How learning design and service design drive value within organisations.

we kicked off 2023 MadeFor. Talks with our first panel discussion, you can find the podcast and transcript below.

How learning design and service design drive value within organisations.

The panel provided an open discussion on how learning design and service design can combine and intersect in order to drive inherent value within organisations to the benefit of employees and customers alike.



Thank you so much for connecting to our MadeFor. Talks and we are going talk education, service design, and learning design.

Okay, my name is Agnes and I'm a director at MadeFor. , and we provide learning experiences to help individuals and teams grow and stay competitive. We specialise in service design, UX, and product and above all customer experience. So today we are talk about the connection between two bigger disciplines that usually are not connected or not talked about in the same room, which is service design and learning design.

So, the topic of today is in service of learning – “How learning design and service design drive value in organisations”. We delve into why we think this topic is interesting and why it's interesting to connect the two.

At MadeFor., for example, we teach service design as a discipline, a skillset, as a capability, and the learning experiences that we design are developed using service design methods, just applied to learning, and that's very interesting. As we were developing, for example, more and more service design courses, the more we would adjust our learning design approach as well. And then it felt like, okay, this is something, there is something interesting between these disciplines and not only probably between these design disciplines.

So therefore, I'm very, very privileged today to have two experts with me in a room. Each of them represents side of, of this topic. Clara Lama is with us today, and Clara designs both services and the organisations that deliver them. She has a 24-year career in design, consultancy, design education, strategy, innovation, research and entrepreneurship. As well as this, Clara is also currently pursuing her path to PhD. so, a very warm welcome, Clara, thank you so much for being with us today.

We also have Tony Reeves; Tony is a creative learning specialist on a mission to promote the arts and the power of great learning design. As managing director at Ding Learning, he's supporting people and businesses who want to create inspiring and engaging learning experiences, and if Tony won the lottery, he would own a jazz club! Welcome, Tony, welcome Clara.

Okay, let's as the true academics, align on definitions, because I think in our space there are lots of new thoughts, a lot of new theories and approaches, so let's first define our key terms for our conversation.

Let's start with service design, what is service design?


I was thinking about this before the session and kind of thought that maybe there's a couple of definitions that I quite like from the Interaction Design Foundation and from Norman Nielsen Group. They basically speak to the fact that service design aims to optimise the interplay between customer journeys and the internal business processes that support them, and it's kind of concerned with the design of services and making them to the needs of service users and customers. It can be employees or it can be clients or customers, or it can be citizens and so on. So, I think it's interesting to see that and to understand that while it takes from a lot of different disciplines like ethnography or information management, science interaction design, process design, basically what it does is sort of examine activities and infrastructure people, communication, maybe material component, and try to improve quality of service for everybody involved in either service provision or service consumption.

So I guess I'll stick to that kind of a little bit longish, but maybe more comprehensive definition.


Okay, thank you, and Tony, what is learning design?


Great question, Agnese. I did a bit of research into this to try and pull out some concise definitions and there's a few useful ones. First is something like, it's a framework that supports learning experiences and it's about deliberate choices or making deliberate choices about what, when, where, and how to teach, and that’s useful - so, looking at it from a teaching perspective. You can look at something like the approach and the process of creating learning experiences that enable learners to achieve the desired learning outcomes, which is really important to look at the outcomes in a human-centered and goal orientated way.

So, I like that that focus on learning outcomes, because that is a key aspect of learning design. What is the intended outcome? Something around educational theory to deliberately crafting learning experiences based on educational theory. I think you do need a good understanding of the different theories of how learning happens to create good learning experiences.

And also making a series of informed choices about the various elements that go into learning. And I think that that's really important, this sort of, this idea that needs to be purposeful, you need to be making purposeful decisions about what to include, what not to include, and how best to do it for the, for the target audience.

So those are my short summary of definitions.


