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Hazel White & Mike Press ‘Making a difference through design’

John Carter
December 4, 2018
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Completed Episodes
December 4, 2018

Hazel White & Mike Press ‘Making a difference through design’

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Now before we jump into the interview, i wanted to mention we have a shelf load of books to give-away as thank you to all of our listeners in 2018. To be in with a chance of winning the books, you need to be on our newsletter which you can subscribe on at – we’ve got books from O’Reilly Media  in NYC one of our biggest supporters, as well as exclusive TIHCD discounts for Rosenfeld Media books and also have 2 books from the guys at Smashing Magazine. We also have signed copies of Andy Polaines Service Design book and Gerry McGovern’s latest book, Top Tasks.

Right, Let’s get to it –

Episode Transcript

Gerry Scullion: 00:01 Hazel White and Mike Press, a very warm welcome to the This is HCD podcast.

Hazel White: 00:05 Hello. Hello. Good to hear you.

Gerry Scullion: 00:08 Good to meet you again. You’re coming from Dundee in Scotland. Which for the people who aren’t familiar, that’s on the east coast, correct?

Mike Press: 00:17 That’s correct yes, and it’s Scotland sunniest city. Really, the only problem with that sentence is the word Scotland is in there, you know, it’s extremely sunny but not always warm but no a fantastic city. Wonderful. And of course we have the new Vna Museum of design which has recently opened here. Dundee,

Gerry Scullion: 00:39 I say now, which is fantastic for the city. So let’s jump in and tell us a little bit about yourselves, how you describe yourselves as probably a good way of starting here and tell us what, what you do?

Hazel White: 00:50 Okay. Um, we describe ourselves as a service design consultancy who help facilitate people to do the work they want to do better. And how do I go into was I used to be a lecturor and art colleges and I taught designer, taught Design at masters level and we began to get really interesting projects and, and it was from the NHS, from local government who wanted people I suppose to start with to design leaflets and websites, but it was at this time when John Thackara, who you interviewed recently had written “Design in a complex world” and the Red Team, design council had, can publish their manifest on transformational design and there was a sense that actually designers could be tackling problems that people already had rather than sitting in studios making up problems to solve. So we pivoted our course from basically what was the finishing year for graphic designers, interaction designers, all sorts of different designers into a design for services course. And we worked almost exclusively on live projects. We set up a thing called the Challenge Bank and organizations and businesses came to us with what they thought was a difficulty in their business and the students worked on it. And it was amazing. And these students were, you know, came from all over the world and went back to Shanghai to Bangalore, to Australia to actually use their skills. But there was a real issue there and that we needed them in Scotland. The rules have been changed and the students couldn’t work, used to be the students could carry on working for two years on their student visa. And that was changed and so people had to go back home and it was crazy. So I decided to actually the way to spread service design in Scotland, another way of doing it might be to go into organizations and train up their staff and services and tools, methods. Because one of the things I realized when we were running the course was the. Actually a lot of the year the students were studying was trying to understand organizations, you know, pick up the tools and service design really quickly. But it was understanding the organizational context was new to them. But then that was a business, whether it was understanding the national health service and If you worked with people that were already in that context, you would hit the ground running because they knew where it was we were working. So I left the university and set up Open Change and that’s where we are.

Gerry Scullion: 03:32 Excellent. Mike?

Mike Press: 03:34 Uh, I was just desperate for a job and she gave me one. I was working at the University as well and um, I’ve been working in the university sector for 25 years and I’d been very fortunate that I had a succession of really interesting challenges and opportunities to deal with. And uh, briefly went into kind of, you know, college management realized that wasn’t for me, but I was interested in teaching and interested in research and I’ve been doing that for 25 years and I think when Open Change had been running for a couple of years and I felt, well actually let’s Hazel and work together then what could we do if we really focused on this and uh, you know, develop work that is a very interesting and importantly will make a positive difference to the city and the country that we live in. And I think that’s always been our aspiration, you know, that it’s about using your skills in a way that benefits the community that you’re part of. And so I joined Open Change two years ago now and never regretted it for one second. That’s been great. And it enables you to draw on some of the expertise and skills that you developed in the university sector, but also add to that as well. And I’d been working before I went into academia, I’d been doing what the two of us had been working in a variety of different industries. So it all kind of. It pulls all of that together and focuses on something which is extremely worthwhile.

