Human scale and potential

Every year STBY attent the Service Design Global Conference with great interest. At this annually organised conference, lots of new service design insights, projects and tools are shared. Also this year STBY learned from our colleagues from around the world. Some of the topics discussed during the conference are very close to key subjects that STBY is currently experimenting with – such as system design, automation and peer learning. 

The bigger role of service design
Throughout the conference there was a great emphasis on the importance of putting people at the centre of service design and system design. Lorna Ross, Group Director at Fjord, made the first statement about this. She gave the opening keynote about the complexity of the human relationship with technology. Something that designers have to take into consideration because service design isn’t just about interfaces. Even when it isn’t always immediately visible, service touch points and service design are always part of an overall ecosystem. Designers are more and more becoming system designers and we can’t be naive ‘tech optimists’, thinking that technology will simply solve everything. We need to involve ourselves with all layers and complexities of the ecosystem that forms the context for touchpoints and their human interaction.

This bigger role of service design was also noticeable during one of the break out sessions called: ’BBC Radio 4 The Fix: Service Design applied to Tricky Social Problems’. It was facilitated by Uscreates director Cat Drew. They brought radio and service design methods together in the radio series ‘The Fix’ to address complex policy problems, for example: ‘Growing up Digital’. By doing so, 7 million listeners get insight how professionals and locals tackle tricky problems.  If you are curious you can listen to the episodes here.


Wasting human potential
Of the many other interesting presentations and workshops, the presentation by Stefan Moritz also stood out. He mentioned that there is lots of anxiety about the future of work related to technology. In order to make the impact of technology on our future jobs tangible, Stefan asked the audience of the SDN Conference to participate in a 3D infographic. He showed us that automatisation and robots will potentially replace fifty percent of our workload.

Stefan posed the question if  the fear of robotisation and future technology is adequate. It is clear that people fear the future for many reasons, but in his talk he stressed that robotisation is not something to be afraid of, and that the real problem of our time is rather wasting human time and potential. According to him, seventy percent of people are not engaged in their work. A lot of people don’t feel happy, energised or engaged in what they do.

The era of humanisation
In order to change our mindsets and eliminate our fear for robots and make us feel the importance of a much bigger problem, Stefan presented a future counter movement: the era of humanisation. According to him we have to focus on the human aspect of our lives and approach digitalisation and automatisation in a different way, namely as something that can add something to our lives. His central message was that the service design community can help organisations to be ready for a humanised future. How? By focussing on people’s real needs and talents! Stefan challenged the service design community with the question how we can shape the future of work in which people can develop their human potential. How can we promote creativity, critical thinking and compassion?

One of the essential things to achieve this, is promoting human connection. Stefan showed that small interventions can make a big difference. To illustrate this, he gives an example from Sweden. Fika is a social moment for drinking coffee or tea with co-workers and management people. During this informal meeting employees can step out of their own work routine and hear what their colleagues are doing.

Make human potential flourish
At STBY we recognise the importance of joint rituals and we try to implement them in our weekly routine. For example, every Wednesday morning we drink coffee and tea together and take time to chat. Sometimes we talk about what we are working on and how this is going, but mostly it is about anything that comes up: our fascinations, the city, documentaries. This ritual gives us the chance to not dive into our work immediately, but to connect with each other first. During our weekly ‘Fika moment’ we delve into some curiosities about each other. We gain a deeper understanding about what drives our colleagues at work and in their personal lives. 

Stefan Moritz stressed that in order to make human potential flourish, it is important to facilitate an environment where employees can grow, learn and have ownership over their work and lives. At STBY we recently started to work with Learning Portfolios, a tool developed by our Reach partner Apogee in Hong Kong. They are working on shaping environments and mindsets to Make Meaningful Work. We use these Learning Portfolios at STBY to keep on us on our toes in terms of learning and creating value. Within our team we all have our personal learning portfolio. We share what we want to learn and what we can teach. By making this explicit and open we make a big variety of skills and knowledge visible.

Peer learning
We are making connections to teach or learn each other things, and we are surprised how many connections we have already made in our  team of ten people. We try to keep these moments of cross-pollination easy and simple. According to both Stefan Moritz and our colleagues from Apogee, this can break the barrier of getting stuck in silos. For example, being driven by continuous deadlines in our project work we may risk getting stuck in the complexity of our extensive research and missing moments of reflection and learning.

This is how we integrate what the speakers at the SDN conference confronted us with in our work at STBY. We embrace modern technological solutions, but do not loose sight on human connection. And we try to build in moments for reflection and learning at a human scale. Are you curious what barriers need to be broken to humanise the future of work and how you can contribute to that as a service designer? Check out the keynote speech of Stefan Moritz at Service Design Channel. Here you can also watch talks of other speakers at the conference.

Image credits:
Middle: Screenshot video keynote Stefan Moritz: Humanising the Future of Work by SDN
Bottom: Screenshot – The Fix