I’ve been working a great deal recently at Prospect on the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network, which is assessing how to better connect organisations producing ‘knowledge’ (universities, labs, etc.) and those who can unlock and apply that knowledge to create new products, services and even businesses. I encourage anyone involved in academia and the creative industries to visit the site and take the opportunity to have your say.
In particular I’ve been thinking about how the crux of the problem, balancing sharing and diffusing knowledge with the bottom line and protectionism, relates to the burgeoning ‘cross-disciplinary discipline’ of service design. Having kept a close eye on the SDN Conference last week, it is still very much true that the community punches well above its weight in amplifying and spreading awareness of what service design can achieve.
For a discipline still finding and defining itself, what is interesting are the implicit principles that have created this culture. Designers are in the business of making things better – the industry is full of idealists who have lower thresholds when it comes to sharing. But this sensibility is even stronger amongst service designers. The success of projects is founded upon collaboration with clients and users, and a transfer of skills and knowledge in order to ensure that once a design consultancy has finished a project (or stands up a SD team as part of the organisation), the capacity and capability is there to deliver and evolve.
This preaching what we practice has quickly generated a mass of content which can be shared, case studies which can be imitated and even tools which are given away freely for use. It’s this open-ness and sharing which reveals how this new industry is being founded upon principles reflective of our increasingly non-proprietary and communities-based world and which go against traditional practices where knowledge is locked within IP, experts, studios and workshops.
Perhaps it’s the intangibility of service design that causes this impetus to publicise evidence, to introduce and grow clients’ understanding. This challenge is made more complex with the almost universal aspiration of service design studios to move further ‘upstream’ and become more strategic as well as outcomes-focused. In the short-term sharing industry tools and knowledge may seem hazardous, but when considered as a longer-term strategy to grow the market and establish yourself as a thought leader, the benefits can drastically outweigh this.
Service designers sell process and the tools, methods and expertise to navigate the project. Their offer is to be confident enough to share their insights, experiences and methods – positioning themselves as thought leaders and focusing their offer on the opportunity for clients to work alongside the design team and experience the expert application of that knowledge.
In the spirit of a ‘competitive collaborative community’, feel free to comb my Twitter feed and Pinterest boards, and I hope you find the resources below as useful as I have. I can also occasionally be found frantically looking up examples and sharing stuff at Service Design Drinks and Thinks evenings.