Thank you so much, it's very interesting because the outcomes and of course, the experience for a person who is experiencing either service or learning, that is already in the definition layer is very common in both disciplines. And if we think about value, especially for organisations, and I know that in our title of today we are looking at how service and learning design brings value to organisations. What and how do we understand value in your own words in this context?


I would say that from a kind of human-centered design point of view, it's the value of the experience that the service is seamless, that you enable the service user to do the job they intend to achieve. For me, that's value. And it doesn't have to be delightful. It can just be very quick, or it can just be, you know, whatever is the best path forward based on that particular circumstance.  

So that's the kind of human centricity aspect of it where value lies. We hear a lot about seamless or liquid experiences, et cetera. Things that remove friction, sometimes friction's actually good as it will help prevent you from, from making bad decisions.

So, for me, value is, is just understanding the context and delivering on that based on the user need. And then there is an element which I think is increasingly important in service design, which is this more kind of systems point of view. Sometimes services, we're looking at one service, but it's like, what, where does the service live inside.  

The systemic view, the system thinkers view of service. Sometimes when we work in legacy organisations, understanding the broader context within which the service lives so that you know what you can and cannot do, and you, you have almost like a better view of unintended consequences.

I think value is important there, and increasingly so for service designers looking at organisations within which they design services, and looking at potential side effects of the things they are doing. For me then that moves more into this kind of beyond human-centric point of view of design. I think in the current world we are in it's very important to deliver value based on that as well. Thinking also about the externalities of any services we are designing as well as the organisations within which they exist.


Fantastic, thank you! Tony, what would be your take either on what Clara says or your own.


Yeah, that's really interesting. I was just making a note of that. So Clara, you mentioned how to best remove friction in service delivery. I think that's interesting because in learning sometimes you don't want to necessarily remove friction. So that is a difference between learning design and service design as learning is and probably should be hard if you're learning something new. It's often a challenge. And I think the, the core of, or a key aim of learning design is to make sure.

You focus that effort on the thing that needs to be learned and you remove all the things that are going to get in the way of that. It doesn't mean that learning is not going to be hard but it does mean that you're trying to make sure that the friction is in the right place, I suppose. So that's a bit of a difference.

But also you mentioned understanding the broader context within which the service lives, and I think that's important in learning design because you need to understand why you are learning something. If you're trying to teach somebody something and they can't really connect to why they're learning it, It's really hard to convince them as to why it's important.  

So there was a couple of things there that I found interesting. And if we think about why learning design is valuable for organisations?

There's a ton of stuff here, but I'll summarise initially, I think at a basic level, it's about helping organisations adapt existing training and learning experiences in response to the evolving environment, both internal and external. Addressing things like skills gaps. So, what are the skills gaps and how do we support employees to upskill? And at a more advanced level, learning design can offer businesses a lot of value in terms of equipping the employees, the workforce with the knowledge and skills to deliver the strategy. Often that's I think that's the link that's missed with learning design partly because it's still quite a new discipline. But when a business is sort of formulating its goals, OKRs, strategy, getting a learning designer involved at that point is really useful because it helps you think about if you want to get to there, what are the steps that need to happen for people to get to there, to do that thing?

What's the behavioural change that's needed and how do we design for that? So for me, that's, that's a couple of reasons why learning design is really valuable to organisations, but is often sort of missed and kept in quite a, sort of a small, discreet area.


It's a great thing you, mention this because of course, as a Clara mentioned the kind of systematic thinking and lately as you have heard, there's a lot of layoffs in the businesses, right. And there's kind of almost like always like this kind of 10%, 15%, 7%, like, it's like it's a number that has achieved, it's been achieved in order to, I don't know, slim down organisations and often that might be helpful.

However, what I feel through service design and through learning design, if organisations would think like, okay, where do we need to get, what skills and capabilities we need in kind of context of our business and context of our ecosystem. Which skills are retiring within our business or what type of gaps are bigger and bigger in our business in this. So imagine how powerful, powerful it would be if we would combine service and learning design in this, in our organisations to understand.

