Planting the Service Design Seeds at CBC

Hira Javed
Jul 4, 2018 · 5 min read
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” — Aristotle (Photo by on )

Hi there 👋, thanks for stopping by! My name is Hira and I’m excited to introduce the Service Design practice at CBC.

We define Service Design as a human-centred approach to creating and delivering holistic, seamless audience experiences across the CBC ecosystem.

The word “ecosystem” reminds me of a memory I have from my grade 3 science class. My grade 3 science teacher, Ms Wong, took us to the pond behind our school and explained that understanding an ecosystem is about learning how a community of living things interact with each other, as well as the non-living things in their environment. They are all dependent on each other, she said, and operate in a structured and systematic way in order to survive. Each contributor to the ecosystem plays a niche role, and collectively creates ecological magic — talk about collaboration!

Although I never became a biologist, I’ve remained fascinated by the world around us and how it works.

Whenever I head out to explore the world, my Canadianness always comes out. Other travellers always greet me with a giant smile when they see the maple leaf on my backpack or hear me offer an apology to a rock I just tripped over. Their welcomeness towards me is indicative of the fact that Canadians are well liked. Our stories have made it to other parts of the world — and we have so many more to share. So many more voices to amplify, perspectives to explore, and connections to make.

This is what excites me about working at the CBC.

We get to tell stories that shape us, that move us, and make us think. Our interconnected ecosystem of radio shows, TV programs, podcasts, news articles, websites, apps, interactive stories, social media accounts, local events, etc., help us foster a sense of community and tell these stories. The incredible people behind the scenes who make it all happen, the tools and platforms we used to create and deliver these stories, and the policies and rules we hold ourselves accountable to are all part of this thriving and complex ecosystem.

Stories we tell shape our cultural tapestry. (Photo by on )

In her white paper entitled , Sue Gardner (former Director of CBC’s website and online news outlets and former Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation), says the premise of public media organizations is to elevate the societies in which they operate by providing public service value — something commercial players can’t or won’t do. This becomes even more critical in a “crowded, competitive, private sector-dominant global media landscape,” especially in a social climate that is increasingly becoming fragile and fragmented.

As CBCers, we ask ourselves, how can we serve our audience in the best way possible and achieve our mandate to inform, entertain and enlighten? As we change and adapt, we have to strategically think about the public services we provide to our current and future audiences. These need to be intentionally designed, thoughtfully structured, and systematically executed.

Our research consistently shows that our audience doesn’t care where they experience CBC, instead they think about how they can experience the content as easily and quickly as possible. They connect with CBC in multiple ways, and build a relationship with us over time. We can develop and deepen this relationship by helping them seamlessly experience the CBC ecosystem.

This careful orchestration requires: a problem solving mindset, collaboration across all aspects of the organization, and a toolbox to practice this approach within the reality of the organization’s ecosystem.


As a public service, we have to focus energy towards solving meaningful human problems through deep empathy. By placing the CBC audience at the heart of strategic and tactical conversations, decisions, and implementations, we can place greater emphasis on how the audience develops a stronger relationship with the CBC rather than parts of it. This mindset of “unified whole” is an exercise in developing empathy for not only the CBC audience, but also for those within the CBC who contribute to meeting the needs of Canadians.

Envisioning a “unified whole” requires an anthropological view. (Photo by on )


In an interdependent, complex ecosystem, everyone needs to align on two things: what are we trying to do, and how we’re going to do it. A participatory approach is needed at all levels, functions, parts, and corners of the organization to imagine what a holistic audience experience could look like; and what is required to deliver it in the best way possible for the creators and the users of that experience.

Collaboration is the heart of Service Design. (Photo by on )


Through activities and artifacts such as persona development, Jobs-to-be-done workshops, experience mapping, service blueprinting, etc. (to be explained in future posts 😀), we will build our internal capabilities and practice the Service Design approach within the complex reality of an organization like CBC. Designed to build empathy, these exercises uncover audience insights, operational dependencies, service experience gaps, and much more.

A Service Design toolbox can be used to envision, create and deliver services that are meaningful to Canadians. (Photo by on )

Although Service Design has been around for 20 years, this discipline is becoming widely adopted by user-centric organizations. Companies are realizing that exceptional experiences don’t just happen by accident. They are strategically envisioned and carefully crafted.

As we venture into our Service Design journey at CBC, we invite you to join us for the ride. This is where we’ll share our ideas, thoughts, experiences and learning.

Look out for the next blog on trends behind the rise of Service Design thinking, and what it means for CBC.

CBC Digital Labs

Telling stories about who we are, what we are doing, what we are learning, and how we are making decisions as we work to create the best possible experiences for Canadians in digital spaces.

Hira Javed

Written by

Trying to save the world from bad user experience. Service Design Lead at @CBC and faculty at @uwstratford.

CBC Digital Labs

Telling stories about who we are, what we are doing, what we are learning, and how we are making decisions as we work to create the best possible experiences for Canadians in digital spaces.