembering I was haven't done any, any teaching on the Master's courses for a

[00:44:31] Gerry Scullion: while.

[00:44:32] Gerry Scullion: For a while,

[00:44:32] Ben Reason: but, um, that's, that's a good question. I think there still seems to be like a, I think the really interest. Stuff is when it's multidisciplinary. Um, so I absolutely, I, I loved it that I was choosing at the Royal College of Art. There was a project that they did, which was between service design, automotive design, and the engineering teams at Imperial.

[00:44:57] Ben Reason: Mm-hmm. So I guess learning how to work, [00:45:00] I mean, it's, in a way, it's kind of, you know, these, um, 21st century skills agenda around project-based and collaboration. Yeah. You know, um, so. If you run a, a service design, I always felt like the best projects were the ones which were kind of done, like student projects in the wild, and students were learning how to work alongside there's, you know, an act or a nurse or an engineer or, you know, so that, um, and there is something, you know, that, like one of the hardest things I find with what we do is just, you know, is the, is the facilitation, the collabora of, of collaboration.

[00:45:35] Ben Reason: How do you do that and how might you do. So, you know, we can do that at team level and we try and do that within an organization. How do you do that at a sort of multi organizational level? How might you have a, like in collaboration at a next system level of scale? Yeah. Um, we, we've had, yeah, that would be the sort of, I think the [00:46:00] dream.

[00:46:01] Ben Reason: That's where the work needs to go. And you know, if you look at, um, some of the. Stuff that kind of new trends in design, like this idea of mission-driven innovation, you know, how do you, how does design support that as, you know, kind of a key facilitator of those kind of. Challenges.

[00:46:22] Gerry Scullion: Okay. There's, there's a whole host of things that we could probably go a little bit deeper on here, but I just wanna ask o one one last question because, you know, in 2001 you were, you know, reading an awful lot about, um, the emergence of service at that point.

[00:46:39] Gerry Scullion: And now we're at the point in, we're 2023 here when we're recording this, and we're, we're kind of at a crossroads, you know, in terms of, of how we operate moving forward. What, what have you changed in your own life, um, over the last, say, number of years? Just I'm interested because y [00:47:00] you're, you're more well-read than I am.

[00:47:01] Gerry Scullion: You're more experienced in sustainability than I am and. You know, from speaking to Jerry McGovern, who's a very good friend of mine, who Oh, great. Yeah. I'd love to know. Um, and again, you might gonna go, I'm, I'm still in work in progress. I haven't done enough. Yeah. , what I'd love to hear in terms of, um, stuff that you maybe carried through into the business as well and maybe made cuts in certain parts or maybe you added things or things of.

[00:47:28] Ben Reason: So do, do you mean like at a, at a kind of personal lifestyle level or personal

[00:47:32] Gerry Scullion: lifestyle level? Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:47:34] Ben Reason: I'm, I'm actually, so I, I feel like I'm in a fortunate position and I, I have this building sense that like, let's say that, you know, if you, the global 10% richest people Yeah. In the, which includes us.

[00:47:50] Ben Reason: Consume something like 50% of the world's resources. So there's an interesting debate about, you know, is it personal responsibility or system level? But I think if you are in that group, you, you, then you have [00:48:00] the ability to make economic choices, then you, you should do things. And it's also a way to learn, so.

[00:48:05] Ben Reason: Mm-hmm. And without feeling like bragging, I, I'm very lucky we moved house last year and it was a full renovation. We manage, we've got a heat pump and a Oh, nice. There is no gas in the house, so it's a fossil free zone, which is really, you know, that's cool. Awesome. Yeah. Very good for the, uh, for the sort of, um, self-image.

[00:48:26] Ben Reason: Um, I'm afraid I, I bought a car in the pandemic. I did. I was, I was kind of proudly car-free and a car club user for a long time, but yeah.

[00:48:36] Gerry Scullion: Um, you've, you've bought a car? Yeah. I mean, like I know a number of people who've made huge. Sacrifices and sold houses and downsized and Right. Um, become. Free of, of that.

[00:48:51] Gerry Scullion: Um, but I'm really interested, like for me, in my own personal journey, I still, we still have two cars in our house. Okay. It's really difficult. We've got two young kids both under six. [00:49:00] Yeah. Um, and I've challenged my local council about this stuff. I've asked them saying, Hey, listen, look. You're talking about on one hand, um, you don't want me to use my car.

[00:49:10] Gerry Scullion: I said, but there's no public services for me to get from A to B in terms of the schools and I could probably buy a cargo bike. But, um, for anyone who's been to Ireland, uh, recently at the moment, or specifically Dublin, they're going through huge transformation in the bike lanes at the moment. And I just don't feel safe enough to bring my two young kids out in the bike.

[00:49:31] Ben Reason: I Well, good for you for, cuz I think stepping out of your own decisions and being politically active around it and helping, uh, talk about it, people realize the other thing I've done, which is, is definitely a luxury, uh, you know, economic luxury, we. We've been traveling by train in Europe, which is that good.

[00:49:51] Ben Reason: Can mean a two day trip to go and see the grandparents in Denmark. Um, but yeah, it's good. It's good.

[00:49:57] Gerry Scullion: Two days, days, I know. Um, Joe, [00:50:00] who wrote engineering, um, and, and Joe told me about a, um, Where was he going? He, he,

[00:50:07] Ben Reason: he was going to Dundee from Fromum because I, I met him in Dundee and he was like, yeah, ne never again

[00:50:14] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. It took him like, you know, a week. Yeah, yeah. How long it took him, but he did it. Um, and I know a number of people who've, I think if you're in mainland Europe, things become a little bit more easier, so

[00:50:26] Ben Reason: I'm gonna, I'm gonna sell it actually. So what my emerging concept, so we went to Nic. Right in the summer via Amsterdam, Munich, and then threw the Alps on the train.

[00:50:38] Ben Reason: And we had a, a four hour break roughly in Amsterdam and Munich. So I'm, I'm gonna coin the phrase micro break. Micro city break. Wait, so you, you have just long enough to kind of walk through the central streets and. Yeah, eat something and, or, or go and see an exhibition even. Um, and then get back on the [00:51:00] train again and using the sleeper train.

[00:51:02] Ben Reason: Um, yeah, and then we did go that route because you can. Go through the Alps on the, from

[00:51:07] Gerry Scullion: unit to on the train, which would be amazing. Yeah, absolutely. Well, as I said,

[00:51:12] Ben Reason: but it, it, we did on the way back, we were in that heat wave, so it was like 40 degrees on the train and it was kinda hard work.

[00:51:20] Gerry Scullion: So you were sitting there looking out the window kind of going, could have been an air conditioned airplane here.

[00:51:25] Gerry Scullion: Exactly. . Um, well look, You know, I, I've covered off all my, my kind of questions here on this. You're off the hook. I'm joking. Yeah. Um, it was really, really good finally chatting to you. Um, and thank you for being so open and honest about a lot of the questions as you see some of them come from. But I really enjoyed speaking with you.

