The service design community celebrated the official launch of the Washington, DC chapter of the Service Design Network (SDN) at the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Center on Sept. 27. The community focused on the evolution of design competencies within organizations, and how the SDN can become a force in the nation’s capital.
Nearly 60 professionals across a variety of design disciplines filtered into the the Innovation Center to attend “Flavors of Service Design in DC: Launch Celebration and Panel Discussion.” After mingling in the kitchen we made our way to the main room for the panel. Lisa Mendalow and Aza Damood introduced our founding members who served as the panelists for our event, including Chris Baer (Marriott), Sarah Brooks (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), Ayla Newhouse (Adaptive Path/Capital One), and Jeneanne Rae (Motiv Strategies).
The service economy represents a majority of the U.S. market, an evolution that has been trending for American business over the last few years. Each of the panelists discussed how people, place, data, and technology can influence how well organizations are able to design services.
“What brings us together is the way we think,” said Baer. “Generating the mindset is the first job. The second job is underpinning it with the process.”
According to Baer, there are several things that contribute to effective service design for Marriott, including the physical space, the competency to teach core principles and inspire new thinking, accessibility to tools and frameworks, and the ability to draw outside elements into the organization.
Brooks, who was recently named the VA’s first Chief Design Officer and served as a White House Innovation Fellow, emphasized that the purpose of these pillars (often customized within organizations) is to have a meaningful social impact using systems design. Applying a customer-centric perspective will keep the emotional resonance at the forefront of the design process, she said. And that starts with a safe, reliable workplace to build creative confidence.
“How do you build an environment of trust? We need to bring much more of ourselves to the workplace,” Brooks said.
One of the latest projects Newhouse has been working on seeks to tap into the emotional side Brooks is referring to: Capital One's Money Coaching program. This service aims to help people improve their relationship to money through one-on-one support and design-process inspired tools.
That kind of community is often difficult to achieve among larger organizations and requires a paradigm shift in culture and belief. According to Rae, “Keeping momentum is really a challenging part of transformation. It’s interesting how much operational and change management is involved in service design.”
During the second half of the evening we broke into groups for a workshop that diverged on what this DC community could be. For example, how can we create sense of openness and include new professionals while deepening the discussion at an advanced level? How might we support individuals in their professional and business development? In small groups we brainstormed ideas around a particular prompt, grouped and themed them, and shared out with the larger group. The founders of the group will converge on the tactical next steps and synthesize the design artifacts to bring those ideas to reality with the community.
The DC chapter of the Service Design Network is a community of creators who share similar visions, lessons learned, challenges, and a deep passion for scaling and thinking about service design within their respective organizations. Join us!