How do you get societal – as well as economic – value out of technological innovation?

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I was honoured to be invited to host a ‘cafe conversation’ at this year’s CSCLeaders event in Edinburgh last week with HRH Princess Anne and eighteen senior Commonwealth Leaders.

The Commonwealth Study Conference is global leadership programme for exceptional senior leaders selected each year from government, business and NGOs across the 53 countries of the Commonwealth.

Each year the organisation’s Think Tank sets a challenge for the participants, which addresses a fundamental issue. This year’s challenge is:

How do you get societal – as well as economic – value out of technological innovation?

The study group had spent several days on study visits seeing examples of how cutting edge technology might bring value to society. The cafe conversations, at the Whale Arts Centre in Wester Hailes enabled the CSCLeaders to reflect on their visits and think about what technology means in the context of use. My contribution was to talk about co-design and empathy and how people adopt technology when it reflects their needs and values. I talked about work that the Re.Design group have been involved in recently:

  • BESiDE project – how the design of care homes for older people either enable or disable social activities and exercise
  • Quantified Self, a student project driven by Microsoft in the US: ethnographic research undertaken in China, India, Germany and Brazil to understand the different meanings ascribed to the monitoring of personal data (diet, exercise weight etc.)
  • Kist with the Children’s Hospice Association (CHAS) to use digitally tagged objects to share the personhood of children who cannot talk.

My co-host, Alan Crawley from Optima Partners underlined how technology is a relatively small part of a solution – the experience and services that are created around the use of technology make the difference between adoption and failure.


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The enthusiasm and passion of the participants was incredible, with conversations around engaging people in education and health programmes and how to use co-design to effect policy and behaviour change.

Thanks go to Sarah Ronald from Nile Experience and Service Design  for connecting me to organiser Steve Plummer from Common Purpose.

Hazel White



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Design Definitions

I’m doing some definitions for a new Design Encyclopedia to be published later in the year – any comments, suggestions welcome.


An archetype is a descriptor of a person or object which describes fundamentals of behaviours or form. Plato (4th Century BC) first described archetypes in terms of the essential ‘character’ of a thing. 20th Century Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung described archetypes as universal representations of ideas. In design, archetypes are used to describe patterns of forms and behaviours based on examining existing artefacts or interviewing real people. The benefit of using archetypes is to build an informed understanding of people and things rather than relying on unresearched stereotypes. See also PERSONAS.

Prototypes are visual and/or tangible early versions of ideas produced to share, test and evaluate designs. In the design of products, prototypes were traditionally produced to test functionality, explore form and create tooling. Prototypes vary in fidelity, material and purpose from a quick lo-fi ‘lash-up’ of a mobile device in cardboard to demonstrate how it might be held or worn, without considering technological requirements, to a hi-fidelity CAD-CAM model with accompanying functioning microelectronics.
Prototyping is increasingly used at early stages of the design process in the design of both products and services to understand and become part of the IDEATION process. Work by Marion Buchenau and Jane Fulton Suri at design consultancy IDEO in the 1990s and Liz Sanders and Michael Schrage demonstrate how LO-FI prototyping can be used in the DESIGN RESEARCH phase to help demonstrate current behaviours, articulate needs and desires and test assumptions. Prototypes help both designers, users and clients see where improvements can be made in products and services before committing to large scale roll-outs. BETA versions of technology, which are a form of prototype are now often launched to enable users to suggest changes and improvements. (200) – I’ve asked Fraser to comment

Mood board 

Moodboards are visual tools used by graphic, interior, service, fashion and other designers to communicate the atmosphere, feelings, aesthetics and direction of a project to a client or other people involved in developing the design. They are a way of presenting values and sensibilities in a way that opens up discussion and enables people to communicate their likes and dislikes using the board as a prompt. Moodboards can be collages of images and text presented on large boards or in digital format.

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Service Design Network Global Conference 2013

Mike and I ran a RIP+MIX  workshop at the Service Design Network Global Conference in Cardiff in November. We had a fantastic group of around 40 people who not only tried out the technique, but helped us think about how it can be developed further. We’ll be writing this up for Touchpoint shortly.

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Creativity in Public services

CIPFA_Northern Ireland_transfer to PPT.004I’ll be giving a keynote at the annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants (CIPFA) on Wednesday in Belfast. The conference theme is Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.

I’ll be talking about Creativity in Public Services: how using the designer’s toolkit of visualisation, empathy and prototyping can help enable public services to overcome fear of failure in the innovation process. I’ll be using examples from recent work with the Scottish Government, the NHS and the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland to demonstrate how real innovation harnesses the skills and knowledge of those who use, deliver and commission services.

Earlier this year, together with the students from the Design for Services programme at DJCAD I ran a very popular workshop on creativity with 145 delegates at CIPFA Scotland’s annual conference.

Details of the forthcoming conference here.

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Kist Project at Praxis and Poetics

Poetics_and_Praxis_presentationI Gave a presentation on the KIST project we have been working on with the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) entitled Fabric Fobs and Family Ties last week as part of the Praxis and Poetics event organised by Northumbria University at the Baltic in Gateshead. Had a great audience including Richard Banks and Tim Reagan from Microsoft Research in Cambridge and Patrick Jordan, expert on positive psychology and design – all of who gave helpful and positive feedback. The conference was unusual in that it was accompanied by an exhibition, where the exhibits were brought into the presentations, to be discussed and handled.  Richard gave some great pointers on how we might use existing social platforms to share stories, Tim suggested embedding text fragments into QR codes to share snippets of conversation and Patrick commented on the positive sharing of the experiences of a child who was not able to communicate themselves.