[00:51:47] Gerry Scullion: So, so thanks so much for giving your time. If people wanna reach out to you, what's the best way for them to do that? I know we've got a Typeform link. I'm gonna throw a link in the show notes. Brilliant. For people to follow up and get involved with. [00:52:00] Um, the, the three, not the three Horizons Velocities.

[00:52:04] Ben Reason: Yeah. .

[00:52:05] Gerry Scullion: Three Velocities. Um, so I'll put a link to that one in the show notes, but if people wanna get in touch with you directly, what's the best way for people to do that? Yeah,

[00:52:12] Ben Reason: I'm, I'm pretty open on LinkedIn. I think that's the easiest way to, to find me. It's rolling to

[00:52:17] Gerry Scullion: that one in. I was willing to live work as well to to check out where you guys are at.

[00:52:22] Gerry Scullion: Like, you know, Ben, thanks so much. Thank you.

[00:52:28] Gerry Scullion: And there you go folks. I hope you enjoyed that episode and if you enjoyed it and want to listen to more, why not visit? This is hate c.com where you can learn more about what we are up to and also explore our courses well through there. Thanks again for listening.

Ben
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[00:00:00] Ben Reason: We just came together for a weekend and we were like, maybe we're service designers, and that was the moment. And then when. I think Chris just registered the company and told us if we didn't show up on the 1st of January, then he'd do it on his own.

[00:00:16] Gerry Scullion: Hello and welcome to Bringing Design Closer, and this is H C D. Our goal is to have conversations that inspire and help move the dive forward for organizations to become more human-centered in their approach to solving complex. And societal problems. Now, before we jump in, I have a favorite ask. I've personally been creating content for, this is Hate City for nearly six years now.

[00:00:36] Gerry Scullion: All for the love of sharing knowledge to the global design community. And one thing that you could do is leave a review, preferably a five star one, as it helps grow our community and helps the findability. Of our podcast across the networks like Spotify, apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts too. And even if you don't have a chance to leave a review, you can go one better by just telling your friends or the people that you work with about [00:01:00] this helps us out so much.

[00:01:02] Gerry Scullion: Okay, now in this episode. I speak with Ben Reen, founding partner of live work in the uk, and Ben has co-authored service design from insight to implementation on Rosenfeld Media and also service design for business, a practical guide to optimizing the customer experience released in 2016. In this conversation, we chat about a few things, but mainly around Ben's own journey through design.

[00:01:24] Gerry Scullion: Starting at Liverpool in the mid nineties, Anna is entry into the world of service design later on that decade with live. Now we chat about the work that live work do and also a new framework titled Three Velocities That Change. We wanna understand what this means, where it originated, and also why this is so important not only to Ben, but to the live work team.

[00:01:45] Gerry Scullion: It's a great one. Let's jump straight in. Ben, it is fantastic to have you on the podcast.

[00:01:53] Ben Reason: Thank you for having me,

[00:01:54] Gerry Scullion: Jerry. Longtime fan first. Time caller. Um, you know, you've, [00:02:00] you've written some, uh, some of the seminal service design books, um, and you're obviously founder of livework, one of the, um, the pioneers of service design globally.

[00:02:10] Gerry Scullion: But for our listeners, I've given you a bit of a, an intro there, but for our listeners, um, maybe describe what you do on a day-to-day basis, um, and also where you're based.

[00:02:21] Ben Reason: So start with the easy one. I'm, I'm based in London, um, day to day, so I letting you kind of in on it a bit. Um, I kind of finally took on being the boss at live work, even though we've been around for 20 years, but it's always been a sort of a joint effort.

[00:02:39] Ben Reason: And then I'm the last founder standing. Yeah. Um, so. It's a relatively new role a couple, two or three years into doing that. So I, it's a mix. I work with the leadership team and kind of I am the line manager of all these new terms that we have been introducing as we've grown up. Um, I still do a [00:03:00] lot of, um, You know, work in, in kind of business development work.

[00:03:04] Ben Reason: And then a, so sort of a third, a third, a third, the final third being working with some of the project teams, um mm-hmm. or some of the teams, and particularly around, you know, when we're pushing things a, a little bit, so, We've been pushing what we've calling sustainable futures over the last few years. So when we've got projects where we are doing something we haven't done before, I like to get involved.

[00:03:28] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. And absolutely. Let's go back to, um, let's go back to the start. Yeah. If you, if you don't mind, like, so. What did you study in university? Cuz I know we spoke before about, um, that whole con transition period of coming out of university. Mm-hmm. into a world. What did that world look like back then? Were, were people driving cars?

[00:03:49] Gerry Scullion: I mean, wasn't that long ago ?

[00:03:51] Ben Reason: Um, I graduated in 95, uh, with a, a degree in fine art. So I, um, Yeah, I kind of came out [00:04:00] with the, with the, uh, false notion that I was gonna be an artist and rented a studio from one of my former tutors. Yeah. And then found it very cold and lonely and realized art school is great cuz you're full of like-minded people and you're kind of in this environment, but when you're on your own, uh, I realized I wasn't, uh, I wasn't a sort of a lone wolf kind of worker and, and I needed human, human beings around me.

[00:04:24] Ben Reason: Mm-hmm. . So I, I, in that time I was using, I, I bought a, a Mac with, um, some money that I was left and was making animations with it that I thought were art. And I showed a friend and he said, oh, you could come and, you know, cut up Jpx for us in our studio and help us make CD ROMs. So I, I, I kind of fell into to digital and then the internet through, uh, a kind of a luck of timing.

[00:04:52] Ben Reason: I always feel like if I was a few years younger, Yeah, there would've been lots of design graduates who knew what they were doing. But um, [00:05:00]

[00:05:00] Gerry Scullion: you were kind of lucky in that sense, in that, in that the timing. Yeah. Where there was a sort of a, there was an interest in, in the internet in 95 was kind of an interesting Windows 95 dropped as well.

[00:05:11] Gerry Scullion: Of course. Yeah. That kinda was a bit of a game changer. So what did that look like in terms of, um, strategic design? Because say the double diamond hadn't. Created, if you look at that as being a moment mm-hmm. from the design council. So there was, there was interest about using design, but what did design look like in 95 when you, when you finished, as regards to opportunities for design to evoke change?

[00:05:38] Ben Reason: So I think the, the first job that I got that was more than, um, you know, McMonkey work was with, um, kind of early stage. Company that was emerging out of the sort of marketing, the, the, the directors were from a marketing advertising background and they were exploring the internet. So we were primarily [00:06:00] making websites and actually digital advertising stuff.

[00:06:05] Ben Reason: Um, I don't think, not particularly strategically. It was, um, it was like that at that stage where you've got this new medium and you're trying to figure out if it's of any use. To the companies that you're working with and it, it's kind of fascinating cuz they were, you know, we were working with all these brands who were just trying to put adverts on the internet and they, it was, it was kind of dumb, I think.

[00:06:29] Ben Reason: And then, We stumbled across. The first thing that I felt was meaningful was we, we did some work for the Royal Automobile Club for the RAC in the uk, which is the breakdown insurance company where we were actually putting some services together. You know, like route finder services and other things that might actually support their members, or, or, or motorists.

