Bringing Design Closer with Gerry Scullion

Marc Stickdorn ‘Embedding Service Design into Organisations’

John Carter
May 8, 2018
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Marc Stickdorn ‘Embedding Service Design into Organisations’

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Episode Transcript

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GERRY SCULLION: Hello and welcome to another episode of ‘This is HCD’. My name is Gerry Scullion and I’m a human centred design practitioner based in Sydney, Australia.

Before we jump in, however, as this podcast was recorded in the Sydney CBD I’d like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation as the traditional custodians of the land where we meet today and pay respect to their elders both past and present.

In this episode we caught up with Marc Stickdorn, co-author of ‘This is Service Design Thinking Book’ and most recently the epic and one of the most important design books in yonks, ‘This is Service Design Doing’, a book that has been celebrated in the service design community like it’s the millennium. If you aren’t familiar with either of the books, I’ll pop links into the show notes for the episode.

In this episode, we go through the hypothetical scenario of embedding service design into an organisation and what Marc looks for in this process. We discussed the challenges of the early stage engagement of what to look for regarding the design maturity of an organisation, where service design should sit in an organisational structure and the role of service design thinking, impact measurement and service design and a whole lot more.

This episode is tinged with a touch of sadness. This the last time I’ll be recording in Castlereagh St in Sydney and tonight I’ll be turning off the lights for the last time. I will be continuing ‘This is HCD’ from my new home in Dublin, Ireland and I want to thank everyone who has helped me do this podcast to date.

So thank you to all my Australian guests, our sponsors who’ve kindly donated to Cara Care our nominated charity in Australia, my wonderful wife and also to Mark Cantanzariti and Adrienne Tan for their help and support. As I mentioned, this isn’t the end for ‘This is HCD’ in Australia, Mark and Adrian will be continuing to record and I’ll be recording from Dublin. But enough about me. Let’s get into the call. We’ve got Marc waiting.

Marc Stickdorn, a very warm welcome to the ‘This is HCD’ podcast.

MARC STICKDORN: Good morning or afternoon/evening to you.

GERRY SCULLION: You’re coming live from Innsbruck in Austria. I’m sure it’s snowy there at the moment, is it?

MARC STICKDORN: It is. It’s getting springtime though. We’ve had the first spring day but it’s still a lot of snow out there. It’s quite beautiful right now actually.

GERRY SCULLION: Right unlike Ireland at the moment which is suffering in four feet of snow for the first time in 20 years.

So Marc, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into design.

MARC STICKDORN: Yeah so I’m in the field of service design for more than ten years now. But actually, my background is not in design. My background is strategic tourist management. So strategic management in the tourism industry and I was doing innovation projects but failing with using these tools I learnt at business school but it’s rather linear thinking sort of kind of write your business plan and then execute for a year or two and then see what comes out of that and well I failed doing that so I got interested in other ways of doing innovation basically. And a good friend of mine, Jakob Schneider, who I published the first book together with yeah and then I got interested in design and when I moved to Innsbruck about ten years ago, I really got into service design more and more.

GERRY SCULLION: And that’s it yeah and I know that’s how I first became aware of Marc Stickdorn and Jakob and ultimately Klaus as well at some point of ‘This is Service Design Thinking’ and you’ve just released ‘This is Service Design Doing’ as well which we’ve obviously given away one book already on the podcast, it was very popular. So how is the book going so far?

MARC STICKDORN: Absolutely amazing. So we were blown away by the interest. The first print run was sold out within three weeks, the second one was sold out in another four weeks so we are already in the third print run now.


MARC STICKDORN: So right now probably 10,000 books have been sold, like physical books, not talking about the digital versions so it’s absolutely amazing.

GERRY SCULLION: Yeah I can definitely say I had that book for a couple of weeks and I read through it and it’s fantastic. It really is and I’m not just saying that because you’re obviously on the podcast, no it’s a must-have for anyone practising the craft of service design or human-centered design so kudos to you and the guys for doing that.


GERRY SCULLION: So let’s ask you a little bit of a question; how would you describe service design to your mother?

MARC STICKDORN: (laughs) I like how you phrase the question because the first thing I always ask when someone asks me to describe service design, I ask to whom. There’s not one definition, it depends on who you are talking to, what makes sense to them. So if I tried to explain that to my mother, I probably would talk, I try it like so when we do service design we try to look at the customer experience or the employee experience, whatever you focus on, you’ll get some kind of experience and what are the mechanics behind it in business to create this experience. And when we try to understand what the customer really needs or we’re trying to change the processes, the structures, maybe also physical products, architecture, whatever is needed to create a great customer experience while at the same time also improving business for the company.