Gerry Scullion: 05:05 Yeah, I know that there’s definitely, there’s a movement going on between the shift from academia to I guess consultancy or of the last five years. I’ve definitely seen a lot of people moving between the two. And it’s fantastic. It’s great to see that mix of thinking happening. But one thing that I’m just going to go back to, one Hazel was saying like around taking the learnings and bringing them back to the localized Scottish market and stuff. In a previous episode, Sarah Drummond and we spoke about kickstarting a design revolution and there definitely seems to have been a movement that has happened over the last decade in Scotland, definitely since I left Europe to go to Australia and since I’ve come comeback. So what do you feel has driven that?

Mike Press: 05:47 I think it’s partly to do with austerity and I think it’s Government and to do with policy in that everybody knows that to run public services you have to do things differently and you know, they’ve been through Lean and various other programs and actually a lot of the tools and methods of service design compliment things that they’re doing very well, but also give them really efficient gains in finding the right problems to solve. You know, finding out what people’s real needs are and real barriers for accessing public services. And then if you can solve them, you have happier citizens. And a side effect may well be saving money as well.

Speaker 3: 06:32 I say there’s two other issues as well. I completely agree with all that. I think the other thing is in Scotland maybe mark out in terms of the rest of the United Kingdom, there’s a collective aspiration. You know, there is a sense of civic pride and civic ambition. You know, whether or not whichever side of the fence you’re on with independence, that’s not the point. The point is there is this civic ambition and this real genuine ambition to do things better and differently. Not just for the sake of being different, but because you really want to improve things. And I think the other thing is having some key people in the country that have moved things forward. You know, looking in our field. People like Sarah and Lauren Currie, what they did with Snook was, was an inspiration to a lot of us frankly. You know, and I think that’s lead people without snow would open change exist probably, but in a, in a different form.

Speaker 3: 07:27 So they lead the way. You’ve got people like a Cat McCauley working right at the heart of government and putting design on the map. And then actually you’ve got politicians across the whole divide, actually politicians who are open to change, open to innovation, open to new ideas. And here in this city of Dundee, we’re blessed by having political leaders who are extremely open to design and working with council officers who are also open to design. So there’s a kind of chemistry going on and I think a number of different factors, uh, uh, leading to a really positive climate for a design and innovation in Scotland.

Gerry Scullion: 08:08 Yeah. I guess it’s also identifying the champions within Governments, like add an MP level and Nichola Sturgeon over in Scotland maybe, I dunno, like maybe I’m speaking out of the turn, but Cats role, what was it? The Chief Design Officer that’s right for the Scottish government. I guess looking at the Irish Government at the moment, what advice would you give to people in Ireland to, to kind of champion that type of thinking internally?

Hazel White: 08:34 Well, I think there’s some good examples. Oh, rating because it’s finding pathfinder projects like the work that Snookk had been doing Cork, and showing how that has benefited and how it’s changed ways of working because that certainly worked for us in Scotland. We worked really closely with Dundee city council, with the chief executive chief transformation officer, all their senior team and then various different teams and they have now been advocating that approach round the other 32 local authorities in Scotland, so instead of the service design consultancies seeing this as a great way of doing things is people being able to say this is the change that it made for us and now we work completely differently and better.

Gerry Scullion: 09:16 It reduces the risk for them as well. They’re like actually, well they’ve got a story, a narrative to repeat back to other people in their departments and say, well look, they’re doing this so maybe maybe we should look at doing this as well.

Hazel White: 09:27 Absolutely, and it reduces the sense of risk as well if you’ve seen someone else do it successfully.

Gerry Scullion: 09:33 Yeah, absolutely.

Mike Press: 09:34 I think. I think all of that increases the pressure on all of us to be much, much better at telling stories, telling the stories of how well we do and others do. How has this had a positive benefit, how would that benefit is then applied within communities and within, you know, institutions of local government or etc. But we really have to be a lot better at that storytelling and putting together, you know, rigorous case studies that provide evidence on the value of design in this field.

Gerry Scullion: 10:08 No, absolutely. That was one of the things that I mentioned when I was closing the Service Design Day conference. It’s like having strength in the community to share these stories amongst ourselves because I think it’s. There’s a new wave happening within service design and design as a whole and sharing those stories like we’re doing right now so we can actually point back and say, this is working here. You can use this to sell in design and other places as well. That’s right, yeah. Which is a nice segue into our topic today, which is like service design walkabout, which I didn’t make it to your masterclass, but I think it might’ve been a lot of fanboys afterwards in the bar. they were like, Mike Press and, or wait, I can’t wait. Do. It was like Lenny Kravitz was walking into the bar and was literally gushing about this class. And I guess tell us a little bit about how you describe it and where it came from.