[00:06:53] Ben Reason: So that was the first time I was like, oh, you could actually, you can use this for something interesting. Yeah. [00:07:00] And that, that kind of steered me. So I did feel like at that time there was a career fork. I was working with these guys who were from, you know, proper, the bottle, Bo Haggerty, people who were like, and, and they were like, come and make acts with us.

[00:07:16] Ben Reason: And then I was like, no, I think I wanna make something that's actually useful. And yeah. Um, more like practical for, for people. So that was, that. Couldn't have. Took me down a path into, you know, carrying on, working with, with what we called web design at the time. Mm-hmm. .

[00:07:33] Gerry Scullion: Um, so you, your first introduction to service design, what did that look like?

[00:07:38] Gerry Scullion: Because you know what I, I probably had heard of service design in, you know, the mid two thousands, um mm-hmm. and. I'm keen to hear what your experience was around that period of where you saw the night. So this is

[00:07:55] Ben Reason: the sort of live, work, foundational myth and truth. Um, [00:08:00] so I, folks where , it's a bit like that.

[00:08:02] Ben Reason: I mean, I feel a bit, uh, bashful about it, but, um, so I was working. With, um, with this web company that was, you know, building websites and we were doing projects. We built the first Acardo website and we built some websites for, uh, you know, some, quite a few startups like a, um, Real estate startup. And so these were services that we were making.

[00:08:26] Ben Reason: Yeah. Or, or we'd get hired by a bank to try and put 'em on the internet. And then, um, I met Chris Downs, who was my fellow founder at Livework. Um, and we just hit it off and, and had a lot of fun. And also, but we're also kind of fed up with the firm we were working with and. It was, it was kind of a technology led firm, you know, that was the bulk of their revenue.

[00:08:45] Ben Reason: So we, we decide, we sort of were like fantasizing about starting a design firm. Yeah. And then we brought Laron over from Scandinavia, who the two of them had been at the Royal College together. Okay. At the same time I was doing a [00:09:00] master's, it was called Responsibility in Business Practice. So I was trying to figure out how to do something more meaningful.

[00:09:06] Ben Reason: Yeah. And, and around, um, you know, ecological issues. And I read a, a book that had a chapter that was about services and services being a way to drive, drive, resource sufficiency. This guy called Emory Loves and Paul Hawkins. So they were talking about things like car sharing and I was like, oh, that's, , that's like my in, that's where I could be useful to this issue.

[00:09:29] Ben Reason: Yeah. If I can make services that make us use less stuff in the world and create less waste. Yeah. Um, Larenz and Chris had been talking about the fact that they were both industrial design trained, but they'd always worked in the service sector. Yeah. So they were trying to, they were kind of having a design and the.

[00:09:46] Ben Reason: Existential moment, and we just came together for a weekend and we were like, maybe we're service designers. And that was the, yeah, the moment. And then when we, you know, think Chris just registered the [00:10:00] company and told us if we didn't show up on the 1st of January, then he'd do it on his own and we'd set off.

[00:10:06] Ben Reason: So we, we were quite deliberately sort of saying this, you know, then we did our research. We found that there. You know, there was service design big at Margaret and Cologne. Then show stacks, service blueprinting work that I D O had done. But we were aware there weren't any firms that were service design pure kind of play.

[00:10:24] Ben Reason: So we were on a early days. It was a very experimental try and prove that. Oh, that's

[00:10:31] Gerry Scullion: 2000, 2001, was it? That's right. Yeah. Yeah. It was around that period. So, you know, that that whole kind of journey, um, I I didn't really realize that your masters, um, had such a sustainable, um, perspective within it. Mm-hmm.

[00:10:46] Gerry Scullion: and it kind of has emerged as you said, there are alluded to maybe a 10 minutes ago. It's kind of emerged out of the, uh, I guess the brand if you want, in the last four or five years. And it's kind of permeating everything [00:11:00] that live work is. It's, it kind of makes sense now if. Chris and Laron have left and you're there now.

[00:11:07] Gerry Scullion: It's kind of, it's, it's Ben's baby and, and that stuff can, can effectively grow so well. What are the challenges, um, that you see from, uh, the, the existing world of service design at the moment? Like, what's holding us back Right. To, to get to this point where we can actually start thinking about creating more ethical and sustain.

[00:11:33] Gerry Scullion: Services.

[00:11:35] Ben Reason: I guess what's holding us back is we're just one part of the existing system, right? And we're geared up to work within that system. So, I mean, there's been a lot of discussion and, and soul searching by designers about, you know, Things that we design and the impacts that they have are things, I guess the things that we make desirable.

[00:11:56] Ben Reason: Um, and the, I guess the general [00:12:00] alignment of design, especially, well, especially in a, in a kind of commercial setting with a consumer economy. So we're kind of part of that system. Um, so there's a bit of a, a recognition of that. And then I, I think the other interesting. Discussion going on is whether the concept of human centricity is part of the problem.

[00:12:20] Ben Reason: If we're, you know, your prior, and, and if you go, I, I do kind of read a lot and then, you know, if you talk, you sort of dig into some of the, the kind of more ecological thinkers, they will say something similar about help humanity has. Separated itself from its environment as if we're different, as if we're kind of, yeah.

[00:12:41] Ben Reason: Floating above it or as if we can just use it for our own ends and, and we've lost touch with our connections and our dependencies and, and things like that. Yeah. So I guess you could, you know, human-centered design is part of the human humanistic worldview that we're, that we're in, um, [00:13:00] So that, is that answering your questions?

[00:13:03] Ben Reason: Kind of holding

[00:13:03] Gerry Scullion: us? Yeah, no, absolutely. It's, yeah, it's, it's kind of, um, the whole, the whole bigger question really is, um, if, if, if that's what's holding us back. What about the, the, the work that you're doing at the moment around three Horizons? Yeah. And how do you see that that's going to. You know, sort of unlock an awful lot of those resistance points.

[00:13:28] Gerry Scullion: Um, like for, for, for, maybe before we get into that, let's talk about, I'm call it three Horizon. Sorry. But it's the three velocities is the proper term. You can smack me, . So let's, uh, let's talk about where this came from first of all, because yeah, you sent this to me a couple of months ago and I was like, oh, okay.

[00:13:45] Gerry Scullion: This is, yeah, this is pretty interesting.

[00:13:47] Ben Reason: So you, you rightly noted that. So I guess this issue has been a concern of mine for a long time, and it, it sort of went away and I found, I found the, the world of sustainability, which is kind of called, [00:14:00] um, didn't have very many inroads for design. It seemed to be a very technical world of kind of counting carbon, um, emissions.

[00:14:08] Ben Reason: And so, and it, and you know, we got distracted and did other things that live worked, but about probably 2018 there was a, a combination of. Me wanting to push things forward, but also quite a few of the younger live workers coming and saying, you know, we can't, what's our position on this? You know, I'm not happy to, for us to pretend it doesn't exist.

[00:14:30] Ben Reason: And then, um, Extinction of rebellion kicked off in the UK and my partner was like, come and join me. I'm on a bridge of blocking a bridge over the Thames . Like, I literally came from a client workshop with a, a folder full of, you know, post-Its and scribbles from some kind of corporate brainstorm and ended up with all the, all the res bridge.