GERRY SCULLION: Okay and what would your mother say to that?

MARC STICKDORN: Probably ‘stop talking, eat your cake’.

GERRY SCULLION: I know my mother struggles with it as well. One of my friends still thinks I do the Aer Lingus logo. He says ‘that’s what you do’ and I’m like ‘yeah sort of, sort of’. (laughs)

So today’s topic, we were emailing back and forth about this and it’s a very hot topic at the moment, it’s about embedding service design into organisations and I know you’ve already done a couple of talks on this I think in the US and one of the things that struck me today as I was reading these questions was, and it may seem quite obvious but what I’m keen to understand ‘what’ exactly is ‘it’ that we’re trying to embed?

MARC STICKDORN: I think we can learn from other approaches which has gone through similar struggles a few years ago. So if we take a look at software development, for example, they changed from what’s called a waterfall model where you have one big decision in the beginning where you design your requirements, you design your roadmap, you might do project planning with a Gantt chart. And then move into an actual way of doing it where you do a couple of smaller decisions, where you iterate, where you test things on the go. And of course they were struggling and they’re still struggling 20 years later, they’re still struggling to bring this sustainably into an organisation.

I think we’re doing a similar thing just with a different, maybe with a different scale because we’re trying at the same time change the way we’re working from the big decision and linear thinking to more iterations and xxx06.37xxx but at the same time, we try to bridge many different departments of an organisation. We try to break down silos because if you think of who has a stake in the customer experience, in the service experience, there are many different departments involved. And many of them are actually just backstage departments, departments the customer doesn’t have direct contact with but indirectly the experience is influenced by decisions they make.

So what we need to do is we need to somehow work co-creatively, include all these people who are part of both the design process and later in running the show. And try to come up with solutions together and there are many tags for those main ways you can call it, service design or design thinking or human-centred design or UX design if you don’t limit yourself to a screen. So I don’t care which tag you put on there as long as we all agree on what we’re trying to achieve which is improving the experience for customers but also employees.

GERRY SCULLION: Yeah okay and I know before we were speaking you mentioned I know you’re working full time at More than Metrics. Are you still consulting?

MARC STICKDORN: Well I do but rather on a strategic level. So I stopped doing projects or real service design project work more than three years ago because we had this awkward situation that we were pitching against one of our More than Metric’s clients which was a really horrible experience so we said we would stop that. We really positioned ourselves behind the people who are actually doing service design; so behind agencies, consultancies, in-house departments and rather focus on developing tools and methods which makes your life easier.

GERRY SCULLION: Okay so one of the questions that I had for you is how does embedding service design differ to say embedding design thinking? You touched on it a little bit there about removing the labels and focusing more on the skills and the roles of what people are doing. But in my experience with design thinking, it focuses less about doing and more about thinking. So what are your thoughts about that?

MARC STICKDORN: I think it depends on what kind of design thinking approach or definition you follow. There are so many out there and one big issue I have with design thinking is that and it’s especially in the world of management consulting, it’s often limited to an ideation method used xxx09.09xxx


MARC STICKDORN: And honestly ideation is the smallest bit in a design process. It’s more about doing research and prototyping. These are the two main fields for me and less about, well using xxx00.09.24xxx to come up with ideas because if you involve the right people, ideas will come anyway. The question is rather which of these many, many ideas you want to take forwards and less about well as opposed to the world of ideating.

GERRY SCULLION: I remember when we were speaking a couple of years ago about and you’d released the Service Design Thinking book, or maybe it was Klaus that had said this to me but you were kind of shooting yourselves in the foot by giving another tag and another title out there like service design thinking is now design thinking on steroids and stuff.

MARC STICKDORN: Yes it’s horrible and honestly I’m really, really sorry for that mess because what we tried to achieve with this title, this Service Design Thinking is we wanted to raise a discussion in the community. And then we created this book we really thought that this becomes the textbook that we were thinking about maybe a few hundred people read and use in their classes. And the title actually raises a discussion on whether this is a service design or is this design thinking? Or well what’s the difference by the way? And why is it service design? And it completely failed. Nobody was discussing that. Instead, we now have agencies for service design thinking and departments for service design thinking and instead of raising a discussion and clearly the field actually what came out of that was the opposite, an even bigger mess. So I’m sorry for that.