We have these people, they're keen to learn, they're keen to develop, they're keen, they are very familiar with our business, and we could move them into different direction within the business and help them to develop their career learn new skills up skill, re skill, and still deliver value for our organisation.

And I feel like there is, was really missed opportunity there when this kind of wave of layoffs happening because it almost was like, okay, this is opportunity - of course, we have people that are maybe not performing to a hundred percent or any other reasons, but instead of thinking a little bit deeper about it, we're like just, okay, looking at the metrics that we currently have, I don’t know if, of course every organisation did that, but, and then, okay, 10%, this is our target. What do you think about that?  


This is what I'm interested to explore with both of you. The potential for combining service and learning design. Because I know about learning design, but I'm still relatively need to service design myself.

This is why I think there's untapped potential in this intersection because partly because of what's happened in the last two years, I think the whole return to work you know, as businesses have had to sort of confront getting people back into the office. Not just an onboarding challenge, but there's almost like a boarding challenge.

So, what is now needed? What's changed? What's different? And how do we support, employees with that return to work? But I think there's also something around, and this is where I'd appreciate your thoughts. It feels like service design clarifies what needs to happen in terms of the service offering and how it needs to evolve.

A learning design is perhaps about upskilling the employees to deliver those new services or those revised services, but is that a fair assumption or what would you say?


Yeah, it's, good. This is a really good comment because I was actually thinking the same. Is there something about, based on everything we've just talked about something about in service time we always say, or, anything in design in general, we talk about, you know, doing the right thing before doing the thing, right?  

So, there's a kind of ethos of, you know, you must do your discovery and you must understand what problem you're trying to solve and not solve non problems. And I think to me it's sounding like there is that intersection. So, it's almost like, you know, service design can help you figure out what is the right thing and then.

As you design the learning, you start to get more into how we are going to bridge that skills gap or achieve that resiliency or adaptivity for the organisation without having to always resort to this knee-jerk move of, oh, we need to fire 12% of our workforce because we hired too quickly and it's like “what was anyone thinking about what they were doing” or but that's, I think that fits into a much broader problem that's outside our conversation today, which is just kind of this, you know, shareholder, value driven businesses, et cetera. So, I wouldn't go there, but yeah.


That's very interesting, I'm going to drop this in but you might edit it out. I remember seeing a film years ago which was the film called organisations as psychopaths, and not that it was trying to sort of malign organisations, but it was basically saying an organisation is a collection of people that are sort of trying to do something, but the organisation has this behaviour all of its own, and often that isn't purposefully designed, it just emerges.

And like you say, there's this knee-jerk reaction all the time - need to lay people off, need to hire people, but it always reminds me there's a really great theory because I'm quite partial to an educational theory as you can probably imagine, and it's called Triple Loop Learning by Chris Argyris and Donald Schön.

Your comment Clara just already reminded me of that because this says there's these three sorts of layers of organisational learning. He says the single loop level, it's, are we doing things right and this kind of basic performance measurement.

At the double loop level is, are we doing the right things? And it's more about sort of error prevention, quality assurance, and making sure that the organisation's sort of interacting with partners and communities in the right way.

At the triple loop learning level, it's asking why are we doing these things? And this is where, there's a much more conscious, proactive, purposeful approach to organisational design and really focus on things like vision, mission, values, identity, what kind of organisation do we want to be, and then how do we design everything to deliver that vision, the mission and the strategy. It kind of feels like, there's something there that many organisations forget why they exist, and actually some kind of design purpose or design approach helps to remind them of why.  


100%, and I think that it was actually Schön that said that the biggest challenge of organisations now, even though he was probably speaking in the fifties, is to learn about learning, right?