[00:14:53] Ben Reason: And which was really catalyzing. Um, so there's that, there was, there was that, that was, you were asking about kind of where it comes from, but, um, I guess I [00:15:00] found some of the, I think it's quite a big challenge for design and I found some of the debate about, okay, so we just moved from, um, this is not fair, but if you kind of move from human centricity to planet centric or something.

[00:15:11] Ben Reason: Yeah. Doesn't quite answer the question for me about, you know, what do we actually do and are we actually challenging? You know, do we have, does is design still relevant? You know, is if it is, you know, if you think design comes. Industrialization and the need to, you know, make these commodity products that are useful, usable, and desirable.

[00:15:30] Ben Reason: Is it still relevant in a world where we need to challenge some of those thoughts? Yeah, so, um, the, the three velocities as, uh, it's kind of an early stage. Concept for where we think live work can be useful to clients in, I guess the ecological transition. So the three things we're saying is the sort of one velocity is understanding, which is probably a slow burn kind of mindset shift into a more ecological [00:16:00] way of thinking.

[00:16:01] Ben Reason: Another one is acceleration. So there are certain things we need to do really fast, like transition. Renewable energies. And the third one is, is with we're calling Prepare, which is a bit more of a futures facing. There are changes that we might need to be ready for that maybe we don't know if they're coming or not.

[00:16:21] Ben Reason: Um, yeah. And, and in some ways these three things are three things that I, you can see in the world. So you, if you, if you sort of look at the world and how different groups of people are responding to say, climate change, some people. Saying, well, we need to get, we need to sort of philosophically change.

[00:16:37] Ben Reason: Other people are saying, well, we just need to change technology very, very fast. And, you know, we can ask this for technology. And other people are kind of prepping and going out and, you know, setting up new community. So I, I quite like the idea that these things are, are disparate, but actually they're all relevant and they were all different modes of kind of parallel thought.

[00:16:57] Ben Reason: Um, and just to finish off your question, [00:17:00] so I. There's still a question, like where does, what's the design role in here? Yeah. So I, I think we're, we're feeling like the, the understand thing is about retuning design, empathy to think beyond human beings and start thinking about systems and Absolutely. Um, and the accelerator is, sorry.

[00:17:19] Gerry Scullion: No, no. I was just gonna say on the understand piece, because yeah, the, when I initially saw it, I'm probably not the first person to say that I. I'm a bit confused about the understand piece and why it looks like over time the effort decreases. Yeah, and when typically, if you look at, you know, wicked problems to use that term, the, the closer you get to, to the problem, it exponentially increases.

[00:17:45] Gerry Scullion: And, um, it, it shouldn't diminish. The, the amount of effort required to understand is my take on it. And I was like, okay, I'm, I might be missing something here and I'd love to be able to speak to Ben about this. And I was like, oh, [00:18:00] brilliant. Podcast. Couple

[00:18:01] Ben Reason: weeks, . Oh, thanks Jerry. So we did put this, so Jerry's referring to a graph that we have with a link in the Yeah, yeah.

[00:18:10] Ben Reason: And um, the understand one does sort of start off intensively and. And then become a kind of an ongoing thing. And it might not be right. You're not the only person to question this. And I think, you know, the understanding might be something that actually builds over time. I, I we're taking the feedback on, um, I guess the, the thought was it's, it's probably a slower, you know, mind shift change doesn't happen so quickly.

[00:18:34] Ben Reason: So it's probably an ongoing, ongoing, slow burn kind of thing. But, um, colleagues of mine were thinking it also needs to start with quite a, kind of an intensive. Piece of work to understand like what is the, what is the situation. So yeah, you're, yeah.

[00:18:49] Gerry Scullion: Okay. So you're on the money . Well, you know, we all love to be, to be challenged, but um, Let's talk about the accelerate piece.

[00:18:59] Gerry Scullion: [00:19:00] Okay. Because, you know, I'm interested in the use of language as well. Mm-hmm. . Okay. Um, w where did this come from, the term accelerate, and how, how does it differ to say, um, Different, different frameworks that, and I guess it's not really a framework, it's, I'm, I'm interested to see why there's a need for speed.

[00:19:22] Gerry Scullion: I cannot believe I've said that phrase again cuz that's the third podcast in a row. I've quoted Top Gun .

[00:19:28] Ben Reason: There you go. So beyond it being exhilarating, you mean, why is that?

[00:19:32] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. You know, yeah. And Wing and all that .

[00:19:36] Ben Reason: Yeah. Well you, I mean, the really simple answer is you've seen things like these reports around climate changes that there's only so.

[00:19:44] Ben Reason: For a transition to take absolutely place. Um, so, you know, the need to move from, you know, a fossil energy system to a a renewable energy system and the speed, speed is, is a critical factor. And I, you know, I think there's a guy called Alex Stephan, if anyone is [00:20:00] interested in, in kind of ecological and design, he's a amazing writer.

[00:20:05] Ben Reason: and he's been talking about, you know, speed being as important as the change. You know, like late is okay. Late is also a problem. It's not like, I guess other transitions where the, the deadline is is less. Um, Critical. But also it's quite interesting cuz we've, you know, part of this has come from observing work that we've been doing with clients, um mm-hmm.

[00:20:28] Ben Reason: and we've worked with some car manufacturers who are on that electric vehicle transition. Yeah. And, you know, there are deadlines from government about when they have to stop making petrol cars. And the feel, the kind of, the urgency that you can feel from them is quite different from other work we've had.

[00:20:47] Ben Reason: Um, . And the other part of it is, is a sort of a need to really focus and not do a whole load of stuff that you might normally do. You know, like there's some real basics that need to be put in place and you can't. [00:21:00] What we've seen on some of those projects as well is we are used to kind of all of these additional features and kind of, so if I give you an example, a kind of electric vehicle transition, do you really need a loyalty program that goes with that?

[00:21:14] Ben Reason: Or do you just really wanna focus on the core business, which. Supporting people to adopt a different kind of vehicle. That's, I think the thing. Um,

[00:21:24] Gerry Scullion: okay, so, um, The bit that I'm kind of, I, I understand. I don't wanna say the need for speed again, but I understand acceleration. Okay. Like an, an accelerator is there, is there a, um, some sort of an in innovation loop happening, whereas you can test the, the hypothesis of the prototypes and get them and get that feedback loop and, and build on it like, Is that what I'm seeing here in terms of it being a cyclical process?

[00:21:52] Gerry Scullion: Or is it just a case of getting that, that massive change and doing it quicker, I think.

[00:21:58] Ben Reason: I think that's where we've [00:22:00] been discussing it for everyone. This is early stage kind of hypothetical. Yeah. Um, thoughts, but we're, we're kind of hoping that the prepare work pops out things that then become accelerated when the timing is is right.

[00:22:14] Ben Reason: So, okay, for an organization to accelerate something, it has to be very clearly the right thing to do. Um, whereas there are lots of unknowns and kind of maybes around there. So I think the, the, the prepare work is probably gonna have a lot of ideas in it that sit there. And one thing we've been discussing in terms of innovation, So my colleague El also sort of said, it's not so much kill your darlings anymore.

