Ep 04: Lou Downe on how financial confidence empowers us to design better services
How the financial and human sides of business can benefit design
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the wonderful Lou Downe for the Designers in Business Podcast. Lou is the founder of The School of Good Services, writer of the best-selling book Good Services (an absolute must-read), and former Design Director of the UK Government.
Our chat covered some fascinating ground, from finance geekery to the story of writing and publishing Good Services.
As a dyslexic designer with ADHD, earlier in their career Lou had understandable hangups around numbers, money, and finance.
This imposter syndrome (and some critical career moments) contributed to Lou's decision to undertake an MA in Economics. This educational journey helped Lou better understand the organisational systems designers often need to negotiate, and how the movement of money affected key business decisions that could impact design.
We also explored why it's okay to walk away from organisations where it doesn't feel possible to have a positive influence, and what a book about nursing can teach us about bringing a wider audience on our design journeys.
Through The School of Good Services, Lou now offers training to help designers build confidence in Writing Business Cases for Service Design and Stakeholder Leadership.
We discuss what to expect from these courses, the motivation behind their creation, and the practical skills that can be used immediately after completing these masterclasses.
Lou Downe: 0:00Even in not particularly financially driven organisations, even in organisations that are neither particularly stressed in terms of profit making or in cost saving. Still, you need to justify your decisions and tell people, why you're going to spend the money that you're going to do or how that's going to potentially benefit them. And to be able to do that in a language and in a way that people are going to understand.Tom Prior: 0:24
Hi, I'm Tom, prior, curator of the designers and business newsletter, and host of the designers and business podcast. My guest for this episode is Lou Downe. Lou is, founding director of the School of Good Services, a Training Academy that helps people across all disciplines develop the skills needed to design and deliver services that work.
Lou Downe: 0:44
Lou is also author of Good Services, best selling book outlining how to design services that users can find, understand, and use without having to ask for help. Before founding Good Services, Lou was Director of Design for the UK Government, founding the discipline of service design and growing a 2000 strong team of designers and winning both the Design of the Year, and D&AD Lifetime Achievement Award in the process. In this episode, Lou shares their journey from someone who had relatable hangups, about numbers, money and finance, who would eventually undertake a Master's in economics, and become something of a self confessed finance geek. Lou shares their thoughts on how becoming more confident with economics and finance can empower designers to deliver better services. We also discuss the people side of becoming business literate, and explore how we can build consensus and unlock user centred design at all levels of an organisation. By better understanding the structures of the organisations we work with. I really enjoyed my chat with Lou. And I hope you do too. Lou, it's such a pleasure to have you here on designs in business. Thank you, Tom. It's really lovely to be here. And yeah, I'm looking forward to chatting to you about this. Yeah, there's some really super interesting topics that we'll get into today. The reason that I kind of reached out to you in the first place to try and get you on the podcast. And so pleased you're here now was after two things. First thing was reading good services, which is just an incredible book, it had been on my to read list for a while. And then it was just hearing so much good stuff, that it leapfrogged a whole lot of other things. And for it's absolutely fantastic. So thank you so much for writing it. And that prompted me to find out a bit more about school of Good Services as well, which is what we're probably going to touch on a little bit more today. And a couple of courses in particular, that I think is super, super relevant to designers in business audience. So maybe it'd be good to start off a little bit about the story of putting together good services, the book, and then School of Good Services, good services, as a book was a bit of a gradual process of creation. And actually, the idea kind of, I suppose popped into my head
when I was running a workshop with a group of senior civil servants when I was director of design and service standards for UK central government. And as you can imagine, sort of helping large groups of senior civil servants to understand service design is it was kind of something that I did on a regular basis. And I was really struck by the fact that we kept having the same conversation about what do we mean by a good service. And it kept coming up time and time again. And for every single conversation that we had, everyone felt really trepidatious about answering it, because they felt unqualified to be able to say actually what, you know, what does good look like in my service? They didn't know. And yet, when you ask them, as a user, what do you value in services? What do you think works? Well, and what do you think doesn't work? Well, they were amply able to answer that question. And it made me realise that actually, there's more similarity and commonalities in the things that people need from services than perhaps maybe we have liked to think of as a service design industry beforehand. And I actually received a fair amount of kind of, I would say, not say, kind of critique, but sort of help healthy questioning, I would say, when the book first came