Don has written several classic books including The Design of Everyday Things and Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. If you haven't read him, get on it!
His lecture today was refreshing - no PowerPoint presentation, simply an introduction at the beginning that he enjoys thinking through new ideas and wanted to share these topics in the presentation rather than reflecting on what he's already written and covered. And with that he spoke for 1-1/2 hours on service design and operations with great humor and insight.
The overarching topic was that service design is the same as what the business world calls "operations" and that there is so much opportunity in this area. Operations, though, doesn't get this yet. Business-driven operations mostly focuses on optimization and efficiency in driving down costs but this is so often done in silos with short-term profits in mind, leaving huge opportunity to optimize what's most important - profits - by looking at areas for designing meaningful experiences that improve long-term customer retention in the front stage of the service and enhancing the many employee-to-employee interactions in the back stage.
As Seth Godin has also criticized, take a look at any big company's call center operations. Customers are actively engaging with you, a rare commodity in today's media-fragmented, cluttered market, by calling your employees. And the metrics that drive success for this "cost center" are centered around getting you off the phone as quickly as possible. To top it off, the issues raised by them are often opportunities which, predictably, are ignored. Actually, not ignored as that would mean they actually are forwarded to departments and people who can act on them. They just go into a hole.
At any rate, some of the questions Don raised include:
"How can you design a service so when a person wants service you're right there for them, but when they want to be left alone they're left alone?"
For service, citing Disney theme parks as an example, "waiting lines are necessary but how do you make it feel like part of the game?"
A couple of great quotes from the lecture:
- Regarding communication between humans and machines today: "Two monologues are not a dialogue."
- Regarding the ability to solve problems and the importance of first asking the right questions, which design can help do: "As engineers you know how to solve problems. As MBAs you know ho to solve business problems. You don't know what the real problem is though."
I thought it was great and love how being in school exposes us to great thinkers, different ideas and exploration of topics. Very cool.