Weekly Download 15.7

download-150965_640Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

Decisions vs. Choices: Is There a Distinction? Yes, and it is important. It helps us think about when we cut off alternatives (make a decision) vs. what are the choices we make. Are we clear so that important choices are made or considered before we make a decision? Seemingly, decisions are much easier once we have that clarity.

Read the letter Bill Gates sent to Microsoft employees for the company’s 40th anniversary. He takes a moment to reflect and celebrate, then sets the path for their future: “…what matters most now is what we do next.”

I’ve always been a fan of maps. For that matter, I appreciate just about any effective graphical display of information. Draftsman Henry Beck originally created the subway-style map in 1933 for the London Underground Tube. There is just one minor detail—it’s not really a map. Both Beck and the designer of the NYC subway version insisted that this style it be called a diagram (to represent the data, not be a geographical-based representation of all of the features). Semantics aside, 15 subway-style maps that explain everything but subways is intriguing and I think most of them work well.

If you are wondering how quickly disruptive business models can change things, read this. As of March 2015, Uber represents 47% of expensed rides processed by North America’s second largest expense reimbursement provider—up from 15% in March 2014.

Service Design Thinking

In a recent blog entry Life’s Too Short, I referenced the emerging field of service design that is focused on the creation of well-thought-out and thorough experiences.*

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better. —Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon

There are myriad tools available for creating a desired user/consumer experience, including voice of the customer, process analysis and design, business process redesign/reengineering, business analysis, value stream mapping, agile design, user centered design, etc. Does service design differ in any significant way? If so, how?

This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases is a good primer. The authors lay out five principles of service design thinking as their foundation:

  1. User Centered – services should be experienced through the eyes of the customer
  2. Co-creative – all stakeholders should be involved in the design process
  3. Sequencing – the service should be visualized as a sequence of interrelated actions
  4. Evidencing – intangible services should be visualized in terms of physical artifacts
  5. Holistic – the entire environment of service should be considered

This list is comprehensive and perhaps even a bit daunting. My initial impression is that it is a refinement, update, and combination of a number of tried-and-true tools or methods. A few key variations that distinguish service design from other approaches include:

  • Stronger user orientation generated by observing behavior and understanding context, not simply asking the customer what they want
  • More opportunity for flexibility and variations, rather that achieving perfection through absolute standardization
  • A focus on experience, rather than product. This may also be stated as value in use, not just an exchange of value (money for product).
  • Created together. Experiences are inherently both parties working together to create the outcome
  • Allows for experimentation, small scale production environments with soft launches and incremental deployments that include significant feedback to drive product evolution

Regardless of whether service design is truly different or just a new set of words to describe something we’ve always had, I found this book to be clear and concise. It is less theoretical and more practical in terms of basic concepts, approaches, and application. If service design emerges as the hot new thing, user/consumers will be the beneficiaries. Who cares what it’s called?

*Thanks to J Schwan for presenting this as one his three key ideas in his Fusion2015 presentation. See Service Design Slide.

Un-Unified Communication

My recent post demonstrated a difficult method to share notes. I want to contrast that experience with a very different one.

Several weeks ago, I connected with a regional sales leader for a national technology company that I’ve worked with. We spoke about how we are working differently and collaborating across companies in new and different ways. He was going to be attending an enterprise communications and collaboration conference the following week, and offered to share what he learned and subsequently get together to discuss.

To facilitate sharing, he launched a Cisco Spark collaboration room. My first reaction was a sarcastic groan, “Perfect, just what I need, another application.” But, in the spirit of embracing new approaches, I gave it a try.

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

Surprisingly, this proved to be an easy way to share content, links, and even coordinate our meeting over coffee. The reason why became clear when we spoke. While I, like many others, have always have a quest for “one”—one thing, one place, one neatly organized inbox or to-do list—I realized that the definition of “one” has shifted. Instead of using one application, the new standard is one mobile/tablet device filled with notifications. A speaker at the aforementioned conference labeled it “Un-Unified Communications.” Instead of one phone number, one voice mail system, and one email address, we now have multiple tools for communication and collaboration. Our inbox is a set of tiles with various notifications. Aha! This made total sense. While “fewer” may be easier to manage, the quest for “one” does not have to be the Holy Grail.

Beyond Spark, there are many other providers in this category, including Slack, Asana, Verse (coming soon from IBM), Quip, and HipChat. You may have seen the HipChat commercials during the NCAA basketball tournament, starring boss Bill Lumbergh from the classic business comedy, Office Space. These ads are so humorous because, unfortunately, they reflect the daily reality in a lot of companies. My fervent goal, as I test and try new ways to work and collaborate, is to avoid becoming a Lumbergh.