Gerry Scullion: Are UX service designers process and method fashionistas? I’ve seen UX and more recently service design evolve over the last 10 years or so and worked with organizations who adopted whatever process was in vogue at that time, be it “design thinking” or “jobs to be done,” even terms like “user experience” or “experience design” and design thinking and lean UX and lean blah blah blah.

I did a talk for one of the biggest banks in Australia on the importance of service-led innovation before I left. Maybe the come-down of design thinking and what comes next, what follows that. And when I worked at them last, they were all design thinkers and they were all getting educated about  design thinking. But when I was speaking to them before I left, they were moving to a jobs-to-be-done framework and they wanted to know what else they should be doing and what comes after even that.

So I think as an industry and a profession, we’ve become far, far, far too disconnected from the craft of doing. And organizations and more importantly, the designers are latching onto the new methods. So for instance, blueprinting is not an outcome, customer journey mapping is not an outcome, but less mature organizations will look to that as a tick-off on their process. So organizations that are mature will understand that the blueprint is a tool to look and learn and less mature organizations will start creating roles such as customer journey mapper for instance. This cannot only have a negative impact on design and how it’s being procured, but it goes further than enabling organizations to build and design the wrong stuff. It’s a factory line behavior – efficiency over effectiveness and it’s a serious problem. I would love to see designers having less attachments to frameworks and speaking at conferences, for instance, is about a Eureka moment that a certain framework has given them. I’m kind of a little bit over. I want people to start focusing back to the basics.

Designed for the need. It’s the need that we need.

So there you go guys. What do you think?

Gerry McGovern: Totally agree.

Gerry Gaffney: Yeah, you reminded me there Scully, My wife came home from work and she works, in the banking industry and she’s not in user experience, but obviously she’s exposed to it, a lot of the language of user experience and design thinking has permeated the organization. She came home and she said; “customer journeys, zero based design, can’t we just do some effing work?” And I thought it really nailed it for me.

Gerry Scullion: Yeah, I’ve been asked over the years; “Can you just do customer journey maps? That’s all we need.” I’m like, really? That’s it? I’ll give you a piece of paper with some, an example of an end to end user journey and that that’s going to give you what you need to get your job done? It’s not about that.

Gerry Gaffney: It’s almost fetishized, the idea of producing customer journeys are journey maps or whatever you want to call them. As we know they’re an incredibly useful tool, extremely useful tool, but when they are, as you say, an outcome in themselves, you have to look at the organization and say; “What is it that you’re trying to achieve and why do you think that, you know, a, stepping-stone along the way, his somehow magically the outcome that you want to get to?”

Gerry Scullion: Yeah, I mean like I’ve been in workshops with startups and bigger companies and it tends to be a little bit of Innovation Theatre when they whip out the post-its and they kind of roll their sleeves up and they’re like, “Well hey, today’s the day we’re going to be innovative. You know, I can feel it!”

And I always laugh because I’m a natural cynic, but it’s got to be a lot more than that. It’s got to be focusing on what are they trying to achieve as opposed to just having a good day in a creative environment. It’s a cultural piece.

Gerry McGovern: I’ve often wondered why, like why do these things… I think part of the reason is the dislocation that a lot of digital teams have from the actual use of the thing or from their customer. A lot of times you find these in very rarefied disconnected environments and when you’re not, when you’re not close to the action, so to speak, when you’re not seeing people all the time, when you’re not in a shop or you’re not in a restaurant or you’re not out on the farm, you know, instead you’re in studio, things can become very bubble-like very, very quickly. And you know, I think one of the classic ones for me over the years has been the personas that, you know, they create these personas that are totally fictional. Or maybe have one percent of reality in them and they’re beautiful people and you know, and she’s 34 year old and she is the this… and it’s ridiculous and they go to these huge processes and they create 15 or 20 personas. And then they never used them, you know, but they felt, “We’ve done our persona thing now,” and there is that they, “Oh we’re now doing Agile,” you know, because people cling on to methods when they don’t have an understanding of purpose. And it’s back to this, we’re busy, you know, look at the things we’re doing and we’re doing cool things and we’re doing, we’re doing important things and we’re doing new things and you know, we’ve, we’ve now got the hamburger menu on the website. Look how cool we are, look at our redesign and, and stuff like that. So there’s often a lack of purpose in digital teams. I find a disconnect from the customer, the user, the person you’re actually creating it for, that lead you to, you know, as you say the fetish of the latest cool thing and method, we must be cool that we’re…

I remember seeing this cartoon about designers once and it was a black sheep walking down the road and then he walks past this big field and the field is full of black sheep. There is that, you know, everyone wants to be innovative and different and yet everyone wants to be the same, you know, follow the same trends, there’s so little actually, well maybe not so little, but actually real individual thinking or, or thinking that is not dependent on, oh need to be, as you say, in innovative mode or in agile mode or in whatever mode. Actually thinking about the problem and serving the customer. So it’s, it’s, it’s unfortunate but it seems to come every year and they want the latest thing, the latest thing, the latest thing. Actually the core things don’t change.