out, because it is a list of the 15 principles of good service design. And those are basic principles that every single service needs to have, if it's going to work for users, but they are not rocket science there things like you know, make sure that you're set users can find your service, make sure that you're setting people's expectations, make sure that it's accessible and inclusive. But all of those things are not immediately apparent when someone's designing a service. And actually, even just the very basics of having a list of things to go through can help us to spend our valuable time and energy and money also has we'll come on to later focusing on the things that are unique and are different about ourselves. This is without having to spend, you know, months, rediscovering that actually our users can't find our services when we already know, as users ourselves. So that's important. So really good services was about demystifying what a good service is, and what it looks like and providing people, regardless of their backgrounds, and particularly people who are not in the design industry, to understand what that looks like, and have a simple guide to be able to say, okay, you know, according to these 15 principles, how well is my service doing, and then be able to really quickly focus on the things that are really unique. So the book has been bought by designers, by non designers, it's been gifted both positively and slightly passive aggressive, to people who need to read it. And it served, I think, a really, as a really functional tool, actually, in people's kind of toolset, to be able to actually understand those things that are potentially going wrong with their services right now and quickly come up with a strategy of what to do. I just like to kind of mention the fact that the book is designed by a really brilliant organisation called Daily lion. And yeah, to two designers, Wayne and Claire, at Daley lion, and Claire designed the book, and she did an absolutely amazing job, the brief was to make something that is visible on someone's desk, that's going to be a really functional tool that they can refer back to that they can shove in a bag that they can, you know, kind of signal their presence, I suppose, when they're thinking and talking about this, and the kind of visibility of the book, the bright orange nature of it, the fact that it's so appealing and lovely to use is entirely down to Claire, I actually had a call with someone, just shortly after the book had been published, and they were, you know, someone in a finance team, and just really super excited and interested in being really user centred about what they did. And they they loved the fact that it was bright orange, because when they walked through the office, people ask them questions. And it actually sparked conversation, because it didn't look like a classic business book. And so, you know, it was kind of this way of actually sparking a conversation with people because what is this bright, weird orange object that's landed on my desk? That doesn't look like it belongs there? So I really love that about it.
Tom Prior: 7:24
Was that a happy accident? Or was that an intentional thing?
Yeah, that was intentional. So that I asked Claire to really think about actually protest artwork, and, you know, kind of making something that looks like it is a protest. And you know, that that's kind of how it feels, I think, sometimes to be a designer in some of these organisations is that, you know, we're, we're often kind of a lone voice. I think sometimes trying to try and get stuff to happen. I think sometimes kind of passing on this, this kind of Baton of pushing back. And protesting and thinking about users is something that's really powerful, actually, of handing this book to someone else and getting them to also spark more conversations.
Tom Prior: 8:08
Yeah, it's one that I've already passed on. Someone came into my office the other day, and it stood out they were like, what is that? I was like, this is a book you need to read. So that's what that is. So it's already been borrowed. once already. I saw on Twitter the other day that you spotted it in the Design Museum. That must have been quite a moment.
Yeah, it was featured in the design Museum's kind of top top books. Sales figures are one thing but when it when your book is in, in the Design Museum, it's a whole other thing. And it was nestled right next to Kenya horas designing design, which for those of you who read it, I mean, it's an absolutely amazing book and I absolutely love Kenya Hara so it was just you know, to be on literally even the same shelf as Kenya Hara was just absolutely mind blown. So that was that was a lovely thing to say.
Tom Prior: 8:56
What a moment, next time I'm there, I'm gonna try and try and spot it. Am I right in thinking there might be a follow up in the works.
There is a follow up, title TVC. But the last couple of years of running the school of Good Services, which we'll talk about later, as really helped me to realise that actually, there is a kind of need for, I guess, again, more demystification more clarity around how we go about delivering good services that work. And some, again, similarities that all of us are struggling with, like an inability to be able to work across silos, and an inability to see and understand what our services currently are. That actually we need to be able to identify both as designers and non designers and be able to deal with very quickly so that's the direction of the future iteration of Good Services. The next version will be really about how do we start to to deliver good services.
Tom Prior: 9:55
Fantastic, love the book, then discovered these fantastic courses that we We're gonna cover a little bit about today that you offer through the school of Good Services. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about? How long have you been running that, too? It's kind of aimed at.