The  short video we put together for the exhibition which gives a brief intro the the project. You can find out more about the project here.

Download Fabric Fobs and Family Ties paper as a PDF

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Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results

Just discovered my notes for this from Jensen and Klein’s book Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results. A few useful things to remember when you are trying to keep on top of things.

Your employer is generally interested in accountability, rather than letting you take responsibility – if they trusted you to do things that you value, you’d be a happy and productive employee.
hacking work

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Developing Creativity within finance professionals

Are we in fact naturally creative and can we learn to be more creative? Hazel White, Course Director, Jordanstone College of Art and Design, believes that anyone can learn to be creative through the application of design methodology.

I’m planning a workshop for the Chartered Institute for Public Finance Accountancy (CIPFA) Annual Conference in March 2013 on developing creativity. We’ll be using RIP + MIX, a method we developed with Deutsche Telekom to transform painful interactions into pleasant experiences. There’s some really interesting speakers at the event including John Seddon, management psychologist and inventor of the Vanguard Method and John Bird, founder of the Big issue.

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Horizon Scanning

I’ll be in Nottingham next week giving a lecture as part of the intriguingly  named Horizon Scanning Lecture Series, for  MA/MSc Smart Design & MA Product Futures Lecture series at  Nottingham Trent University. 

This is the blurb:  Hazel White develops products and services to demonstrate how we can usefully embed technology in our lives. In 2012 she was supported by the Scottish Funding Council to develop KISTproject with the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) and children with life-shortening conditions, their families and carers to develop systems using bespoke, playful objects to enable independent access to online communication.

In 2009-10 she developed Hamefarers’ Kist, a networked interactive device to enable older people, health and care professionals re-imagine products and services for older people. It has been exhibited and disseminated through public and professional health seminars and is the subject of a case study in a forthcoming book from the Center for Assistive Technologies and Environmental Access (CATEA) at Georgia Institute of Technology. In 2009 she led research to develop tools for Deutsche Telekom, Berlin to engage multi-disciplinary teams in the development of information and communication products and systems for older people. In 2007 she won an AHRC grant for a project which used jewellery artefacts to gain insights from a range of users into new uses for wearable technology. Hazel’s research and practice is moving into Design for Services – her students have been working on forensic jewellery identification systems, re-use of tents at music festivals and digital accessories to comfort those going into care.  In the last 12 months Hazel and her students and graduates have facilitated workshops with representatives from the Scottish Government, all 14 Scottish NHS Boards, the Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and Social Services using design methods to elicit insights and future visions. She was recently a keynote speaker at the launch of the Global Service Design Network in the UK.  Hazel is Director of the Master of Design for Services Programme at the University of Dundee.

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BBC R&D Internet of Things

Quick notes on the BBC R&D unconference event in early November. The purpose of the event was:  to share ideas and capture thoughts about ‘playful’ IoT futures to advance IoT thinking in new domains like media, entertainment, storytelling, games and toys. The invite was extended to leaders and disruptors in this area, from makers, researchers, and academics to toy and game designers, artists and writers.

It was great to hear Durrell Bishop talking about a number of projects with Luckybites for berg, including the moshi mosters app and plush monsters – both toys which have an iphone inserted and with an app delivers content.  The plush monster can play podcasts of children’s stories., which made  me think of possibilities for Jo Hodge’s PhD research into toys and accessories to help children and parents who are seperated through illness, work or family breakdown keep in touch. Luckybites had also created the moster app for a moshi monsters toy, available at Argos, where the app enables:

four fun ways to play in Monster, Dress-up, Super Moshi or DJ Mode. Poke your monster in the eye, dress him, even listen to music through him!

The toy becomes part of a services connecting the hardware ‘toy’ with updatable content.  The conversation continued onto Toy talk – an Internet enabled toy by a couple of people who have left Pixar – to be released next year.

Another interesting talk was a short and to the point one from Steve Benford from the Horizon Digital Economy Research Centre at the
University of Nottingham on aestheticodes. These are a kind of QR code, which follows simple computational rules, enabling patterns and illustrations to to be computer readable markers. Steve talked about how it had been used by London restaurant Busaba on placemats and other items to create an experience both whilst in dining in the restaurant and afterwards (recipe downloads etc.). This may potentially have some application for our KISTproject with the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS), enabling children, their families and carers to create their own codes on objects to link to the stories of their lives.

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Child death review: learning the lessons, differently

Each year in the UK around 260 children die or are seriously harmed and £5 million is spent “learning the lessons”. The same “lessons” have been emerging since the first UK child death inquiry in 1945 without noticeable impact on child fatalities.

Child Death Review (CDR) processes in the UK have evolved almost exclusively from social work. The Scottish Universities Insight Institute are hosting a knowledge transfer event headed by Alyson Leslie, Linda Walker and Professor Sue Black from the University of Dundee. The aim is to think about child death review processes differently, bringing together expertise from the fields of forensic investigation, psychology, education, design, statistics, policing, law, social work and health.

Next week I’ll be responsible for design facilitation at the first of four CDR events over the coming months at the Lighthouse in Glasgow. Recent Master of Design graduates Sara Nevay and Angela Tulloch will be working with me to enable participants to use  design techniques to quickly understand the roles of the forty national and international co-participants, mapping their relationship to the child at the centre of the Child Death Review and exploring the information that they collect pertaining to the life and death of a child.

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