[00:22:36] Ben Reason: It's like, chill your darlings and wait for the rat time. .

[00:22:39] Gerry Scullion: I love that. Isn't that good? ? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That should make t-shirts with that. Okay. Um, that's, we'll do that, that's cool that I get the reaction going from

[00:22:47] Ben Reason: me. We can wear them at all the geeky conferences

[00:22:50] Gerry Scullion: and I mean, like, , as you said, like this is a, um, it's an exploratory piece.

[00:22:55] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. , um, uh, that you're doing. And I, I guess at this stage, what are you [00:23:00] hoping to achieve by putting this out into the wild? Is, is conversation one of them? Because we're here talking about it is, is one thing. Yeah. And

[00:23:08] Ben Reason: sort of pull ourselves forward in some way and, and, but also provide a framework where we can um, we can kind of look at the work we're doing in this space and.

[00:23:18] Ben Reason: What's the balance that we, that we need? Um, we've done one piece of work which has kind of touched all three, where we've looked at this sort of, so creating a, a community of practice around design for sustainability within an organization. So you've got that kind of understanding piece going on and then, then their priorities izing certain things that they're taking forward, but they're also thinking longer term, like what's our compass?

[00:23:43] Ben Reason: So, Useful to sort of codify something that was, let's say a, you know, an early indicative methodology. But yeah, and, and, and obviously, We're trying to match something we can do with something that [00:24:00] organizations need. So there's a commercial Yeah. Aspect to it.

[00:24:03] Gerry Scullion: One of the things that struck me, um, Ben, and this is not me being anyway, facetious, is the, is the work that you're doing now and how it seems to have matched the design culture.

[00:24:14] Gerry Scullion: Okay? So the, the culture that you've built over the last 15, 20 years. Okay. I don't know what it was like, uh, in 2000 tens and stuff, but it seems that there's been careful curation happening around the people that I've spoken to, cuz there's, there's been a number of live workers that I've spoken to over the last couple of months.

[00:24:37] Gerry Scullion: How have you managed this in terms of, um, the hiring process? Mm-hmm. and how do you maintain the design culture? Because as you said, they came to you. In 2018 and they go, what's our position on this? Like, you know, how are we gonna respond to these things? Mm-hmm. , and it sounds like in somewhat the employees have risen.

[00:24:55] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. Um, um, they've, they've kinda asked the questions and you've [00:25:00] responded. Um, I'd love to get your thoughts about. What you've done to enable that design culture, because I think a lot of people will be really interested in that and especially if you're now able to, as you say, go into the final third and convert that into meaningful work.

[00:25:18] Gerry Scullion: Yeah.

[00:25:18] Ben Reason: You know, I think that's a tricky question. It's like, you know, initial of self-reflective element of it. Um, what do I know? So I think, I think we've always been. Encouraged a, a kind of an openness about, you know, so there's no, there aren't particularly, there aren't kind of, we don't shut down people's questions or doubts or, or things either.

[00:25:44] Ben Reason: Generally, you know, over time people, you know, and, and I, I, I guess it also starts with me. I mean, I've always been, this, this is something I've talked about all the time. Um mm-hmm. So it's not, it's a kinda an, an open. Um, on a more formal, formal side. And [00:26:00] actually to answer, sort of address your earlier question about like what the challenge is to the design world, we did kick off a process last year that's taken most of the year with sort of deliberately, um, taken our time around, like just renewing our updating liveworks purpose statement, or we didn't have one.

[00:26:18] Ben Reason: We had kinda different mission vision stuff, but we were just like, okay, what's the company. And had a lot of conversations around it. And, uh, the first time we kind of opened the discussion and I think I scared everybody by sharing some sort of more bleak eco thought, including this guy Al, Alex, Stephan.

[00:26:38] Ben Reason: But there, there was, there's a sort of a, a fear factor involved here about stepping into the unknown. You know, I think we all, we all swim in this human-centric water and it's second nature and, and it's, you know, it's kind of how, how we define. Who we are to some extent. So to sort of say, well, we're gonna do, you know, it's like, do I need to go back to school or do I need to challenge [00:27:00] my clients in a different way that I'm not used to it?

[00:27:02] Ben Reason: I'm not sure if I've got the data or the, you know, the gravitas to do that. Um, so that's, that's, you know, fear is always sort of something that holds you back, isn't it? Um, so deliberate. I mean, that's the one thing I can say we've done. Over the last year to deliberately say, this is a collective thing, you're not on your own.

[00:27:21] Ben Reason: Yeah. You know, we've talked about saying we're going to have this kind of, you know, the sustainability lens is something that we bring to all projects, even if the client says, well, that's not relevant for now. Um, and also we've been running a, a kind of sustainable futures in stealth mode. So we've picked a few clients where we've said, let's just have the conversation in the background.

[00:27:45] Ben Reason: Yeah, and if you feel comfortable, you can see whether some of these questions are relevant, and it's been really successful actually. I still, you know, we work with, with some clients where we haven't been, this hasn't been part of the brief or the contract that we've had. You [00:28:00] bring them in, we, we bring it in.

[00:28:01] Ben Reason: And actually, in terms of, I think part of what's, what's important is been figuring out where our, uh, kind of spaces where we do. Permission and value. So we're not the, we're don't, we've deliberately said, we're not the people who have to shout and scream at companies and say, you know, you need to sort your shit out And Yeah.

[00:28:17] Ben Reason: And stuff they, you know, most firms will have some kind of statement and yeah, intent, but it really needs translating into what they actually do. And it, you know, all of the difficult bit, which is the. It does design

[00:28:32] Gerry Scullion: space. I'm seeing a pattern between, you know, the founding of live work and where you're at now.

[00:28:39] Gerry Scullion: Like in terms of Chris down saying, I've registered the domain, you show up for work here now, and, and then find the work. And 2018, you know, change happens, you know, founders, whatever. Yeah. And now you're at that point again where it's like, there's, there's a, an element of. I don't wanna say risk taking, but you're, you're, [00:29:00] you're kind of, you're happy to, to throw it up in the air somewhat and just saying, well, this is what we believe in.

[00:29:06] Gerry Scullion: Like, like you did way back in 2000, 2001. Mm-hmm. saying, this is what we believe. We, we see this and now you see it now. Okay. Um, in terms of your preparedness for the next 10 years, where do you see the critical skills? Being within live work and what, what are you doing to, to kind of, um, work with that?

[00:29:32] Gerry Scullion: Yeah,

[00:29:34] Ben Reason: so I like that observation, Jerry. I think we, you know, it's almost our strengths and our weaknesses. We're always like looking at the next thing and, you know, being a kind of, Um, yeah, we, it's always like, oh, that's an interesting challenge. We're not very good at rinse and repeat, which is also Yeah.

[00:29:49] Ben Reason: You know, a business, I, I picked that up. A business challenge. Um, so the things with, I think we are on with another thing which we've been doing for quite some time [00:30:00] now, um, is, is deepening our ability to work with the organizational change. So we had, I think probably 10 years ago, we. Challenge from clients.