Gerry Gaffney: But the things that the big consulting companies sell change year on year.

Gerry McGovern: Yeah, because it’s BS. You know, you have to, I mean because a lot of… You wonder when you get inside large organizations or medium organizations, you’ll wonder how does humanity survive? I suppose it’s, it’s like DN, you know, 90 percent of DNA is useless. I think 90 percent of what we do every day, every week is useless. There’s some small group of engineers somewhere in the company doing something, keeping everything going for the other 90 percent that’s just doing crap, like doing agile and doing… because so much activity when you look at it is laughable and you wonder, why are we doing this rubbish? You know, I just hope they’re the sales rep are really selling that top product we have because if we lose that product, everything else we have will just sink down… And that’s what the consulting companies sell into. They’re not selling value, they’re just selling the need to spin the wheels with the latest ridiculous trend of all of you know, whatever that that will churn out a better revenue for them at the end of the month but actually won’t create any value.

Years ago I worked with a guy called Bob McPherson, a Scottish guy here in Melbourne. I remember I was complaining about this sort of thing and he said to me, he said, listen, Sonny, because he was quite a bit older, he said, listen sonny, every night before you go to bed, get down on your knees and thank God for inefficient management because without people like you wouldn’t have a job!

Gerry McGovern: It’s true. Yeah. I’ve often said that as well. In a way, thank God they have figured it out yet, you know, wait it for another 15 years anyway, you know, in the process because yeah, I suppose if we had figured it out 90 percent of humans that be wouldn’t have a job.

Gerry Scullion: The consultancy thing is really interesting because like it goes round in circles and I don’t know if it’s ever really betters the organization and the long term, unless they’re doing some cultural work parallel to it to help upscale and…

Gerry Gaffney: Do you know what though? I think if to the extent and some… I can’t remember off the top of my head who said this to me. Somebody said this to me one time when I was interviewing them they said, you know, it doesn’t really matter what activity you carry out, if it supports your ability to focus on users than it’s a good thing. And I think there’s a, there’s a nugget of truth in there that, you know, underneath the hard shell of all of this stuff and you know, a lot of these things are, you know, whatever’s current to whatever’s the, you know, whatever is popular at the moment, but if it is something you’re doing that’s helping you to focus on users, then there’s a nugget of value in there and a good thing.

Gerry Scullion: I’ve never gone into an organization where when I ask that question said, “No, we’re not focusing on users.” To me, like there’s too much of a disconnect that they don’t assume that they’re not doing it. They all assume that they’re doing it, but what I’m saying is they need to focus on delivering something, like what is it that we’re trying to get? Like if I went to a carpenter, I said, okay, we need a new table. And they came back and they said, okay, well we’re experts at sawing and we’re experts that chiselling and we’re going to give you back potentially a leg and a piece of wood that can only hold a mug, that gives no value to me as an organization or the customer. So I’m saying that as designers, we need to focus less on like, how the hell are we going to do this, and focusing on whatever it is we’re going to ship.

Gerry McGovern: I think we need to go beyond that, even, Gerry, because, you know, we often do measure the shipping of the thing, you know, we ship the table with the one leg, but we shipped it. I think we need to look at it, the use of the thing. How is that table being used? I think that’s the big shift in what digital allows and that, you know, we, we have engines of production in most organizations and we create all sorts of stuff and we ship it and we do it and we produce. But we never measure its use. I think that’s just the big missing equation today is actually so many people who produce never are judged based on how what they produce is used.

Gerry Scullion: Yeah, true. There’s that whole aspect that I mentioned at the start of whenever they’re going through the process and they don’t have that understanding of the methods, for me there’s a real danger there that they’re shipping the wrong things, which kind of aligns to what you’re saying. So they use the methods and the tools. So everyone in their organizations, you know, agrees that they’re doing the right thing, but they don’t have the maturity or the understanding that, you know, when you go meet a customer and the customer is, you know, saying, I thought that this is something they really like something that they’re going to really want, that they build. So I’ve seen stuff in organizations where they build the wrong thing and then they blame design. You know what I mean, the process. We’ve done this. How did we… what went wrong and our process that allowed us to ship this? Yeah, there’s a real, there’s a knowledge gap there between just using the processes and actually just getting the work done to meet the need of the of the person who’s going to use the service or product.

So people can follow the design thinking framework themselves, but they could still build the wrong thing.