GERRY SCULLION: There’s no reason to apologise and definitely not to me. But is this where the Service Design Doing book came out of that problem so to speak?

MARC STICKDORN: So the story about the Doing book is more than I started giving what I call executive schools together with two German friends of mine, one German, one English, living in Germany now, is Marcus and Adam. Many of you are familiar with the global service jam, these are the two guys behind it, so who initially started it. And we started teaching together and over the years we have been teaching together now for more than five years and over the years we created a script, we tried a clearer language we thought and we were always staggering like that we as a community even between within the core community of service design experts we don’t have a clear language yet. And that was the main idea of why we should bring this out in the book to maybe not restricting the approach by giving it a clear definition but maybe by bringing a bit of more clarity in it by unifying the language.

GERRY SCULLION: Okay. Yeah, and you’ve definitely done that in the book. I can testify it’s a fantastic prop you know for anyone who’s actually working on the tools, shall we say.

MARC STICKDORN: Thank you. Enough of that.

GERRY SCULLION: Enough of the book. Let’s get down into the nitty-gritty of what we’re going to discuss today is about embedding service design into an organisation. Now, this is a hot topic because I’ve made a few phone calls in the last 24 hours to people across Australia and beyond and a lot of people have got a lot of questions. So I’ve broken the questions and the structures of today’s conversation down into three stages. One of them is like if a client has approached you or has approached an agency says, because we’re looking for your perspective on that, and we’re realising we’ve identified you’re not consulting at the moment, but if there’s a stage of awareness, so the client is maybe read something, they’ve heard something, maybe they’ve watched something. They’ve met Gerry in the street and I’ve been banging on about service design. How would you gauge the design maturity of an organisation and the readiness to adopt?

MARC STICKDORN: This thing I always like to understand is what they actually mean with certain terms and if an organisation says we do service design they might do exactly the same thing as another organisation who does design thinking or human centred design or even UX design or whatever.

So first I would like to look beyond the labels they put on and really understand okay how do you work? And then check on who is doing the work. Is it more external agencies or are they having to team in-house driving it? And with driving, I mean really who’s facilitating the workshops there? And what is their level facilitation?

GERRY SCULLION: And who should be working on the facilitation of the workshops? What would you be looking to see? What does a good outcome look like?

MARC STICKDORN: So a healthy approach is if it’s a mix; you need to have a strong in-house team who can facilitate workshops themselves, who can manage the project themselves and if you’re working with a good in-house team they also know what are their limitations and when it makes sense to reach out to an external agency for facilitation. So if anybody in an organisation is focusing too much on the content, that’s always a point where you need an external facilitator or if you need different expertise on that. So what I try to understand when I check the maturity of an organisation, I take a look at the tools they use.

So with tools, I mean stuff like persona, system maps, journey maps and so on; methods of how you create these tools and how you keep on working with the tools. So I take a look at the tools first and try to see what is the quality of that. Do they, if they create for example a current state journey map? An As-Is journey map? Do they base it on research? Or is it just based on assumptions of them? And if it’s based on research, do they actually add some research on that? Some versions of it and maybe even state what kind of research they’ve done. So others who take a look at the map can evaluate it and see how valid it actually is.

GERRY SCULLION: Okay so Marc I’m really keen to understand a little bit more about your thoughts where an in-house team should sit in an organisation. So what I mean by that is if there are people listening today and they’re in the BITS function or they want to do service design, they want to bring it in-house, where do you think it should sit in the organisation and what other teams should be in involved to make that a successful embedding process?

MARC STICKDORN: It sounds actually like a straightforward question but actually it tackles on many different aspects and one of them is actually what is service design? Is service design a new discipline which needs its own department? For me what service design is, it’s something bridging different disciplines. We try to work co-creatively, interdisciplinary so getting all the different departments together and at the same time we’re talking about breaking down silos. So can we then create an own department for service design? So just another silo in it? When you ask me what is service design, I think it is actually a common language we can use, a common language based on rather simple tools that everybody can use no matter what their background is based on an iterative design process and based on the common understanding that we always start working from the perspective from the people we’re working for, so the end users, customers or employees.

In order to that, you need to have, I always like to call it two different teams. You have a core team, so these are the people who are rather experts on this service design process, on the tools, on the methods but mostly on facilitating that. So they are facilitators and they often do not interfere in the content. They only make sure that a group of people makes progress in the project.

