The service design to do list

There appears to be no question that technology is changing many aspects of the world at an unprecedented pace. You could go as far as to say we’re living in a time of science fiction — we’re in the future we imagined. We’ve got cars that drive themselves, 3D printers rolling out human tissue and brain implants that operate robotic arms. And let’s not forget the tech billionaires leading the current Mars race — Elon Musk of SpaceX and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin. The two space companies apparently can’t wait to move out of Earth and move in, unpack and settle down on Mars. While this paints an incredible vision — a vision, that I hope I witness just like my parents watched the first moon landing — some of us “regular” humans will still be on Earth experiencing the continual growth and closer integration of technology into our daily lives.

But what does that integration of technology look like? Time will tell us soon enough.

This article aims explore three ‘how might we’ statements and how a few trends and emerging technologies could be instrumental in my future work as a service designer — a service design to do list.

These three large questions are covered in three categories that tap into our human needs for communication, community and happiness.

  1. How might our world have a conversation?
  2. How might we make sharing an enviable job?
  3. How might we find our calling throughout life?

1. Communication

Everyone deserves a voice, and everyone wants to be heard. However, the communication barrier caused by speaking a different native tongue is instantly insurmountable.

Never fear; we now have an app for that. Yes, we have Google Translate to semi-confidently change sentences from one language to another. But more impressively, an Australian start-up and my occasional freelance client, is working on the exciting challenge of using artificial intelligence, natural language processing and human knowledge to eliminate the fundamental limitations to cross-cultural communication.

On a more personal level, breaking the personality barriers between two people can be difficult as well; however, we have an app for that too. Meet Crystal. The personality detection technology that knows and suggests how you should speak to someone. Imagine if this article was personalised to suit your personality and how you respond. How differently would it read?

So how could these communication tools help us be heard?

How might our world have a conversation?

Whilst the two technology services are in their early phases, together, they create the opportunity to help us communicate with each other regardless of the language spoken or the person communicating. If you want to be heard it may as well be in a manner that can be best understood by the person you are communicating with.

In a globalised business world, accurate language processing and cultural/personality personalisation would reduce communication barriers between distributed teams. As a result, businesses set up for remote staff would be able to employ from any language or cultural background. All of a sudden the world just got a lot smaller again. The potential to converse with each other across culture, using our own language, in one conversation, is mind boggling. What a positive shared experience that would be!

2. Community

Most of us have used Airbnb to stay at someone’s home or an Uber to catch a ride. We understand that in many cases, we are in fact in contact with a complete stranger. A stranger who has willingly shared their home or their personal car with you — this exchange is often referred to as the shared economy. We are ok with this once unheard of scenario, because of the brand experience created by Airbnb and Uber. We are now ok with stranger danger, at least in these circumstances anyway. In exchange, Airbnb and Uber make a profit by facilitating the experience despite conceptually not owning a single hotel or motor vehicle. Simply put, they help facilitate the trust between the buyer and the seller. But what if we didn’t need a facilitator in the middle to feel that trust?

Introducing blockchain technology, most famously known for its use in transferring the virtual currency Bitcoin. Blockchain technology is complex but for the purpose of this article let’s simply say Blockchain is the platform that enables real trusted peer-to-peer transactions — those traditionally reserved for financial or legal institutions. If we consider the success of Airbnb and Uber, who are effectively the middlemen transactional businesses and simply aggregator services, the potential impact of blockchain becomes much larger.

While the use and impact of blockchain is in its very early stages, Australian company MiVote is already using the technology to create a secure and fair way for the general public to make a democratic vote on any given topic. In future, political arguments that we currently see played out on the nightly news would be considered redundant with MiVote and blockchain technology. With a real and honest consensus of opinion, we would see a democratic system where the responsibility of shared decision-making is owned by the community.

How far could this new opportunity of “the sharing community” stretch?

How might we make sharing an enviable job?

Individually we are pretty good at sharing, but what if as a community it was easier to share on a global scale? In exchange, you receive directly without an intermediary company taking a handling cut for any transaction. This concept paves the way for a truly shared economy which, if well organised, creates the possibility to dispose of the middleman business in many markets.

Without traditional intermediary businesses, contributors to the world such as musicians, writers and artists could have the opportunity to trace and control their own copyrights and be empowered to maintain their ownership. With a better sense of personal ownership, would people be more inclined to share in exchange for someone else’s knowledge? The increase of self-sufficient solar powered homes working with a secure and fair blockchain could reinvent the operation of the power grid and who has ownership of the electricity that we create. Fair and secure peer-to-peer transactions create the opportunity to empower cultures that put a value on sharing. All of a sudden, it pays to share.

3. Happiness:

The World Health Organisation suggests that depression has become the biggest health problem among teens and will be the number-one cause of illness worldwide by 2030. Soon this generation will enter the workforce — is business culture prepared?

The media also reports that we’re going to be living for longer than we ever have. In turn, we will be working far longer than previous generations. I’d like to think that this doesn’t result in people being unhappy for longer.

I’m going to go out on a limb, and say that the future of work is going to be very different. The most obvious cause would be the old phrases “rise of the machines” and “robots taking our jobs”. Sure, there will be replacement jobs for people and most of us can adapt to the changes that will happen. However, will there be enough new jobs created for people? Will there be jobs with equivalent or transferable skills? There’s uncertainty around this and time will show us.

So with an aging population, machines and employment uncertainty, let’s look at how we could maintain our happiness through our long lives.

How might we find our calling throughout life?

Technology that replaces manual labour should result in working less or at very least create the ability to share a job. In theory, we would have more spare time — how great would that be? As a result, we should be solving what to do with our leisure time. Sounds like retirement right?

Then, the question becomes: how do you ensure humans don’t suffer from relevance deprivation — often suffered by retirees or those climbing off the corporate race — or the simple sense of loss with a reduced need for work?

People need purpose, it does not need to be a grand save the world purpose, just a reason to get out of bed each day. With more leisure time, we would be more inclined to do what we are truly passionate about and want to be doing. This could create the opportunity for services that focus on what you truly want to do, not what you can do. This could be a service that is focussed on enabling people to feel empowered and a sense of self management, with a long term goal that follows you through your changing interests and needs. A tool that is aware of your happiness, and exists to guide you through periods of uncertainty.

Could there be a service where the older generation are paired with younger people for workplace mentorship? This could be a future where staff employment come in pairs — similar to the cliché in the advertising industry — the copywriter and art director pairing. This could create a circular education economy — where the shared exchange of experience, knowledge and companionship become valued. Sounds pretty idealistic, but to quote the Dalai Lama–“the purpose of our lives is to be happy.”

– –

So there we have it. Three human problems for communication, community and happiness and the start of some positive directions towards solving problems that are worth solving.

Now, where to begin?