[00:30:10] Ben Reason: It's like we love the stories you tell about what, you know, the services we could create in the future. But you know, the machinery doesn't work like that. And we are like, I don't understand your machinery. So we've been like, we need to understand the organizational, you know, dynamics, people, process system stuff and we've that.

[00:30:26] Ben Reason: So that's something, um, And that I mentioned Marc said to you and, and Angela, and, you know, we've built, brought in a lot of people and, and deepened that a lot. Yeah. So I think the ability to work with organizations is almost the material of design, just Yeah. Carries on. Um, so that would be one thing. And then the other thing I think is being able to engage with these, the, the kind of the systems and understand at a system level, What dynamics are going on.

[00:30:54] Ben Reason: You know, if we have an organization and it's in a, it's in a policy context, it's in a market context, you know? [00:31:00] Mm-hmm. . So what, that's something that we've seen we need to do with any of these sustainability challenges is, is, you know, understand what's pushing and pulling everything around. Um, Beforehand.

[00:31:14] Ben Reason: So yeah, you can't, you can't just go and talk to a, a bunch of users and come up with solutions. I think , it's what we're learning, but, but I'm seeing

[00:31:23] Gerry Scullion: like within, within Liveworks, um, I guess DNA and within the team structures, there's, there's roles there that are non, if you want design, like there's, there's no, like, there's sustainability experts and there's so forth.

[00:31:36] Gerry Scullion: Like you, you're really, it's. You, you're building a different kind of a team. Um, and that's, I'm saying different compared to other typical a consultancies, right? Um, that would be pitching for service design work that might just have design research and. Interaction design. It seems that there's, there's a, there's a different formula [00:32:00] and a different approach happening.

[00:32:02] Gerry Scullion: Uh, and I'm keen to understand like, is there something beyond this that you're, you're hoping to see the rest of the design world catch up to? Because I believe like what you're doing at the moment is, is really interesting. Um, and you, you are able to do what a lot of businesses wish they could. Take the risk, um, hire, you know, people who, um, in my mind probably make the best designers.

[00:32:25] Gerry Scullion: They're, they're non-design trained, right? Um, and. You're able to bring the work in, uh, and, and work in interesting projects. Um, is that a fair assumption or have I have I completely missed the mark. I, I think

[00:32:38] Ben Reason: you've, I think you've, uh, you've got, you've shined it. Um, and it, it sounds, I'm not sure if it's, uh, if it's a hundred percent true.

[00:32:45] Ben Reason: I think, um, we feel sometimes, you know, we're quite concentratedly designed, but it is a very, it's quite a broad, you know, more of a strategic. Then, um, you know, we we're definitely not in the, [00:33:00] in that kind of specialism that you were describing in certain ways. Yeah. Most of the team are quite broad and either we have been, it's less the case of bringing in a sustainability expert and more a case of allowing a, a really good design mind to broaden into a space that we have, you know, we have another designer.

[00:33:17] Ben Reason: Focusing on the relationship between service design and urban environments and, okay. So, so it's, um, that's probably more the, the approach we're taking. Yeah. Because we, you know, I'm, I'm aware that, you know, there's a lot of trends out there that I think we're not pro, we're not, definitely not leading around, you know, bringing design and business skills together and things like that.

[00:33:38] Ben Reason: There's,

[00:33:39] Gerry Scullion: yeah. Yeah. Ty typically, um, whenever you're, you're asked to, uh, to come into businesses, um, what are the kind of things that they can expect to have happen when live work, uh, arrive in into the space, and assuming there's, [00:34:00] there's permission to play, as we'd say, like, you know, how, how has your approach changed over the last five to 10 years?

[00:34:09] Ben Reason: Um, so the sort of two questions, what can they ex, what can they expect and what can

[00:34:13] Gerry Scullion: they expect and what has

[00:34:13] Ben Reason: changed? Yeah, yeah. I mean, I'm gonna, I'm gonna throw a client feedback at you for the what to expect cuz they, it was just very satisfying. Uh, recently we're told that, you know, we, they, they felt like they, they got the kind of the collaboration and.

[00:34:35] Ben Reason: Well, I guess they didn't get the arrogance of a consultancy, but they didn't get the, I will just do what you say from an agency. They got the kind of the right level of challenge, but also the right level of like proactiveness. So I think you can, the main thing I would expect is you, you know, you are, you get a team that is, wants to work with you to, to kind of fit into where you are, but also to push it forward in, in ways that are useful and not, and, [00:35:00] you know, not annoying.

[00:35:01] Ben Reason: Um, and then you can expect, you know, research and workshops and prototypes and performance stuff. Fun stuff. Yeah, I

[00:35:10] Gerry Scullion: mean, I was, go

[00:35:12] Ben Reason: ahead. How it's, how it's changed. I think I've, I've sort of mentioned in a way you how it's changed as we will do a lot, you know, we'll go a lot more into understanding the organization than we, than we would've done quite probably

[00:35:23] done

[00:35:23] Gerry Scullion: before.

[00:35:24] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. So it, it seems. Live work, um, is, is at a point okay. Whereas a lot of organizations, um, mightn't be at that point. Okay. They mightn't they might have spoken about, you know, sustainability. Yeah, yeah. They might have kind of, you know, realized that, oh, okay, a change is afoot. Um, you know, we might need to do something about that.

[00:35:47] Gerry Scullion: Organizations typically are a lot slower to respond. Um, and when you bring service design in, it sounds. There's some deeper work going on, some deeper organizational work, [00:36:00] um, done by yourselves. When you're in there, it, it takes a certain type of practitioner to be able to facilitate, facilitate those conversations.

[00:36:09] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. , um, Something that really, um, takes, it takes a, a special type of character as well. And I'm gonna lean on a conversation where I had with Melissa Nova, who created a book called This Human a number of years ago, and I was chatting to Melissa the other day. Um, and those design characters, um, to quote Melissa's new book, um, are really hard to find.

[00:36:35] Gerry Scullion: I feel, I feel, and it's, it's making sure that when they go into those organizations, , a lot of those conversations happen outside of the boardroom. Mm-hmm. , they're not happening at the presentation pieces. Mm-hmm. like when you're leaving the live work DNA within the organization and they're having these conversations and slowly they're permeating into the, the fabric of that organization.

[00:36:57] Gerry Scullion: What I'm really keen to hear is, cuz I've, I've spoken [00:37:00] to some very impressive people in live work, and again, I'm not, I've no ties to live work, but I found them to be very impressive. I'm really keen, and I, I kind of touched on it before about how you're handling the design culture. Okay. And, um, I wanna understand, is there, is there something there that you can talk to other people about how they can ensure that they're hiring for the right design character?

[00:37:25] Gerry Scullion: Hmm. It's a hard question. Yeah, it is a hard

[00:37:28] Ben Reason: question. Um, I think

[00:37:31] Gerry Scullion: yeah, because it's not just skills, this is the thing. Like you can do a service design course, um, and learn a lot of the, the methods that we use and stuff, but there's something beyond that. Yeah. So I,

[00:37:44] Ben Reason: I'm gonna, I sort of latching onto you saying the live work dna.