And then you have an extended project team and these teams can change or they should actually change from project to project because different projects focus on different aspects so you need a different mix of people, everybody who’s involved in that.

So you have these core teams and of course, they need to sit somewhere in organisations and I see them sitting in the design field, in the marketing field, in the business development field, in the more operational organisation field. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong as long as we understand that these are the core people who are driving it but per project, you need to set up a different team. And per project, you need to set up the team from people who have a basic knowledge of that, so training is essential there of course. I, however, criticise when an organisation says well we need to train 10,000 design thinkers in our organisations because how many of them in the end who really work with that? Does it make sense? No. Not everybody in the organisation needs to be a service designer. But it helps if you have a common language and if those who work on projects understand that and of course the more projects you participated in, the better your skills get and the easier it is to work and the fewer facilitations you need. So if you have a really well-skilled team, they can start working straight away.

GERRY SCULLION: That totally makes sense Marc and you know I’ve definitely seen that in my experience as well and I really like the splitting of the teams, like the core teams. You actually focus on the facilitation to enable the doing almost, to clear those hurdles. Do you think they should be just designers themselves or is that a management function? A traditional management function should I say?

MARC STICKDORN: I actually think what service design develops into automatically in a couple or I would say many years is actually a management approach but that’s still a long way to go. So who should be a service designer? I say you have a diverse background. I mean I’m not a designer by classic education. I went into design doing my PhD but I started being in strategic management. I worked with people in service design who have a background in psychology or in ethnography, in research but of course also design. And I think it’s more about mindset than about the education bit. Because if you limit it to education I don’t believe that much in the silos of education. On the other hand that it would mean that only people who have a management education are good managers. That’s not true.

GERRY SCULLION: That’s not true at all, yeah absolutely. So in this hypothetical scenario of like the first stage of people being aware of service design and you’ve gauged the maturity and you’ve helped them understand what service design is; how do you give them an understanding of the impact? So that’s one of the problems I know with service designers is being able to sell service design into organisations and impact measurement. So what are your thoughts on that?

MARC STICKDORN: It’s really, really hard to sell service design with case studies outside of your own organisation. So if you come up with all of these fancy cases out there, people will always say ‘yeah that works there but we are different’. And that’s true. I mean if we talk about cultural differences, it’s not only regional cultural differences, there is a culture in every organisation and in large organisations, actually, there are several cultures depending on which department you’re looking at. So you need to prove that service design works inside of your organisation, inside of your culture, your given structures and processes.

GERRY SCULLION: So how can you do that?

MARC STICKDORN: You start with a small project. We like to call them stealth projects because…

GERRY SCULLION: Ooh stealth projects!

MARC STICKDORN: Yeah stealth projects which mean we give them often very boring names, something like process organisation or whatever where people don’t question, like okay that’s important, somebody needs to do that. I don’t want to be that somebody. But you use these stealth projects to sneak service design into an organisation. So you’re using the tools and methods there and it’s not a switch like from a zero to a hundred percent immediately. It’s a gradual switch because you need to learn to adapt methods, tools, a process, the language you’re using to your own organisation first. And that needs a couple of small projects. But once you find the mix how it sticks in your organisation, you can start working on smaller projects and it’s really important to document these projects well. That means make clear what do you want to change in the beginning? Where do you want to have an impact? Measure the baseline of that. So find some KPIs where you can really measure the impact of that. That could be something like the revenue, for example, or churn or cost but that could be also something like customer user employee experience or the length of a process, whatever that is.

So you need to measure the baseline. You document your project using photos, little videos, tropes from participants, tropes from users or customers involved with that. And then also doing prototyping, you start measuring again and that helps you to indicate well could we have an impact on that?

Once it’s implemented, you measure the new baseline, then hopefully you see a difference in them, hopefully, you get the impact you intended to. Once you have that, so you know what is the impact and you know how much work went into this project. You can actually answer the golden question everybody’s asking for. What is the return on investment? How much does it cost? What do I get out of that? You cannot answer that in general for service design. I mean you can’t answer that for management or marketing in general, right? What is the return on investment on management? I don’t know. But you can do it for any specific project you do. So start with small cells projects, learn how to adapt this into your organisations, measure the impact of that and then you can create and craft a nice case out of that where you have documentation of how you worked because that is really important but then also having documentation on the effect of that.

