It has been two months since the Inland Design team has been operating in the Ministry of the Interior. As a design expert my experience in this new working environment has been enriching and at times still challenging. Firstly, our design work has to be adapted to the modus operandi of the Ministry and mandate as well as our new colleagues. Our team has already received plenty of requests for collaboration in many projects with different scopes, in which we would play different roles. With this article I wish to demonstrate the design potential that is opening for Inland now, and how we could develop it in a way that better makes use of the strengths of our designers.
Needs for versatile service design
Our team presented our design mission in every department of the organization. Consequently, we have received more than twenty requests for collaboration which we compile in the visualization below. Therein, we categorize these requests by theme. The themes on the red background are: harnessing future thinking; developing processes; supporting change; advancing digitalisation; and supporting projects.
The dark blue color on the other hand indicates requests we have already responded to by establishing collaboration. In light blue we indicate requests with unclear content or starting time for establishing collaboration at least in the near future.
The visualization we present here has helped us identify our main focus areas: advancing digitalisation and supporting projects. In addition, it made us identify the areas from which we did not get concrete requests, and therefore it helped us recognize that harnessing future thinking must also be part of our mission.
Design ladder: mapping areas of action in the Ministry of the Interior
Different analysis models are developed by different organizations. In our view the The Danish Design Ladder (2003) was the most relevant and we used it in our analysis of the themes of the requests.
In addition, we used the Design Maturity model to map the themes of our requests. Our main finding was that the requests we had received did not require from us innovative thinking. This insight was significant because Design is best utilized when it is linked to innovation, and especially in the generation of new ideas during collaboration with many stakeholders. Our finding prompted us to propose a workshop with leaders in the ministry in order to verify it and better frame our mission.
We organized a workshop around one main question: How to unlock the potential of service design in the Ministry of the Interior?
Three managers including our own supervisor participated in this workshop. Other issues that were raised and we addressed were: how service design can be best utilized; and, how could our work results be measured.
We got a lot of good ideas and below are some possibilities how the potential of service design can be harnessed in the future:
- Whenever development projects are planned, service designers need to be consulted from the start — this way, we ensure that a human centered perspective is included from the beginning;
- Service designers should be consulted both when there is a need for qualitative research, and when research results must be translated into actionable outputs;
- Finally, service design can be introduced to various development and coordination teams.
How can we measure the input of service design?
In the workshop we identified the need to measure service design impact with an annual review, as well as with a biennial report. In the annual review we appraise whether projects have come from different departments and units, and whether services or processes have improved.
In the biennial report we will address the questions:
- Were designers involved in projects that were important to the board of directors?
- Did designers initiate development projects?
Our work in the Ministry of the Interior is at an early stage, however, we can see a lot of positive and promising developments. There have been plenty and varied requests for collaboration even though most concern short-term contributions to existing projects. Nevertheless we are certain that with time we will receive more requests for bigger contributions and for instigating collaborative projects. Hopefully, many of the requests that are not now concrete will be clarified and lead to real collaboration. The most positive indicator for us is that many persons in the ministry are curious about service design and willing to develop their work more efficiently.
The best way for employees at the ministry to understand how service design can contribute to a certain project is to work with us. Through such collaboration, our team also gains a better understanding of the ministry’s responsibilities, working practices and stakeholders. Consequently we will be of greater help in the future.
For service designers who are willing to meaningfully contribute to the improvement of an organisation, it is important that the content of our work is clear. In other words, we are better equipped to excel the better we know the content of our work. An in-house designer has opportunities to understand deeply the possibilities, resources, and challenges of the organization, and therefore be able to make better design decisions.
Looking forward to this collaborative endeavour! 😊