[00:37:46] Ben Reason: So we did, well we started the company, we, and, and we always have sort of ever since been as interested in service as, And, and what we find, you know, and if you sort of early on [00:38:00] from reading the literature there, you know, there's so much more, um, literature about product and production than there is services and the idea of like how services are productive is, is still kind of, services are like the, the poor cousin in a way.

[00:38:15] Ben Reason: In, in, in the industrial yeah. World. So I, I think you'll, you see a lot of design, which is, um, I guess heavily weighted on the design and we do have a culture which is really interested in service. Um, so, and the idea. Reorienting a company or to think about the services they produce or them actually being a service company.

[00:38:38] Ben Reason: Mm-hmm. So, I, I mean, some of my, my most satisfying work has been where that's been successful, either where you've, you've kind of gotten to see, ah, you know, it's not just about the products. It's how do you get people there? How do you help them choose the right one, and how do you support them to get the most out of it?

[00:38:55] Ben Reason: Um, and when you say that, that kind of the kind of people and the kind of [00:39:00] culture, I'm just thinking, we've had a team that's been working with the British Parliament on, on the services that are provided to, to politicians and their staff, you know, so basic kind of in a way p clunky services like IT support and also, you know, archiving and these, these things.

[00:39:18] Ben Reason: And, and our big win is getting them to think of themselves as a service provider and to orientate how. Structure, what they do around those services and that shifts them from, it's like throwing, throwing together bits of it and disparate, uncoordinated, siloed activity. So I, I'd say that's it in a way.

[00:39:37] Ben Reason: For me, the culture is like, cuz the, if you start, if you're just about design, then you are mainly about your method. Yeah. And, and if, but if you're about service. You know, you're also about the design object. You're really concerned with, like this thing and what it is and what you know, what makes it function in the same way that you, you know, if you are.

[00:39:56] Ben Reason: You know, if you're a fashion designer, you're all, you know, you are all about that [00:40:00] garment and

[00:40:01] Gerry Scullion: yeah, I love that. Uh, I, I love the separation and it's, I've had a similar conversation with a few people, um, over the last couple of years about that, and it's, it's really true. Like, I think the service design.

[00:40:14] Gerry Scullion: Practice is in love with the design side of things and we sometimes we forget that we're actually, believe it or not, designing service. So, um, it's a, it's really refreshing to hear that

[00:40:25] Ben Reason: and it, it is a, it's nice, it's a really great question for you cause it helps to clarify cuz there is also, you know, there's this culture up there of around digital product and Yeah.

[00:40:35] Ben Reason: And uh, we were having a, we've had quite a few discussions about like, how do these things work together? You're seeing companies adopt digital products. Mindset, language process. And that's really important because, you know, they wanna ship these things and you need that kind of production methodology and mindset.

[00:40:53] Ben Reason: So, um, Luis in Sao Paulo and I put this thing out. So one is the relationship between these two things. I don't, [00:41:00] you know, Service isn't always the answer, but it's our, it's kind of our answer in a way. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:41:07] Gerry Scullion: So where's your own personal, um, journey going in the next five years? Because, you know, it, I can almost trace a line between your own personal growth and liveworks growth.

[00:41:18] Gerry Scullion: Mm-hmm. and also the employees growth cuz you. I think you're attracting a certain type of, um, practitioner in, into the business. Who are you reading at the moment and um, what are you hoping to learn in the next five years, Ben? Gosh. Um,

[00:41:34] Ben Reason: so I, I can do a bit of a plug here. So I, uh, with the ecological stuff, I've been reading a, a philosopher called Timothy Morton, and um, we're gonna have a book club on LinkedIn as an experiment where we'll discuss Nice book he's written called Being Ecological.

[00:41:51] Ben Reason: So he, he's kind of informed some of that thinking about how the, what, you know, he, this, this book, he talks about how the whole Shakur kind of [00:42:00] ecological fear thing is not necessarily the, a useful way to approach things. Um, so I guess that. I'm, I'm, I feel like, you know, I could say, you know, that my journey is, is along those three philosophies that would be neat and tidy, wouldn't it?

[00:42:17] Ben Reason: So there's an understanding journey and, uh, et cetera, et cetera. Me too salesy though, Ben. We wouldn't do that. Yeah. Would be terrible. Um, yeah, I mean, I'm still learning about this, this role. Um, you know, and, and I think we really need to learn. There's a lot of learning about. On the back of, of this early thinking in order to, I'm really excited about this.

[00:42:40] Ben Reason: This kind of like, it is a hypothesis for us at the moment and having it does feel like a new lease of life. For me, it was very exciting early on with live work where we said, look, these are the, this is what we think service design is, but we need to prove it. You know, we need to sell it. We need to see the community.

[00:42:56] Ben Reason: So I, I kind of feel like I'm at that point again. So there's a, there's [00:43:00] definitely a bit of me that wants to be more practitioner again and think about how

[00:43:04] Gerry Scullion: there's probably a, a sense of unlearning as well. Yeah. Yeah. I think, um, I, I'm, I'm hearing and I'm, you know, doing pseudo. Therapy , which is a certain amount of unlearning, I think, for all of us.

[00:43:18] Gerry Scullion: Um, is what I'm hearing from, from the industry is regards what we need to do as practitioners for the next five years in particular, because yeah, it's not going, these challenges are only gonna, um, you know, get bigger and bigger. But as the years go on, years go by, um, what do you think? Um, What do you think in terms of the, the, the people coming into the business, what are the skills that you feel that you're gonna need, like outside of yourself?

[00:43:47] Gerry Scullion: Um, so if, if there's anyone from academia or. Education that are producing new talent. I'm really keen to hear your thoughts on, on [00:44:00] what they should be doing more to cultivate excellence. Because obviously, you know, over the last decade or so, there's MAs of service design. Mm-hmm. , there's a lot more of those.

[00:44:10] Gerry Scullion: Um, and, and from what I'm, I'm understanding from a lot of those, Master's courses, they create really talented people. Hmm. Um, but there's something beyond that that we need to maybe consider. Yeah. Just,

[00:44:23] Ben Reason: um, trying to, I'm remembering I was haven't done any, any teaching on the Master's courses for a

[00:44:31] Gerry Scullion: while.

[00:44:32] Gerry Scullion: For a while,

[00:44:32] Ben Reason: but, um, that's, that's a good question. I think there still seems to be like a, I think the really interest. Stuff is when it's multidisciplinary. Um, so I absolutely, I, I loved it that I was choosing at the Royal College of Art. There was a project that they did, which was between service design, automotive design, and the engineering teams at Imperial.

[00:44:57] Ben Reason: Mm-hmm. So I guess learning how to work, [00:45:00] I mean, it's, in a way, it's kind of, you know, these, um, 21st century skills agenda around project-based and collaboration. Yeah. You know, um, so. If you run a, a service design, I always felt like the best projects were the ones which were kind of done, like student projects in the wild, and students were learning how to work alongside there's, you know, an act or a nurse or an engineer or, you know, so that, um, and there is something, you know, that, like one of the hardest things I find with what we do is just, you know, is the, is the facilitation, the collabora of, of collaboration.