Mike Press: 11:00 I mean, it’s a really simple concept. It’s about getting out into the world. Um, we use the quote from John le Carre, “a desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world” and lots of decisions are made by people sitting at their desk or sending from their laptops, imagining how the world is and yet getting out even for a really short period of time can completely change your perspective and understand how your customers experience the services that you provide. And it, I mean it’s an established technique in, in service design is usually called the service safari, but we think that’s a bit of a colonial term. So we call it a walkabout and, and there’s different ways you can do. The one that we did in barcelona was going out and observing, simply just going out and observing and taking notes, noticing what’s happening and where the barriers and the opportunities are, and then bringing that back and analyzing it, finding insights you can make from that. And he did that really quickly. I mean the people who were in our workshop, we’re only out for four to five minutes and they came back with some really tremendous insights. You can also build on it by going out and interviewing people, you know, as they’re doing things that involves getting, you know, if you’re going to be using their images, are the names that involves getting consensus there. Another level of engagement. You can also walk through services with people, um, which we’ve done and healthcare settings, you know, going through what’s it like to be a patient as you’re going for an appointment, etc. So there’s different levels. You can use it and work in different kinds of insights from doing it at those different levels.

Mike Press: 12:32 So we’ve used, we’ve used it in a number of different contexts. Um, we’ve used it in Gov Jam, which we’ve organized now twice and is getting people to go out and I’m walk around the streets of engage with people and so forth, but I think significantly we’ve used it with leadership groups and we were working with one local authority with our senior leadership team, about 70 people and we did the usual introduction to This is Service Design this is how you can transform your services, etc. Etc. This is the double diamond is a theory, blah, blah, blah, blah. And after two hours we said, and this was the middle of June and it was raining outside, we say, right, okay, an hour. We’d like you to go outside and talk to citizens and you could see all the blood drain from their faces. You know, they didn’t get out much. They, they were policy makers, they were managers. They tended to sit behind desks. They tended to sit in meetings. They went out perhaps slightly with a heavy heart. And the came back actually infused by what had happened and the people that they talk to. And I think that kind of gave them different insights as to how people looked at the council, for example, because they kind of tend to be a little bit defensive, but people weren’t attack in the council and they’re out on the streets talking to them and um, yeah, actually then getting people to walk through services and you know, go and get a bus pass. And so the council manager comes back spitting tacks. She said I paid for that service, you know, and you know, I, I think if you put senior managers in the position of going either through a walkthrough or just going out and about, it changes mindsets actually quite fundamentally. So it makes sense. It turns into a very positive exercise.

Gerry Scullion: 14:18 And it’s the shared experience as well with your peers. Absolutely, yeah. The collective observation as a really powerful method. Yeah. And I guess what, when they come back to the studio, what exercise follow the safari or I don’t want to call it the safari, Hazel will kill me, the walkabout. Sorry, Hazel.

Hazel White: 14:37 In barcelona, we kept it very open and we actually gave them just a, a big sheet of paper and said just map out what you discovered however feels comfortable to you because we knew that we had a really mixed bunch of participants and the oldest in different ways. Some juice, some naughty things down and post it notes, et cetera, but just clustering information and thInking. So this is what we saw. So what does this tell us? You know, and you know, we could see across what the patterns were because they’d been to different. They’d been to given tasks to do, you know, like imagine you’re going to the airport. by tram and you’ve only got a credit card. we don’t have any cash or imagine you’re going Park Guell and you’re getting the tram but you don’t speak Catalan or Spanish. So just to give them some parameters to think within and out of all six groups, the key things that came back with was the transport system wasn’t integrated. You know, they might go to a bus stop showing it Park Guell and the bus driver would actually see what you can’t buy a ticket here, you’ve got good by the ticket, the metro, so they’d go to the metro and then once we’re at the nature of the thing of, well I might as well just get the train. We can go back to the bus station, but it was quite confusing and stressful for people because they might be waiting at a stop for a bus and not know whether it was going to be accessible because some of them are considering themselves to be in a wheelchair users. The one thing that really common, and it’s really common in other places and we’ve done this as well. There was max at the bus stance or an asian or whoever and they don’t see “you are here”. You’ve got a map of a city, but it’s based on you’ve got local knowledge that you know where you are and you know where you’re going to go and yet the purpose is to help you navigate that. So yeah, all those really simple, like a simple thing of putting a sticker on a map to see you are here actually reduces stress levels and late someone navigate a system much more easily and so that, that sort about observation, you know, is obviously very clear in transport. But you know when you go back to UX desIgner, go back to other things, that whole thing of showing someone huge so it’s, it’s finding those sorts of insights in a domain other than the one you normally work in because it’s much easier to be critical and observe in somewhere where you’re not working than it is in your place because you can always rationalize or we don’t do that because. But once you’ve actually seen it in someone else’s domain and then you come back to your own base, you can’t unsee things. You’re still was observing, whether it’s the, you know, the notices above the wash hand basin that say don’t wash your mugs here in comic sans and you know, you begin to be critical. Why are we putting up passive aggressive signs and begins to just change your mindset about how people experience everything. Whether it’s your customers or whether it’s your peers, you know, observing being at work together.

