Friday, June 27, 2014

€Design - Measuring Design Value - Final Conference

Yesterday in Brussels, ‘€Design – Measuring Design Value’, one of seven projects funded under the European Design Innovation Initiative, held its final conference to present the results of two and a half years’ work to define the conceptual framework of design as an economic factor of production.

Presentations were given by Bonifacio Garcia-Porras, Head of Unit, DG Enterprise and Industry at the European Commission; Isabel Roig, Director of Barcelona Design Centre and €Design project co-ordinator; Robin Edman, Managing Director of SVID, Sweden; Dr. James Moultrie, Cambridge University; Prof. Dr. Eusebi Nomen and Professor Severin Filek, Managing Director of Design Austria.

The €Design hypothesis is that design, understood as an integrator of functional, emotional and social utilities, (the capacity to satisfy users’/customers’ needs and wants), at the very outset of systemic innovation may be a key factor enabling important non-linear efficiencies in the economic and social value creation of firms and GDP growth of nations.

The project has produced three key outputs - two at the macro-economic level and one at the micro-economic level:

1/ the articulation in a set of guidelines of the new paradigm of design as an integrator of functional, emotional and social utilities

2/ a set of three, tested, statistically robust questions for integration into the existing data-gathering mechanisms of the European Union that will enable the analysis and measurement of design’s economic impact

3/ a scoreboard / mapping tool for supporting organisations and SMEs to position their design capability within a measurable economic framework.

The Project consortium highlighted the currently unsatisfactory situation where there is no alignment of design as perceived within the existing Frascati and Oslo Manuals. The project partners called urgently for a shift from a technology push model of innovation in a linear system, (where design is a styling add-on providing appearance to performance), to a more sophisticated model of design perceived as an integrator within a non-linear, systemic view of innovation.

This approach demands new data as the current systems provide insufficient data on the linkages and flows that exist within systemic innovation. The hope is that the three questions may be integrated into the INNOBAROMETER with further opportunities available as the Frascati Manual is currently under review and the Community Innovation Survey (CIS) is to be reviewed in 2016/2017.

The project results were well received both by the Commission Officials present, as well as by the expert audience comprising statisticians, intermediary organisations and representatives from the other EDII projects along with other design promotion organisations. Through the panel discussion (which I had the opportunity to chair), a number of key questions provoked debate on next steps. This included the Commission stating that it is open to further ideas and communication from conference participants on taking the results of the project to a next step and that it is working to integrate the three questions into the EU measurement system.

During the discussion, I took the opportunity to ask the Commission representatives whether or not they envisaged a summative conference of all seven EDII projects once they have all completed in mid-2015. Once again, the Commission felt that this made sense and referred to the potential offered under the European Design Innovation Platform (Design for Europe) for such a conference. The Design Council gave notice of a conference it is planning under the aegis of the EDIP for next year at a date to be confirmed.

The Project guidelines, conference presentations and the scoreboard tool will be available on line at from Monday 30th June 2014.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Modelling Public Sector Reform

As the external consultant to European House of Design Management (EHDM) EU project’s Partner Consortium, I had the opportunity to speak at the beginning of May in Copenhagen about design’s journey towards public sector relevance. Invited by EHDM conference organiser Steinar Valade-Amland of Three Point Zero and Dorrit Bøilerehauge, CEO of Danish Designers (before it merged into Design Denmark in April), I was able to build on a shorter presentation I gave in Tallinn in 2013 at one of the EHDM’s four, public sector insight workshops organised in different European countries for specific public sector disciplines.

The European project is one of six receiving funding from the EU Commission under the European Design Innovation Initiative supported by the Commission’s Design Action Plan.

In any case, the Copenhagen conference was most successful with great presentations by Christian Bason of MindLab and others finding ways to bring design methods and approaches to the public sector. The premise of the EHDM project, is that in embracing design – or at least exploring its potential - the public sector could benefit from lessons learned and knowledge gained in the private sector.

The private sector already has established methods and processes and some simple tools for understanding a commercial company’s relationship to design. One of these is the Danish Design ladder which, over time, has been supplemented by the Design Management Staircase. In its report on design and the public Sector (Design for Public Good), the Design Council also published a design ladder for the public sector.

These simplified ‘mental models’ are very helpful and I felt that a more generic ‘ladder’, (none of them, by the way, look at all like ladders), that could reveal a journey from material to the intangible and from ‘no design sensibility’ or process, to embedded day-to-day behaviour and practice, might be interesting.

Trying to use very simple language that people who have neither interest nor expertise in design, (but who do have language for business or organisational change), I felt that the following distinctions might be helpful:

Design as ‘objects’ : beautiful, functional, commercial
Design as ‘services’ : user-centred, efficient, cost effective
Design as ‘systems’ : holistic, interconnected, synergetic
Design as ‘strategy’ : embedded behaviour and practice

Building on the previous ladders stemming from the Danish Design Ladder, this led to the following diagram:

The Danish Design Ladder is a deceptively simple and powerful tool. But is it enough nowadays to represent this construct as a ‘single-pathway’, upward journey? Is that not limiting? Is it not counter-intuitive, given that we seek to map a fundamental behavioural change in the culture of businesses and organisations? What if we were to say, that rather than going up, we were instead to indicate depth by going downwards, with design embedded as a fundamental aspect of a culture? We need to go to the basement where the foundations are, not climb to the roof.

That thought produced this diagram:

Needless to say, this diagram also falls into the trap of predicating a linear construct which is not perhaps the best way to reveal interconnected states that can be achieved or aspired to, especially as these can exist in parallel with blurred boundaries and overlap.

The design of objects, services and systems remains, and will remain, interconnected and vital to society. But perhaps now, as we look ahead, the most important design journey - the journey with the most potential - will be a deeper engagement of design with the domain of behaviour change. That is, in understanding where individuals are in their specific situations and contexts and supporting them in organisations, local authorities, municipalities to take a journey - to becoming aware of what design has to offer, experiencing its process and benefits, promulgating it and hopefully embedding in day-today behaviour and practice. As well, I should say, as becoming more open to using professional designers and design strategists.

However, like taking horses to water (not to mention lightbulbs and psychologists*), for change to happen, people need to want to change. This is where the most need lies and it is why the EHDM’s tool to support the integration of design-based approaches into public sector organisations across Europe will be a useful resource when it launches in the first half of next year. It will help people feel the benefits of design as a complementary approach, supporting them in meeting the objectives of their daily work.

As design moves towards public sector relevance, the most intriguing aspect of the evolution unfolding before our eyes, is the shift of perception about where the drivers of change can lie and what methods are available to create the change that is needed. In particular, for the public sector, (and with especial regard to public sector reform), where design is not currently a known, never mind recognised, companion.

We are already seeing many small examples of changes in perception and practice of design’s role as an enabler of change in the public sector. I believe this trickle of emerging behaviour will grow exponentially across the next five years. Simple, visualised models that speak to decision makers without literacy in design approaches and process can be helpful tools in supporting change.

Nevertheless, I am still left with the feeling that we now need to get beyond the construct of ‘ladders’. We are not rescuing cats from trees nor painting the ceiling. The journey is more sophisticated and iterative than that. Bertrand Russell wrote about civilisation as ‘some kind of struggling emergence of mind’. Perhaps we are witnessing the struggling emergence of the design mind on a broader scale than ever before. How exciting is that.
But for now, back to the drawing board.

*Q: How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Only one. But the lightbulb has to want to change.