[00:45:35] Ben Reason: How do you do that and how might you do. So, you know, we can do that at team level and we try and do that within an organization. How do you do that at a sort of multi organizational level? How might you have a, like in collaboration at a next system level of scale? Yeah. Um, we, we've had, yeah, that would be the sort of, I think the [00:46:00] dream.

[00:46:01] Ben Reason: That's where the work needs to go. And you know, if you look at, um, some of the. Stuff that kind of new trends in design, like this idea of mission-driven innovation, you know, how do you, how does design support that as, you know, kind of a key facilitator of those kind of. Challenges.

[00:46:22] Gerry Scullion: Okay. There's, there's a whole host of things that we could probably go a little bit deeper on here, but I just wanna ask o one one last question because, you know, in 2001 you were, you know, reading an awful lot about, um, the emergence of service at that point.

[00:46:39] Gerry Scullion: And now we're at the point in, we're 2023 here when we're recording this, and we're, we're kind of at a crossroads, you know, in terms of, of how we operate moving forward. What, what have you changed in your own life, um, over the last, say, number of years? Just I'm interested because y [00:47:00] you're, you're more well-read than I am.

[00:47:01] Gerry Scullion: You're more experienced in sustainability than I am and. You know, from speaking to Jerry McGovern, who's a very good friend of mine, who Oh, great. Yeah. I'd love to know. Um, and again, you might gonna go, I'm, I'm still in work in progress. I haven't done enough. Yeah. , what I'd love to hear in terms of, um, stuff that you maybe carried through into the business as well and maybe made cuts in certain parts or maybe you added things or things of.

[00:47:28] Ben Reason: So do, do you mean like at a, at a kind of personal lifestyle level or personal

[00:47:32] Gerry Scullion: lifestyle level? Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:47:34] Ben Reason: I'm, I'm actually, so I, I feel like I'm in a fortunate position and I, I have this building sense that like, let's say that, you know, if you, the global 10% richest people Yeah. In the, which includes us.

[00:47:50] Ben Reason: Consume something like 50% of the world's resources. So there's an interesting debate about, you know, is it personal responsibility or system level? But I think if you are in that group, you, you, then you have [00:48:00] the ability to make economic choices, then you, you should do things. And it's also a way to learn, so.

[00:48:05] Ben Reason: Mm-hmm. And without feeling like bragging, I, I'm very lucky we moved house last year and it was a full renovation. We manage, we've got a heat pump and a Oh, nice. There is no gas in the house, so it's a fossil free zone, which is really, you know, that's cool. Awesome. Yeah. Very good for the, uh, for the sort of, um, self-image.

[00:48:26] Ben Reason: Um, I'm afraid I, I bought a car in the pandemic. I did. I was, I was kind of proudly car-free and a car club user for a long time, but yeah.

[00:48:36] Gerry Scullion: Um, you've, you've bought a car? Yeah. I mean, like I know a number of people who've made huge. Sacrifices and sold houses and downsized and Right. Um, become. Free of, of that.

[00:48:51] Gerry Scullion: Um, but I'm really interested, like for me, in my own personal journey, I still, we still have two cars in our house. Okay. It's really difficult. We've got two young kids both under six. [00:49:00] Yeah. Um, and I've challenged my local council about this stuff. I've asked them saying, Hey, listen, look. You're talking about on one hand, um, you don't want me to use my car.

[00:49:10] Gerry Scullion: I said, but there's no public services for me to get from A to B in terms of the schools and I could probably buy a cargo bike. But, um, for anyone who's been to Ireland, uh, recently at the moment, or specifically Dublin, they're going through huge transformation in the bike lanes at the moment. And I just don't feel safe enough to bring my two young kids out in the bike.

[00:49:31] Ben Reason: I Well, good for you for, cuz I think stepping out of your own decisions and being politically active around it and helping, uh, talk about it, people realize the other thing I've done, which is, is definitely a luxury, uh, you know, economic luxury, we. We've been traveling by train in Europe, which is that good.

[00:49:51] Ben Reason: Can mean a two day trip to go and see the grandparents in Denmark. Um, but yeah, it's good. It's good.

[00:49:57] Gerry Scullion: Two days, days, I know. Um, Joe, [00:50:00] who wrote engineering, um, and, and Joe told me about a, um, Where was he going? He, he,

[00:50:07] Ben Reason: he was going to Dundee from Fromum because I, I met him in Dundee and he was like, yeah, ne never again

[00:50:14] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. It took him like, you know, a week. Yeah, yeah. How long it took him, but he did it. Um, and I know a number of people who've, I think if you're in mainland Europe, things become a little bit more easier, so

[00:50:26] Ben Reason: I'm gonna, I'm gonna sell it actually. So what my emerging concept, so we went to Nic. Right in the summer via Amsterdam, Munich, and then threw the Alps on the train.

[00:50:38] Ben Reason: And we had a, a four hour break roughly in Amsterdam and Munich. So I'm, I'm gonna coin the phrase micro break. Micro city break. Wait, so you, you have just long enough to kind of walk through the central streets and. Yeah, eat something and, or, or go and see an exhibition even. Um, and then get back on the [00:51:00] train again and using the sleeper train.

[00:51:02] Ben Reason: Um, yeah, and then we did go that route because you can. Go through the Alps on the, from

[00:51:07] Gerry Scullion: unit to on the train, which would be amazing. Yeah, absolutely. Well, as I said,

[00:51:12] Ben Reason: but it, it, we did on the way back, we were in that heat wave, so it was like 40 degrees on the train and it was kinda hard work.

[00:51:20] Gerry Scullion: So you were sitting there looking out the window kind of going, could have been an air conditioned airplane here.

[00:51:25] Gerry Scullion: Exactly. . Um, well look, You know, I, I've covered off all my, my kind of questions here on this. You're off the hook. I'm joking. Yeah. Um, it was really, really good finally chatting to you. Um, and thank you for being so open and honest about a lot of the questions as you see some of them come from. But I really enjoyed speaking with you.

[00:51:47] Gerry Scullion: So, so thanks so much for giving your time. If people wanna reach out to you, what's the best way for them to do that? I know we've got a Typeform link. I'm gonna throw a link in the show notes. Brilliant. For people to follow up and get involved with. [00:52:00] Um, the, the three, not the three Horizons Velocities.

[00:52:04] Ben Reason: Yeah. .

[00:52:05] Gerry Scullion: Three Velocities. Um, so I'll put a link to that one in the show notes, but if people wanna get in touch with you directly, what's the best way for people to do that? Yeah,

[00:52:12] Ben Reason: I'm, I'm pretty open on LinkedIn. I think that's the easiest way to, to find me. It's rolling to

[00:52:17] Gerry Scullion: that one in. I was willing to live work as well to to check out where you guys are at.

[00:52:22] Gerry Scullion: Like, you know, Ben, thanks so much. Thank you.

[00:52:28] Gerry Scullion: And there you go folks. I hope you enjoyed that episode and if you enjoyed it and want to listen to more, why not visit? This is hate c.com where you can learn more about what we are up to and also explore our courses well through there. Thanks again for listening.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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