Yeah, so the school of Good Services was started the week that the lockdown started in the UK. And I think it was a moment in time when everyone was really reflecting on their own work and on their practice. And the book came out, just, you know, sort of a few weeks beforehand. And, you know, it's part of the reason why I never really got to do a kind of physical book tour about it, I never got to hear any kind of feedback that people had when the book first came out. So it's lovely to hear that you really enjoyed it. But yeah, the School of Good Services is here to basically help designers and non designers, anyone who is involved in service delivery to design and deliver services more easily. And the audience's for it are kind of quite split between people who are acting in design or user centred leadership roles. So people who are designers, user, researchers, product managers, and others who need the skills to be able to operate in those big complex business environments. And, on the other side of it, the big complex business environments who need to understand how to work with design and user research in general, user centred practices. And that that kind of disconnection between those two groups, which I think is kind of actually something that you're investigating with, with this podcast, is something that I have have kind of struggled, I suppose my entire career trying to bring together those two different worlds and try to help good design to flourish in often what is quite a challenging and difficult environment. So that is really the focus of the School of Good Services. And we're really focused on providing support and training and coaching and development for I suppose the the kind of specific pinch points with those different scenarios, really, there is a lot of service design training out there in the world. But there is not a lot of support for people who are going through this really difficult times in their careers, like understanding how we manage and negotiate power structures in the organisation, or how do we start to write business cases for our work and make the case for service design? Those are, you know, courses that I wished that existed for me and my team years ago. And so it's been a really lovely process actually writing those things and seeing how much they're needed actually out there in the world.
Tom Prior: 12:51
Like you say, I wish I'd had these like 1015 years ago, particularly the business and stakeholder aspects. So yeah, we chatted a little while ago. And we learned that we both consider ourselves maybe like slight finance geeks, like maybe, I mean, speaking personally, I've had to get on top of that, and getting a little bit older. As it turns out through chatting, you're far more qualified than me when it comes to being a finance geek. Because I learned that you've done a master's in economics. I was really interested, because that seems really relevant to what we're going to talk about how that came about. And yeah, what made you decide to do that and kind of how it impacted your your work?
Yeah, that's a really good question. And I would, I would start off by saying that I think there's probably a lot more finance geeks out there. And they're probably probably most of them are listening to this podcast right now. But I think there's, I think there's way more out there for the really good reason that both you and I have found that, you know, in order to be able to operate effectively, in an organisation whose love language is money, you need to be able to talk that language and you know, even in not particularly financially driven organisations, you know, even in organisations that are neither, you know, particularly stressed in terms of profit making, or in cost saving, still, you need to justify your decisions and tell people, why you're going to spend the money that you're going to do, what how that's going to potentially benefit them. And to be able to do that in a in a language and in a way that people are going to understand. So that's really what motivated me to study economics, that that ability to be able to speak a language that I felt like I couldn't and I think probably a lot of designers will resonate with that feeling of kind of difficulty talking in that language. I think there's a lot going on there but for me my reasons, which I think probably a lot of people will resonate with. I came from a creative background where you you know the thought of money and, and creative subjects and Meeting seemed like a, you know, totally different worlds, you know, you didn't talk finance if you were an artist, although, of course, you know, we see the art market being increasingly, you know, financially motivated. But that's a topic for another podcast. Yeah. So originally I studied studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths, you know, my early life was spent, you know, kind of locking people in white rooms with rats and video recording it. And then, you know, projecting me on a wall six months later, you know, while I sit there drinking a pint, you know, that that was my background. So finding myself, in design consultancy, was a really different space. But also finding myself as a person in design consultancy, who was also dyslexic and had ADHD, meant that I had a particular I guess, hang up around numbers and Money and Finance and the ability to be able to do and so that that huge level of impostor syndrome is probably what propelled me into studying finance. But I think there was also a thing in the back of my mind, that was about more than just being able to speak the language, that it was about understanding a system and being able to influence and negotiate a system for the better, you know, I think it's really fantastic to see that actually, the dialogue around how problematic large amounts of the capitalistic system are now is really heartening to see. But that wasn't the case, even five years ago. And I think what really attracted me was the ability to be able to understand the movement of money in a system and then an organisation and be able to actually influence that for the better. So come up with a new business model that wasn't extractive or you know, causing problems in society or in the environment, and be able to provide sustained sustainable, financially sustainable businesses as a result of that. I think that's kind of that's still a really big thing that drives me,
Tom Prior: 17:01
I feel like it's very often uncomfortable bedfellows right design, which, you know, its origins in art for a lot of us and the finance bit like getting comfortable with that is such a challenge, I definitely found it a challenging thing to kind of get my head around. And the imposter syndrome is real, when I get in a room with business stakeholders,