It's how do we keep adapting? So, for me if you look at recent disciplines, and I'm going to put service design in a bucket of recent disciplines, yes. Disciplines that we've heard about in the mid-eighties for the first time in their current state.  Then if that is the world we are heading towards and this, you know, we're in this VUCA world and we need to kind of be aware of, of these needs, it appears to me that these are two disciplines that would be at the forefront of helping organisations to kind of get things done, because they speak very much to that ethos of triple loop learning, right?


Yeah, and I think there's been a lot of things written particularly in the last couple of years around purpose-driven organisations, and what's the next organisational evolution to sort of more purpose, purpose-driven organisations. I think you're absolutely right, it does feel that there's something in combining service and learning design to help enact that, to help make it more visible, more conscious and more purposeful, I think. So that, that for me is really exciting.  


Why do you think then organisations lose the sight of this purpose? So, I get that there is of course, kind of, you know, daily challenges and profit driven stakeholders and many other kinds of business as usual stuff. But still, I think a lot of, there's a lot of conversations about the purpose-driven organisations understanding what does that really mean? What is the purpose of organisations? So, what is your take? Where, where does it go? Where does it disappear? What happens?


Well, I've got a hypothesis, but I, I'm gonna put it out there. So first the Clara can then come in and contradict me.  It feels like the way in which “modern” - huge generalisation, alert -  sort of “modern capitalist” organisations are constructed doesn't help because you're very focused on quarterly earnings and, and targets and OKRs and performance and that kind of thing.

And certainly, in terms of learning that's often not that helpful because learning takes a longer time. You know, a process of learning often takes more than three months it can take years sometimes. Now that's not always useful or desirable for an organisation. But it's important because I think you need to design into that and say, well, where do we want to get to?

What is the vision for the organisation and what is preventing us from getting there? And often it is these kinds of short-term targets. And I mean, I'm on a bit of a tangent, but I'm, I'm really interested in some of these organisations that are exploring different organisational models, sort of holocracy and things like that, because it's more about investing in people and giving people more ownership. And in doing that, in empowering more of the organisation, it's easy to remain focused on what matters. But Clara, I'd welcome your views on that, whether I'm going down a rabbit hole, I don't know.  


I dunno about rabbit holes, I'm really into those. But the thing is that it definitely rings a bell. and now I'm thinking for instance of, you know now let's, let's pick the latest suite on the zeitgeist – yeah? Large language models, like ChatGPT. So it's like, are they going to, you know, kill everyone's jobs, et cetera? And then you start to think, indeed, the timelines of organisations as we know them now, because they are driven by quarterly earnings and so profits, et cetera. So they prioritise that over the humans at the centre of getting things done, which is like, fair enough. And we have a lot of very enlightened scholars of, for example, organisational design like Naomi Stanford, who are, you know, Linda Graton, who are really kind of more, you know, changing the perspectives on that in a knowledge economy, and even in a servicized economy, right? I think service science speaks to a lot of that. But, but then it's, it's almost like, if there is a fundamental like incentives dissonance between this kind of profiteering or profiteering organisations and, you know, teaching humans and staying adaptive, then what does that mean?

And I think we've seen a bit of a, oh by staying adaptive, we still beat the market. You know, we, there's the McKinsey Design Index and all these other kinds of different metrics of the value of these things. However, that remains in certain bubbles, so I'm thinking now we are in our little tribe, in our little bubble of service design and learning design and you know, we're all like, oh, it's our wonderful little world and why isn't everybody thinking like us?

You know? I mean, good god, this is so obvious, right? But it's not like that. So, I think we are, we are in a system and that's, that's why I also think I'm, I'm kind of dabbling into, I'm by no means experiencing systems thinking or practices, but I find it an interesting also approach because it just sort of helps you look at the bigger picture.

Maybe just being aware of, of that is helpful because you start to develop an emerging awareness of, of the bigger thing that you're within and what you can and cannot. Then, you get some perspective to think about what you might be able to do in the short term. But, on the issue of metrics that you've mentioned, I think that's another really important one because if we, if we start to question the metrics and the measures that are currently the status quo, maybe that's also like a door in or a window in to start to make these people who are at the heart of these organisations and how they work.