GERRY SCULLION: Well you touched on a little bit there on culture and organisation culture and much of the work that I’ve done over the last 10 or 15 years, and not all of that’s been as a service designer, but you get down to the nuts and bolts of a project and you start looking at the backstage inefficiencies and you start to help resolve those issues to enable an organisation to be able to deliver the desired experience for the customer. You start to encroach on this kind of Savannah area of an organisation where you start looking at organisational culture and corporate behaviour and so what is the role of the service designer in this instance? And what are the areas you think we start to become ineffective?

MARC STICKDORN: There’s a lot of fuzziness around, okay what is it actually when you embed service design into an organisation? And often it’s underestimated what you impact there because what it actually is, it’s a cultural change within the organisation. It changes the way people work because only if we look at organisations, many of them are still set up in silos which means every silo has a certain language, a certain culture, often also a certain set of KPIs they’re measured against. So twelve-month reviews on KPIs which means in any interdisciplinary project the different people from different organisations have certainly hidden intentions there, hidden agendas. They want to drive their own KPIs. So how can you, as a service designer who comes into an organisation and tries to maybe not break down this silos but lowers the hurdles between them; how can you have an impact on that? And I think it’s not easy. The thing is all these tools we use, they appear so simple and so straightforward, like a journey map, yes we can do that of course.


MARC STICKDORN: But actually when it comes to sustainably embedding this way of working in an organisation, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And it’s a damn hard marathon. It takes years to bring it really into an organisation and to change the way people work and people think. So you can only do that step by step. You need to identify who are the champions in organisations who really understand this way of working, who have an intrinsic motivation to work in this kind of way. So often doing something like an internal jam can be great just to identify who in this organisation is willing to change and willing to work in this way.

Or maybe they’re even working in this way already they’re just calling it differently. And once you identify a few champions there, then you can start doing the first projects, those stealth projects I was talking about. And as soon as you start having successful projects in your organisations, no matter which field it is, if it’s customer experience, user experience, employee experience then you can slowly start communicating that. And it’s important to not try to push this approach in an organisation but rather raise interest in those people who have an intrinsic interest in that and change it into a pull. So slowly start communicating. For example, hang up the current state journey map, the future state journey map, show what is the difference you want to change and then also show maybe a few photos on a poster how you did it and hang it up in the hallway. Maybe add some information on the effect of that or what did you change or what impact of that, how long did it take? But also show the way you are working and then add somewhere information like do you want more information? Get in touch with the person who is doing that. So you’re changing the push into a pull and people will start calling you and saying ‘hey this looks good. Can we do something similar here as well?’

So instead of pushing it too hard rather have it well organic growth in the organisation, step by step. But prove that this is working and also including, not only those people who are always front stage but also focusing on the backstage people. So think about IT department, think about legal, think about human resources. Those are the real change drivers in an organisation. If you get all of them, you probably have a good chance to bring it into the entire organisation.

GERRY SCULLION: Yeah excellent. So have you seen any tactics that have worked quite well regards the sharing of information across the organisations that you’ve worked with in the past?

MARC STICKDORN: It depends on the maturity level; so where are we right now? Are we already using certain labels for that like service design is there management buy-in for that? Or is it maybe still stuck somewhere in the organisation hierarchy. In the beginning, I would choose very subtle communication forms. So hanging up a journey map somewhere for example or maybe including that in internal presentations where you talk about that. Over time you can then include more and more external people to that as well. So learning from other cases or getting master classes in for certain tools or methods. And at some point you realise that more and more people are using this terminology and to sustainable advantage you need people who are doing that, the internal champions, but you also need management buy-in who gives you the budget to that because in the end budget is how organisations express love and if there’s no budget for something, there’s no love for it.


MARC STICKDORN: As soon as budget, and with a budget not only being financial budget, the most important budget we have in our organisation is time. How much time do people have, especially in the standard project team to work and focus, on this way of working? If you have both, they’ll probably be you can start communicating that more widely so including that into larger internal presentations, IC organisations who started to have a competition, for example. They have their service design award or customer experience aware where different projects can apply to that and start applying for external awards and get some focus for that so it becomes part of the external communication even.

And as soon as you do that probably you reach a maturity level where you can talk big scale about that, really put in the agenda.

GERRY SCULLION: Alright excellent. So just I want to touch on what are the topics that you hinted at there was the organisation culture and from Jay Hasbrouck on ethnographic thinking, we were looking at organisation behaviours. Have you worked in the past with ethnographic researchers to help understand the organisation and their culture?

