I am interested to engage peoples views on this site about the convergence (or not) of the world of management consultancy and service design.
My background is in what traditional consultancy firms would call 'operations', and for the past 10 years have been delivering to clients on process improvement work - usally involving process redesign techniques and occasionally whole systems analysis using rich picture facilitation.
Whilst being relatively new to the world of service design, (I have been observing its growth and development from afar) and I am certainly not from a design background, I can clearly see how these two unlikely bedfellows are getting closer and closer.
I wondered what others opinions where on this and how they would feel about the more corporate side of the consultancy world preaching service design?
You make some really good points David.
I started life as a Product Designer before going up the promotional ladder and increasingly becoming a manager and administrator, eventually being sent off to do an MBA as part of my leadership development programme before moving into executive management. The latter served to pack my brain with logic and rational thinking, but that never really overtook my creative design oriented side. After gaining my MBA I moved off to Management Consulting - first in operations and service design, where I sometimes caused consternation because I challenged the simplistic process improvement methodology and this led me gradually into more strategy work where it was possible to be more influential in exploring radical reinvention within the process. Setting up my own firm allowed me to move even deeper into focusing on Business and Service Design as these have grown.
Interestingly the consulting firms with whom I have worked were focused on creating and implementing sustainable change for clients, and this meant I learned to use a lot of soft skills and change management tools and techniques alongside the harder analytical tools. This is the same approach as co-design. The basic tool-bag helps by providing a framework - but observation, listening, insight, facilitating others to think and create ideas, and drawing on a wide range of examples from different countries, industries, etc, all come from maintaining an enquiring and design-thinking mind, and an ability to think creatively. But I also think that having an MBA provides in-depth understanding and a vocabulary that business leaders can understand, and this makes it easier to engage with them to help them develop the strategic business case for adopting new business and service models, whereas in some recent cases I have found pure service designers struggle with this aspect.
Interestingly I am trying to get my old business school to recognise that the next generation of MBA's would benefit from learning design thinking and service design approaches, a la Stanford Design School, but finding it difficult to convince the predominant logical rational thinkers to change - even those within the field of operations management and organisational design. Likewise I predict that most mainstream consultancies will not foresee the need to embrace service design until they find that other niche consultancies like yours and mine are winning work from them, and at this point their typical response will be to buy the competition up?
Have you seen this paper on Succeeding through Service Innovation - http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/ssme/documents/ssme_discussion_final.pdf - prepared by the Cambridge Uni Institute for Manufacturing and IBM. It makes the case for a new type of Masters qualification; one based on Service Science, Management, Engineering AND Design, or SSMED for short. The report has powerful academic, industry and government backers in the UK and USA, so expect to see movement in ths area soon.
PS. I started my career as a biological scientist, moved through operations research to management consultancy (partner at PwC), before adopting frameworks and tools from design thinking wholesale in mywork on value co-creation. It isn't so much that MC and SD are coming together, but that they are borrowing from each others' frameworks, tools and approaches to business improvement. This is where the real value of any collaboration lies.