one thing that we don't talk about probably enough, is why we feel like we need to justify our work as designers. And I think, you know, whilst it's all very well and good to be able to speak in the language of our organisation be able to meet them halfway to be able to understand the broader systems that we're working with and influence them at a different level, all of that is totally valid, sort of valid and really important to do. I think it's also worth reflecting on the situation that you're currently in, and why you feel like you need to justify that work. And often, it's because the environment is not accepting of design doesn't want it to happen. It is sceptical about its influence. And that can be really, really hard, you know, as a designer, constantly having to justify your own existence, is really, really difficult. And, you know, there's, there's a choice that to be made in that situation, you know, you can continue and you can push through that and you can, you can make an influence, or you can choose to prioritise your time and spend that time doing something else where the odds of success are higher. And I think we have a quite a difficult narrative around that choice. As designers, we really beat ourselves up over, you know, we think we haven't made an influence, or we haven't done done enough. And so this, this process of kind of, you know, quitting, and I'm using air quotes, whilst we're listening, is, is seen as as quitting because we haven't really thought about it in a different way. And I think it's important to, to be really conscious actually about environments that where we are not able to have a positive influence. And sometimes, that is the right decision to reprioritize your time, because most of the most of the reason why we're in these jobs, and most of the reason why we want to do this work is because we want to make the world a better place. And if we can do that more effectively, somewhere else, then, you know, that's a simple cost benefit ratio of your own time. And to think about it in that way. So that isn't me trying to convince people to quit their jobs by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it's important talking about it in the context of our mental health as practitioners is that sometimes it's like, not you, it's them. And that's okay.
Tom Prior: 19:44
So yeah, really, really important message. So we've talked a bit about these different worlds a few times, like this world of design and this world of sort of business and finance and trying to help bridge it a little and bring it to life. Well, I think you'd be great in the book is the kind of examples. And I've often found that shown examples of where it's helped to have better knowledge, there has been really, really useful. So I was wondering if there was a point in your career where you realise the importance of sort of understanding the business case and financial impact of design, why it was important for your work? Maybe you've been hitting your head against a brick wall, or there was a sudden breakthrough? Was there? Was there a time where you were like, Oh, I can, I can see this is where it needs to break through. And maybe you start seeing that happening, like making little inroads with it?
Yeah, yeah, totally. There was actually a couple of moments, I think, where I was really aware that it was incredibly important for me to be able to talk about money properly. One quite early in my career, that that actually prompted me to go off and study economics and to really sort of honing that craft another one that made me grateful that I had done that. So the first moment actually was when I was consulting. And I was working with a big telco. And I won't say which one, but it doesn't really matter, because they all do this now. But at the time is quite unusual. The telco that was working with was looking to try and create different pricing packages around different types of internet access. And this was something that they had been thinking about for a little while, they were employing basically us as a design consultancy, to try and create a new app that would help people to choose between different types of internet pricing packages. So far, so normal, pretty standard, you know, I'm thinking great, this is a this is going to be a relatively easy job, we'll do some user research, we'll come up with something interesting at the end. And you know, there'll be happy everyone will be happy as a result. Little did I realise that, of course, this wasn't just any pricing package conversation, this was a conversation actually, about breaching net neutrality for one of the first times in the UK, and this particular telco was investigating their ability to be able to put a price on different web access. So basically saying, well, you're gonna get Facebook for free, and you're gonna get YouTube for free. But everything else will count, as you know, towards towards your data. So it's basically a, you know, what is now very, very common Zero Rating data for certain sites, certain web services. And at the time, this was not a thing. And the way in which they were justifying this was because of the sheer expense of maintaining the cellular network in, in that particular region. And they were saying, Well, this is a very expensive thing for us to do, we need to basically find a way of pricing, what isn't, in a sense, a very intangible asset of data, which nobody understands at this stage. And still people don't understand. And we need to be able to find a way of attributing value that to that, so people understand what Facebook is, and they understand what YouTube is, we're saying, Well, you can get Facebook and YouTube for free. And that will be an attractive way of us basically, you know, providing some perks to data. And I just was in complete shock, you know, I think it was really, you know, sort of being aware of how important net neutrality is for the entire concept of the internet at that point. I just could not quite get my head around how they thought that it was totally fine. And that they were just going to be able to carry on. And of course they did, unfortunately, but it's something that I didn't want any part in and I actually decided to leave that project and to, you know, kind of move on to do something else. But this was after many conversations that I had had with with that particular client and saying, you know, are you aware of the fact that this is going to be extremely problematic to the way that the internet works. And of course, it