MARC STICKDORN: Absolutely. Yes and actually that is the theme of my PhD is ethnography.

GERRY SCULLION: I know. I’ve done my research.

MARC STICKDORN: I think it’s absolutely fantastic to get these deep insights there and it’s necessary. So when service designs talk about let’s do ethnography it’s actually not real ethnography. It’s more ethnography inspired research methods. Because if we really do ethnography that means you spend a lot of time on a very specific subject.

GERRY SCULLION: Yes absolutely.
MARC STICKDORN: And it’s good enough for what we’re doing to use this, let’s called it ethnographic methods; so doing stuff like contextual interviews and basically doing any kind of research in context through observations, different kinds of observations, interviews, mobile ethnography and so on and so forth. So yes basically if you ask me what are the two main important things of service design it’s research and prototyping. What is the most important? It’s research. So understanding the needs is an absolutely crucial thing.

GERRY SCULLION: Yeah absolutely. And I know I’ve got a question I’m going to weave into this area like a professional but a month ago we did a newsletter give away for This is Service Design doing the book and we had a great response and Amy in Boston won that book. She’s at the agency Mad Pow and her question was ‘how do we weave behaviour change science into service design?’ You sort of touched on it there a little bit more but is there anything you wanted to add to that?

MARC STICKDORN: It’s a big field. The thing is you can’t be an expert on everything, right? And even though I say that service design is actually change management and it is getting your change into an organisation. I am not an expert on that even though I’ve done it a couple of times now and I know basic theories but I’m not an expert. But there are experts out there. So yes you can weave it in, maybe one little example is during prototyping. I saw many projects fail because they’re prototyped in only one instance, let’s say in one shop but the project failed as soon as they tried to roll it out across different shops or different hospitals or whatever. The problem here is that we often neglect, or we have a tendency to neglect, all the knowledge out there about how you change, how you actually roll it out across an organisation because as long as you work face to face with a group of people, it’s easy to convince them that it is a useful thing, whatever you’re doing. As soon as you roll it out on a larger scale, you will not be there to tell people how great this is. So how can you convince them? And then you fall into the classic trap of behavioural change and people will hate you just for adding another thing to their workload and they don’t understand why they need it.

So the term of running a pilot, which is to me, a pilot is to me the prototyping of the rollout is really crucial and something we need to include into prototyping as well. And for that we need experts. So I wouldn’t call myself an expert. I get people in who are experts in change management and they are, some people are actually who worked in change management for years and they were fed up with implementing bad concepts so they can either move upstream, so okay I know want to learn on service design because I’m sick of implementing crappy concepts from other people where I have a hard time to roll that out. So I’d rather go upstream, be part of the design process and make sure that we have an easy time in implementing that.

I would suggest talking to Jurgen Tanghe from Belgium about that.

GERRY SCULLION: Okay. I’ll put a link to Jorgen and maybe I’ll reach out to him. So Marc just say we’ve gone through the methods and we’ve gone through the awareness and people are doing those ceremonies and just sharing the great work that they’re doing in the research and they’re prototyping; what does success look like for an organisation that you’ve seen and how do businesses know that they’re doing it well?

MARC STICKDORN: It, of course, depends on the scale that you’re looking at; what does success mean for on a project level or what does success mean when you try to implement service design into an organisation? For the latter, I think when I see an organisation, I see certain stuff happening there, I think they are successful. One of that is how do they measure their CX performance? And do they do that at all? So is customer experience part of their performance review, for example? Is it part of bonuses they get? Is it part of the set of KPIs they are measured against? Some organisations are just introducing MPS and some are really driven by MPS and they have quantitative driver models behind their MPS goal, trying to understand what drives all that, it’s all very quantitative.

Of course the problem there is that it’s all set up still in silos. So even though you have any kind of customer experience KPI in your performance set, it might be that they are set up per silo. And all you’ll achieve is actually a score crossing different silos rather defined by certain events, for example. So events the customer goes through and then understand okay which different departments are involved to make this event a great one? And then having KPIs which cross the departments in that, which forces people to cooperate with departments because they only can retrieve their scores by cooperation with other departments.

GERRY SCULLION: Which is the goal, which is the total goal of what we’re trying to do really.