Gerry Scullion: 17:42 Absolutely. It was like, I’m sure it was really interesting for people who are mostly not from Barcelona anyway, conduct that type of method. When I was flying back home, I flew Ryanair airbag, which was an unusual thing for me to do anyway and I noticed that the people beside me were Spanish and they definitely didn’t read English or speak English and there was a sign in front of them that says no baggage is at any time stow above. And I tried to say to them says, oh, know your bag and that they looked at me blankly and the girl came down. There was a sign like right in front of their face and I was like, look for someone like an airline who you know, goes all around the world, it’s so important to have the labeling or the wayfinding stuff in multilingual languages, just so it’s accessible and it just failed and they got in trouble and then the person came down and it’s like, you need to do it. There was an argument in front of me and I was like, wow, something as simple as having a, you know, you’re going between Dublin and Spain. Having two languages is such a no brainer

Hazel White: 18:43 Or even having it visually.

Gerry Scullion: 18:44 Yeah. And an icon of some sorts. I know no bag. So guys, I’m just kind of a interest to see, as you’ve been doIng and using safaris slash walkabouts for a number of years, but what value do you feel they give to organizations that might be in low maturity?

Mike Press: 19:02 Well, I think the key advantages that we see experiences is actually happening when we’re looking at people in the everyday context and that enables us to understand the every day. I mean, I suppose what we’re talking about with walkabout is, is a simple term for what other people would describe as ethnographic research and you were trying to understand what other people doing in their everyday lives and out of that from a design context, we were particularly interested in how people face problems and difficulties, but we’re also trying to identify what’s good about that. You know, we were trying to identify good design solutions and approaches that could perhaps be applied elsewhere and then when we combine that with walking and talking and we’re talking to people, then they’re talking as they’re doing something in their own terms. It’s not like, you know, sitting down with a questionnaire and asking people, tell us about the last time you went on public transport and you know, what happened, what was your experience of it? And actually that’s all been framed by our language, our terms, our assumptions and not that other person’s. When we were actually doing the reconnaissance in Barcelona, a couple, well obviously having a massive difficulty in trying to figure out where they were, where they were going on the tram and asked for our advice. So that was a great opportunity to, to talk to people about what was wrong with the navigation of the signage with the tram system, so forth. But they were talking to us in terms of, you know, they want to get to a particular destination. And they were, they were tourists and so forth. So it’s this thing about seeing experiences is actually happening. And not someone’s recollection of it and also being able to discuss that from the other person’s own terms. So those are the key values. Really.

Gerry Scullion: 20:53 Yeah. Such an important part of our jobs is how can change mindsets. So how do you feel this method is actually helped do that?

Hazel White: 21:02 By connecting senior leaders am with people that are working at the front line and it makes them understand what the issues are. And we often start any sort of work by talking to senior leadership team about the benefits of this approach and how it changes mindsets.

Mike Press: 21:24 One way that we do that is we differentiate between troublemakers radicals and this comes actually from the, uh, National Health Service, nhs school for change agents and they make this difference between troublemakers, radicals. And

Gerry Scullion: 21:41 Before you want to tell us what a troublemaker is, because I know I’ve been called a troublemaker

Mike Press: 21:45 before. Well, we obviously, we saw all of our workshops. We know that there’s not a single troublemaker in the room. However, we know that there’s lots of radicals and troublemakers or the people that we might know a few at work or wherever. People have complained, people who are focused on themselves, who are angry about change, you know, everything’s going to hell in a handcart and it’s affecting me in a bad way and nothing will ever get better. Their pessimists and once we spend five minutes with them, you know, we begin to lose the will to live. You know, we feel all the energy draining away from us. They fixate on problem today. Often the love radicals are different. Radicals aren’t complaining, they’re creating, they’re thinking about alternatives. They’re focused on themselves, but on a mission, a positive mission for change and they’re passionate about that.