fell completely on deaf ears because I wasn't able to articulate that problem. And it was a financial problem, you know, the problem of running a very sell expensive selling the network having to price something that's really intangible. And of course, that had led them down that path. And I thought to myself, well, if I was able to have that conversation, if I was able to actually talk to them about value and about pricing, and about that economic impact on a, you know, a very important and delicate system of the internet, I might have been able to win the round rather than having to sort of hold up my hands and say this is I don't want to be part of this. So that was kind of my first instance of going this is something I really need to engage with and at a very deep level to be able to influence the systems that that actually a quite damaging in the world. And the next moment sort of zoom on many years later. And as head of design for or government digital service. And this was before I took on a wider role across government, I started to realise that we had a bit of a problem, I suppose, with the way that design was working. And the way that user centred design particularly was was kind of happening in government. Some really big progress had happened in, you know, getting some, you know, kind of areas of digital services online, and that was brilliant. But those services had basically been kind of taken from what they were, and pretty much just put on the internet as, as they were before as physical forms. And obviously, what we started to see was an increase in the number of phone calls that the government was getting, that wasn't the efficiency that it wanted. And I realised that in order to be able to do this properly, you need some serious support you need, you need an organisation that's able to deliver training and run support activities for a growing community, do recruitment, manage standards, create those standards, create design patterns, manage a design system, you know, and this is an expensive activity. So I wrote what I thought was going to be a very ranty blog post, that I was just going to publish and say, Well, this is what government needs to do, Mike drop me, maybe I'll just leave again, you see a pattern to this. And it turns out that that that blog post, got kind of read by some people who were at the time, you know, kind of quite influential in the relationship that GDS had with the rest of government, they sort of sat me down and said, Lee, this isn't necessarily something we can publish as a blog post is maybe a little bit too raunchy, maybe would be better as a business case, which obviously, it was so. So that ended up being a huge business case that we put through, to be able to get the funding to really accelerate the next generation of design and bring service design into the heart of Central Government. So at two moments of finance being very, very important one realising that it's important, and the next actually being very glad that I had done something about it.
Tom Prior: 27:16
Yeah, fantastic. Yeah, to really say different examples. But just as compelling and sound like really important moments in your career, given us a couple of really compelling cases for from your own journey. But if you were kind of talking to the audience in general, about why understanding things like financial structures, the economics of the services, we design, and those business models of them, can help create, like compelling cases for design investment, what would what would generally be the reason to get our heads around this stuff that feels a world away? To a lot of us? Yeah,
that's a really good question. I think the the first reason why we should engage collectively, I think, as a design community, in money and in finance, is that, that that stuff is going to happen without us anyway, business cases will be written, and they will be written by often people who are not necessarily focusing or prioritising the experience that users will have of a particular service or a particular interaction. Because, you know, by the way, that isn't their expertise. So they're coming out at that finance, finance thing from a financial background, of course, you know, their expertise is not in the thing that you do. So having that, that language allows you to be able to, at the very least have that conversation with someone who is going to be doing that work and be able to introduce things like, hey, why don't we think about how expensive this is going to be for users to use our service. You know, nobody, nobody talks about the opportunity cost of using public services. But we absolutely should, you know, if it takes someone two weeks to understand how to negotiate the benefit system, that's two weeks that at the very least, you know, even if we discount the fact that it's going to have a horrible effect on that person's life, it's going to have a knock on effect on their ability to be able to understand and be able to actually get a job, because they're spending all of their time interacting with your service when they're not spending that time doing something else that we want them to do. So even at a very basic level, if we discount all of the all of the other problems that that people will have in using a service that we just talk about the kind of the opportunity cost of using a service that's at the very least one impact that we can have as designers is raising the awareness of those sorts of things. The other thing I think is is just an ability to be able to interact with and engage in design discussions on a level that we wouldn't otherwise be excluded from. And for that, I think go back to the examples I shared shared earlier in my career, you know, would have and impossible, and it was impossible for me to have a conversation about why we should, you know, not breach net neutrality and how we would financially be able to do that without the ability to be able to talk in that language. And, of course, what ended up happening as a result? Well, you know, the the agency that I worked with delivered that lovely app, and it helped people to buy Facebook for free, you know, that that work happened. And, you know, that was designed that was not being used for good. And I think for us to operate as designers who want to do good in the world, we need to understand the systems that we're trying to negotiate within one of those systems, probably the biggest system is money, even if all we're talking about is the ability to be able to understand financial concepts and be able to work with that that is absolutely vital to our ability to be able to design services that work.