MARC STICKDORN: Yeah. So a lot of organisations are set up just across MPS and they measure by channel and all that, it’s not enough because it’s so quantitative and so siloed off that it actually does the opposite. People are only trying to focus based on the driver model what is the most influencing factor and how can we do that? And that might in the end just advertisement. Fair enough but that doesn’t really help to improve the experience of the user. So having these cross-silo KPIs is I think what I would see as a success. The second indicator for success is how does an organisation across different hiring levels value qualitative research in contrast to quantitative research? We’re all good with numbers and we’re all good with the qualifying quantity which means we’re trying to interpret quantitative research which is wrong as quantifying qualitative research, right? Because as soon as you do that you put in your own assumptions. So we need both; we need quant and we need quals, not either or. It’s always both. Unfortunately, many organisations or the management, especially the middle management, is focusing on quantitative research and quantitative numbers and measuring stuff and not so much interested in qualitative research. But as soon as you reach a certain maturity level, if people really understand the benefit of doing design in their organisation, also they will value much more the qualitative part of that.

The third indicator I would like to put up here is actually the value of prototyping; does the organisation value prototyping? Or do they more value, talking again mainly about middle and higher management, do they actually value more shiny powerpoint presentations than real prototypes? So what people who go to business school, to classic business school are really, really good at is presenting. I mean you can put somebody in a room with no clue about a topic and they will have a convincing selling presentation because everything works in PowerPoint land. It’s just great there but it has nothing to do with reality. So some organisations who reach a real maturity level will question if managers present concepts in terms of shiny PowerPoint presentations. Why did you invest so much time into crafting this beautiful presentation which took a week to set up, why didn’t you invest this week to actually do a prototype and show us that this is working?


MARC STICKDORN: As soon as you reach that, I just say yeah, alright. We’re there. That’s great.

GERRY SCULLION: Yeah so they’re the three things that you’re looking for real and the application of actual embedding of service design into an organisation. When you see that, that leads you to believe that it’s working.

MARC STICKDORN: Yeah plus stuff I mentioned earlier; what’s the language? Do they work interdisciplinary and all that but as long as they can reach all that they are pretty good.

GERRY SCULLION: Yeah okay fair enough. Coming into the very last couple of questions here, Marc, and I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to listen to some of the other episodes but we do three questions at the very end of every episode and it tries to get to know the speaker a little bit more and peel back the layers a little bit, show the vulnerability, shall we say?

And one of the first questions is what is the one professional skills that you wish you were better at?

MARC STICKDORN: It’s a very hands-on thing actually. It’s sketching. I’m so bad at sketching. I hate myself for that.

GERRY SCULLION: Who said you were bad?

MARC STICKDORN: I do it myself. It’s good enough to communicate but I would love to be better and I know that I could get better if I just invest more time into that which I did not yet and I’m totally aware of that. It’s a skill you can learn, yeah but I didn’t yet, I didn’t invest enough into that so this is one skill I really want to become better and where I want to focus on in the future.

GERRY SCULLION: Okay. That’s a great one and it’s a very important one as well I think for people to be able to visually describe things.

Okay, so the second question, Marc, is what is one thing from the industry that you wish you were able to banish?

MARC STICKDORN: That’s a tough one. If I need to put it into one word I would say ‘silos’ but of course, that’s…

GERRY SCULLION: Of course you were going to say silos.

MARC STICKDORN: That’s just oversimplifying a lot because we need them at the same time, right? We need expert language, we need a degree of expert in there but I would say it’s the arrogance, the thing that you already know stuff and that’s mainly referring to if you do a project for users, for customers, for employees that the first thing is you always need to convince people that they don’t know everything about that.


MARC STICKDORN: Because one thing we hear so often is ‘oh I know our customers’. Yeah, right you do. How many do really know their customers? How many do really spend time on the front line to talk with customers? How many are a customer of their own organisation? And you know that’s something I would like to banish. I would love to cut through that and say okay we all agree, we don’t know our customers right now or what are the motivations behind a certain behaviour pattern you see, so let’s find out.

GERRY SCULLION: Excellent. And the third question and the final question is what advice would you give to emerging design talent for the future?

MARC STICKDORN: Mm good advice I must give. I think I’d do something rather unpopular. I think design becomes really, really strong on the crossroads with very classic disciplines. So my advice for designers is doing your design education, practice as much as you can, facilitate as much as you can. So be part of the global service jam and so on. But then learn something which is the absolute opposite of that; go into accounting, go into legal, go into the stuff you actually don’t like but this is where you can have a real impact if you are able to speak this language and not only on a superficial level but if you really speak this language.