Speaker 3: 22:31 And once they recognized that, you know, their world or their small part of the world or the world in general is facing some massive challenges. The human race has generally been pretty good at solving them, sometimes pretty late in the day, but we can be optimistic that positive progressive change, you know, kind of goes on and they generate energy around them and they attract people to them. so collaboration is absolutely core to being a radical. So we kind of, we turned that into workshops into a bit of a joke, you know, we know you’re not troublemakers, but this is what the radical is and it is about looking at another term that we use as is the definition from a Nigel Cross who used to be one of the founders of the whole idea of design thinking and his notion that design is about a sense of constructive discontent we are discontent with the world. We’re discontent with things around us, but hey, let’s be constructive. Let’s think of alternatives. Let’s create all term and solve those problems. So that’s, that’s the mindset that we try and encourage people to be in once they go out on the road.

Gerry Scullion: 23:39 Yeah. It’s those behaviors that you’re trying to reinstill that are integral to the success of any of this kind of taking off internally, I guess. Yeah. So look, we’re coming towards the end of the episode and what I’m going to do is going to ask three questions, either one of your can start. So the first question I’m going to ask is, what is the one professional scale that you wish you were better at and why?

Hazel White: 24:01 I wish I was based at writing because yeah, just having the time to actually capture what you’ve done, but I think technology is kind of on our side would that because now I can just talk and then send stuff away we to get transcribed and that’s the advantage for me.

Gerry Scullion: 24:21 Yeah. Nice. Mike?

Speaker 3: 24:21 Um, I wish I was better and making things. I’m not really good at kind of hands on craft. I actually, when I was, when I was eight, I got a Blue Peter of badge for listeners. I started the uk Blue Peter was a kid’s tv program or they used to give out badges. They probably still do for treatment. I got a blue piece of baggage because my dad had made a bird table and I wrote a poem about it and I got the badge that and Hazel afterwards said, yeah, that’s kind of the story of your life. You know, other people do the creative labours and you just get accolades by writing about yet. So I wish I was good at making things.

Gerry Scullion: 24:57 That’s a great one. All right. So the second question is, what is the one thing that you wish were banished from the industry and why?

Mike Press: 25:05 Jumping to solutions. We’ve got this freeze that we actually pick it up from another, um, services I need agency based in scotland called thrive and they talk about solution. ear-ring, people just go straight into solutions with a chain to actually dig down and find what the problems are, you know, and it’s this kind of quick fix thing, right? We’re going to do an innovation day and we’ll come up with some answers and we’ll just go and implement them. So yeah. Solution Earring

Gerry Scullion: 25:34 Nice.

Speaker 3: 25:35 I wouldn’t banish anything. I actually think started to get serious with my when I think we live in an age of, of extreme intolerance now and we all want to ban attitudes or behaviors that we don’t like. All we feel uncomfortable with. And I suppose while I would banishes, intolerance, you know, we have to tolerate different perspectives and different views and engage with that. I guess.

Gerry Scullion: 25:58 Nice. And the very final question is, what advice would you give to design talent for the future? So like service designers, ux designers, fashion designers, what advice would you give them?

Mike Press: 26:10 Get away from your desk as often as he can.

Gerry Scullion: 26:13 Nice. And Mike?

Mike Press: 26:16 Uh, yeah, I go with that as a sound piece of advice and believe in yourself, you know, and I think that’s what we, when we were educators, that was what we said to all of our students, believe in yourself and that was the job that we were paid to do, was to believe in them and um, you know, hopefully by believing in them than they believe in themselves. And then that gives them the confidence to do thIngs or to try things maybe they wouldn’t have tried before.

Hazel White: 26:45 And a really great example of that is lower and encourage say with sarah, I didn’t know what service design was until Lauren decided to do her master’s project on it. And things that students should realize is that their lecturers learn more from them than they probably ever learned from their lecturers through.

Gerry Scullion: 27:07 Yeah, that’s a great way to end the conversation. Um, so mike hazel, you so much for your time. thank you very much.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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