Tom Prior: 30:52
We've used the word business case, and kind of calculating things like the cost of change or calculating risk, if we were kind of simplifying what a business case is, and maybe maybe a couple of simple examples of things that you might calculate as part of that. Yeah, what would be some good examples people can start, maybe relating to,
the thing to remember about a business case is that when people say business case, they often don't necessarily mean business case. So when someone asks you, what is the business case, what they usually mean, is, what's the value of the thing that you're going to be doing? And why should I do it? Why is it important and tell me in a way that makes sense to me. So I think when the first thing to remember is when someone asks you for a business case, you know, take a deep breath, they might not mean a tombstone sized, 400 page document that if you were to be really impossible for you to come up with, so you know, kind of, firstly, you know, calm down, remember that it's all okay. The next thing to think about is actually deconstructing again, what does that person actually looking for? Are they looking for, you know, how much it's going to cost you to do this thing? Are they looking for benefits that you might have to the risk that's going on in the organisation? Are they worried about the amount of money they're spending? Are they worried about the amount of money that they're making as a business as a profit issue? What is the kind of anxiety that's leading to that question of tell me why this is a good idea? Because without understanding that we can't understand how to then construct that conversation, because someone's saying, what's the business case? Could mean, tell me what what bad things are going to happen if we don't do this, versus tell me how much this is going to cost? So that I can justify it to my boss? versus how much money am I going to save? And you can end up spending a lot of time and effort answering questions that actually that stakeholder doesn't, doesn't want to know. So understand what that particular stakeholder wants to hear and understand is the first thing. Then once you've done that, I think you're into the territory of understanding the existing service landscape, understanding what's what's going on, where those areas of big, you know, kind of cost are aware those areas where users are leaving a service and not paying for something. And you're into a space of using the same way of looking at services from a user's perspective, but understanding and following those financial threads. So saying, well, actually, yeah, we know that that, you know, people don't like this service and isn't working. So they're leaving. But what's the financial impact of that? So it's literally the same thing that we would do. But we're looking at it with a different lens, we're looking at it from a financial lens, or we're looking at it from a risk perspective. And that will help us to then have the conversation that we need to at the end of that
Tom Prior: 33:45
one of the courses that you offer School of Good Services is all about writing business cases, with service design, we've touched on a few things there, if you are kind of in a nutshell, wrapping up what someone would expect to get from from from that course, and kind of parents delivered what what does that look like?
Well, that course, kind of the description of it is what we do, basically. So it's about writing business cases for service design, how do we go through the process that I just talked through, so understanding what our stakeholders anxieties are, what they're asking for what what their concerns and needs are around us communicating our work, to then being able to actually understand the existing cost of the service that you're providing, and the existing risk profile of that service and the problems that might exist there that your stakeholders are gonna care about, and then being able to actually put a price on change. So how do we start to understand where there are areas where, you know, there's basically waste money wasted, you know, time wasted in our service, being able to actually start up, start to put a price on that and then be able to communicate that back with our stakeholders. So we talked through some Have the method tools and methodologies that are used in any standard business case writing process, things like benefit cost ratios, you know, kind of understanding concentrated costs and distributed benefits, you know, all of the language that, you know, is standard in part of a kind of business case writing process. But we're looking at it really crucially, from a service designers perspective. So we're not assuming that you're coming to that with a financial background. We're also assuming that the thing that you're trying to get done is some sort of user centric change, which is often the thing that we find the hardest to justify financially inside of our organisation. Often they're seen in direct opposition with each other, you know, you either do what's good for users, or you do what is financially, you know, sensible to do. And actually, as we'll we see, in the course, those two things are often much, much closer together than maybe we often think so. It's about coming up with that that case for change, basically, and making the case for service designed to happen in your organisation.