And I think if I look into the future and how we spread service design in organisations, especially large organisations like multi-national, governments, so the whole field of public services, this is an expertise we really, really need, we’re really looking forward to.

GERRY SCULLION: Yeah I totally, I really agree with you on the fact that being able to speak the language is really important for the people that you’re working for. Not too sure if I agree about going into another, doing like a joint degree of accounting and design. I think design is an interesting discipline on its own.

So what is it about that you think someone’s going to get out of going to do another degree in accounting, shall we say that they’re not going to get out of just working in that space?

MARC STICKDORN: Well I think what you get out of that is you really understand a certain way of thinking which you can’t learn just from, you can learn to a certain extent from working with these people, but if you do it yourself, and even more, as soon as you start teaching it to somebody else, then you really understand why you see certain behaviour there. Which is also really hard for people to phrase so it’s something where people don’t know themselves, they’re not aware of that. So you can’t get it out of interviews or observations. It’s so deep in there that you really need to speak that language to understand that and only through practising. Doesn’t mean that you need like another degree. I mean if you have the time to do a second degree, that’s great. It might be enough to do a course on that or a few courses on that and maybe do an internship there, working there. But the important bit is that you for a certain amount of time, need a couple of months, this needs to be your main workload, being an accountant or maybe a legal assistant or whatever.

GERRY SCULLION: Yeah, okay. That’s yeah it’s very good advice. And before we finish, Marc, I know from Klaus and the guys at More than Metrics, you’re working on a number of things so maybe tell us a little bit more about where you’re at with Smaply and Experience-Fellow for anyone who wants to learn more. Where they can go and what can they do?

MARC STICKDORN: Yeah so Smaply is our leading product xxx45.46xxx because Smaply is software to do geo-mapping, sonar system mapping.

GERRY SCULLION: Stakeholder mapping as well?

MARC STICKDORN: Yes. And it’s definitely our leading product. Experienced-Fellow’s much smaller so Experienced-Fellow is a research software to do mobile ethnography where real customers, real employees can enter data, kind of a diary study on the phone, you see the data, then visualise that journey map.

What I learned over the years is that Smaply is much more accessible because many organisations start with doing assumption-based journey mapping and that works with Smaply, that does not work at all with Experienced-Fellow. And even though I always say base your customer journey on data, that is how people start, right? You first need to learn how it works. So you need to work with assumptions and then over time at some point you realise ‘oh shoot’ where do I actually do get the data from? In Smaply we focused a lot on the persona so there will be new persona editor rather soon. And then we’re going to also improve the stakeholder map editor because we didn’t work on that for well almost two years now.

But then the big things we are working on is actually anything related to the management of multiple journey maps. So how can we back the different zoom levels of journey maps? I always like to compare journey map with the geographical map where a geographical map can have different zoom levels like a map of the world or a map of Europe, or a map of Austria, a map of Innsbruck and the smaller the scale maps, the more details also appear on the map. So at some point, you will see street names popping up as well.

GERRY SCULLION: Yeah that sounds amazing.

MARC STICKDORN: If you want to drive from A to B, so if I want to drive let’s say from Innsbruck to Paris, I need both a map with a large scale to understand what’s the big direction I need to go in here. But then I need a more detailed map at a crossroads, for example, or at the destination cities so I know exactly where is the street I need to go. And currently, organisations struggle with these different zoom levels. And the only way to get over that is by standardising the tools and keeping your methods flexible. And that’s what we want to focus on. So our aim is that organisations can use Smaply for any kind of journey mapping in their organisation and that all the different projects can be tied together into a kind of different zoom levels of a landscape.

GERRY SCULLION: Yeah that would be really, really helpful. I know from using Smaply for a number of years there are real opportunities there to understand the context of the zoomed out and the sort of inherited data sets across the two, like there are three or four or whatever, how many maps you’ve got will be really, really powerful for an organisation to help drive that change.

Marc, we’ve come to the end of the episode. Thanks so much for your time. I know it’s really early in the morning for you and it’s late-ish in the evening for me. But thanks so much for your time.

It was really, really great.

MARC STICKDORN: Well thanks for having me. It was great.

GERRY SCULLION: So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you’d like to be part of the conversation or community hop on over to where you can request to join the slack channel and help shape future episodes and connect with other designers around the world.

Thanks for listening and see you next time.


John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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