Tom Prior: 36:05
Do you use examples? Is it like kind of doing, like a case study? On the day? Yeah,
so so we actually focus on the services that that each of the people who come to that course are actually working on, so we don't use any kind of hypothetical examples to walk through because, you know, hypothetical examples are great in the hypothetical world, but they aren't that applicable when it comes to the real world. And part of the main challenge that we have as designers is that we don't often have access to the information that we need in order to be able to put those business cases together. So we talk about it in the real world. And, you know, kind of talk about how we get access to the right information, where to find it, what to do with it once we found it. And that's why I think it's really important that we kind of focus on the services that people are using, it also means that by the end of the day, you get to walk away with, you know, a business case that you can start using, or at least a business case that you can continue populating continue building, rather than, you know, great, I now know how to justify a new bus stop, which is helpful in principle, but not necessarily helpful in reality.
Tom Prior: 37:13
Yeah, yeah. So leaving with like, a bit more confidence, a lot more confidence by the sound of things in those concepts, but also saying you can crack on with the irrelevant from day one. The other side of all of this kind of building business confidence, and having more impact from a business and finance perspective is the people, right? They're real humans behind these decisions. So that piece is really important for stakeholder relationship, but is it as critical to you, when it comes to implementing this stuff?
I think that's such a good question. So our relationships with our stakeholders are absolutely vital to getting any of this stuff done. And we can write the most snazzy compelling business case in the world. But if no one wants to listen to it at the end of the process, because we've done this on our own without anyone else's input, and no one knows, no one knew that we were doing it, then that's going to be a problem. And you can't necessarily really separate the making, making a case for service design with the process of approval. And that's why that process of approval is something that we talk about, and that we cover in that that writing business cases course. But there are a bunch of other things that are involved in, you know, stakeholder leadership that actually sit outside of that activity of making the case for service design, I think that is often the other bit that we struggle with. And the way I think about it is that you know, kind of, sort of when you think about service design, we tend to think about service design being mostly about designing services. And in reality, you know, 10% of it is really about design and the rest of the kind of 90% is about creating the conditions for service design to happen. And that activity of creating the conditions for for design of any kind, is the stuff that we don't get taught, you know, even even if we studied design, you know, very few design courses will, you know, support that part of the journey, some some do. And some really do. Absolutely focus on supporting students through that process. But many opportunities that we have, as you know, kind of new designers don't allow us to gain that experience or to be able to understand that part of our practice. And, you know, one thing that's always kind of, I suppose, helped me to sort of think through this. This particular part of my role is a brilliant book that I would recommend everyone read. It's called notes on nursing. It's by Florence Nightingale and it's really only a book to read if you are particularly, you know, kind of in tune with the idea of reading through metaphors because it is a book about nursing. injuries bear the context in mind. What's what's really interesting, what I love about that book is that it's about how to treat people. And it's about the fact that actually, when it comes to medical treatment, it's as you know, your job as a nurse is as much about the prescription the medical prescription you're giving someone as about as it is about their ability to be able to follow that prescription, and their ability to be able to engage with that process. And that is 100% true for any sort of design role. You know, you're the success of your ideas, and the success of your work is as much about the work as it is about your ability to be able to bring everyone with you on that journey. And that is the bit that that I think we often need help and support within. And certainly I have in my career, and I've seen countless other designers go through that process, which is really finding that part very difficult. So we actually provide an another course of school of Good Services that supports that work. It's called leading stakeholders, and it's really about understanding stakeholders in the context of your work right now understanding your relationship with them, understanding the power structures that lie behind those, those stakeholders, the approval processes, and really how we start to negotiate those things. And do that with, with the preparation that we need, I think often we kind of convince ourselves as designers that it's about confidence, and that our ability to be able to engage with stakeholders is all about just being being more confidence. And, you know, I think anyone who's read the book Lean In, will kind of or experienced the kind of narrative narrative kind of being asked to lean into difficult situations. Appreciate that, that is not helpful advice. And we're often in that situation, because, you know, we were, we're outsiders, I think sometimes in that world, you know, we're in an organisation that speaks a different language and asking people to just be more confident, is not helpful, it doesn't acknowledge the difficulties of that person's going through, and what is, in a sense, often a hostile environment sometimes. So we need the skills to be able to negotiate that and that that requires preparation. And it's a skill like any other that can be developed and honed over time, there's no magical mystery to it doesn't require you to be a different person or to go on a retreat for six months. You know, it's just a skill that we can learn, like everything else. So so that's why we provide that course is to try and kind of demystify the process of what it looks like to have to build those relationships effectively.
Tom Prior: 42:33
Cool. Sounds fantastic. It sounds like there's a little bit of overlap between both of them. If you were potentially recommending when when someone should choose one over the other, depending on where they're at at the moment, or which one to do first, is that something you might have some thoughts on? Yeah,
so I think I mean, you can absolutely do the courses together, you can do them one after another. And of course, I would say that, but if I think if you if you're choosing between the two, one thing I would say is that the leading stakeholders course is really about that relationship forming aspect. It's about understanding this stakeholder environment that you have, and being able to negotiate that as part of your work, regardless of the work that you're doing. And regardless of the requirement to justify that work. So I would, I would recommend anyone who is moving, you know, upper level in their role, anyone who's finding themselves in their role, just, you know, finding that bit of it really, really challenging and difficult. Maybe you might be new to consultancy, maybe you're new to working in a big organisation. There's lots of different reasons why people come on that course, we have people who are super experienced or people who are brand new to design and it is really applicable to anyone in that circumstance. Also, regardless of whether or not you're a designer, because it's really about understanding the stakeholder environment around services, so you could be in a change role or you know, BA role doesn't really matter. The writing business cases course is a lot more specific. So that is really about understanding business cases, writing them, making the case for service design. So that's applicable if your organisation is going to be, you know, asking you to do that sort of work asking you to financially justify what you're doing. It's really valuable if you're starting to take on a more senior role and you're having to do this more often. But not everyone finds themselves in that position. Not everyone has to justify what they're doing. And so that's why those two courses are slightly separate. They can be done together or they can be done separately.
Tom Prior: 44:45
So how can people find out a bit more about school and good services? Maybe when the next course states are and and check out the book of course, where are the some of the best places to order that?
So you can go Oh too good services. To find out more about that that is actually the URL. It is dot services at the end. So you can find everything you need. Out there, you can find the next public core states, you can find some free tools to assess your service against the 15 principles. And you can also find links to buy the book. The book is available in all good book shops, including Amazon, but also in your local bookstore. So you know, support your local bookstore, try and try and go and order it there. Yeah, you can you can find it well on the internet.
Tom Prior: 45:36
And yeah, there's probably courses coming up. I know, there's the dates on the website. If someone isn't an organisation, that's keen, I think you do private training as well. So you can come and maybe run that specifically for their team, is that right?
So all of the courses are publicly available at least twice a year. So do check out goods or services for the latest dates of those, the dates for 2023 are already published. So get in there quick. But we also run all of the courses internally for teams as well. So if you think that your team or your organisation would really benefit from having a private conversation about stakeholder leadership, or about writing business cases for service design, then we were more than happy to do that. And we do that for a lot of different organisations.
Tom Prior: 46:24
Brilliant. And I know there's a whole bunch of other courses that we could spend hours talking about that people should check out as well. So yeah, good, don't surfaces. Gonna have a look at that. And then if people want to keep up to date with you, Lou, are used. Are you still on Twitter? For now? We're how can people kind of connect with you on a more personal level? If they've got questions or just want to keep up to date with what you're doing?
Yeah, so I am still on Twitter might be the last person that you can you can find me on Twitter. I possibly will be on other other channels as the Twitter situation develops. But TVC Yeah, and you can also contact me through Google services, there's a contact form there. So if you have any questions about maybe what the right course would be for you, or having a conversation with your organisation, or you know, just some support and advice, please do get in touch
Tom Prior: 47:22
there. Fantastic. Thanks, Lou. Cool. Well,
thank you so much for having me, Tom. It's been absolutely lovely chatting to you about this. And this is a subject that's super close to my heart. So it's, it's been amazing and such a privilege to nerd out about finance, and business.
Tom Prior: 47:40
Likewise, thank you. Yeah, yeah. And finance notes. Make yourselves known. Come on,
out yourself. We're everywhere.
Tom Prior: 47:51
Brilliant. Thanks so much. Take care.
Awesome. Thanks a lot. Bye.
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