You know, consider other metrics and other learning outcomes and think that if, do they want to keep on this flow of hiring and firing, or do they want to maybe take a different approach? But I think that's, that's an at a much, you know, I don't think we have been invited to play in that at that table yet, as designers.


That's a really important point, and it reminds me a few years ago I was involved in a lot of debates around customer experience when it was more of an emerging discipline. You're right to focus on what we measure is what counts, and the question is, well, why are we measuring those things?

And it's certainly the same in higher education. You measure student satisfaction and it's like the overall metric, then for Customer satisfaction it's NPS or csat, you know, and it's, those measures drive huge amounts of behaviour, often unhealthy behaviour, just to chase the figure. And if you get into a situation where you're just chasing the number, it's like, well, why?

Why are we chasing that number and not a different number? And if we start to rate different things is important, such as employee happiness or, you know, but I think what you choose to measure obviously determines that the flavour of the organisation. And I think also, I think you mentioned the zeitgeist, which is, is always useful to try and look at what's the general feeling around organisational evolution at the moment, particularly as we've come out post pandemic.

I think there's been a lot of interesting thinking and it does feel to me, and this is me just projecting into the space, that there is a sense that, that we do need to do things differently as in organisations broadly. But there is perhaps a lack of awareness as to how things could be different.

I know we've mentioned purpose-driven organisations. I know sustainability has been around for a long time, but organisations are increasingly seeing that actually there is value in that, partly because customers value it. So, if we are more sustainable as an organisation, we are more attractive to customers, which makes sense.

But it does feel like, there's a sort of a feeling that there's a need to do things differently, but the organisations can't quite articulate what that thing is. And I think, as you say, it's trying to find ways to push on that door. What's the way into those conversations to say, well, if you want to achieve this, then service and learning design can help you.

Once you’re in the door this is where service designers and learning designers have quite enormous power potentially to foreground certain conversations and to hold others back and to put sort of more human-centred perspectives into those conversations. So it is being mindful, like when you get that opportunity, when you're in the lift with someone who matters, like what do you actually choose to talk about around these disciplines to start to drive that kind of change?

I think it's an exciting time to bring these disciplines together I think!


Wow, so many thoughts triggered now, could you maybe share so many if you have an example or situation where this has happened, where through learning design discussions or learning design initiatives you have driven a certain change in this context?


Yeah, that's a good question. So, I think at the moment we're focused on designing courses for people and we are increasingly involved in those kinds of strategic conversations. We've been working with a couple of universities recently where there's a growing acknowledgement that there's a need to do things differently, but they don't quite know what that is.

The interesting thing about universities particularly is that they think they know everything about learning because they're specialists in learning, but often they're terrible at learning design. Not terrible, but they're often not great at learning design and particularly not great at organisational design.

So, it's really interesting being in those conversations, and I've had conversations with the vice chancellor around, what are you actually trying to achieve? What's your aim here, above and beyond just student satisfaction? It might be recruitment and there's some fairly common aims that universities share, but then the opportunity is to then have that conversation and work backwards and say, well, if that is your aim, what's stopping you from getting there?

And often it is a huge issue around the workforce. It's people have burned out through the pandemic, people are frustrated because they're not being given the ownership of their of their area or resources. So, that's where I think design and not just learning design can be really useful. It's saying, well if, if you actually want to achieve these things, if this is what matters to you, then we need to construct a sort of a program of work that will deliver that behavioural change that will move people from here to here. And there'll be different areas of that. Some of it will be to do with technology and using new platforms.

Some of it will be about processes, performance management incentives. So, there's a real opportunity to design into that space, and that's some of the work that we've been doing is,  how do you walk into that and design an ecosystem of experiences, that takes people from here to the place where you need to get to.

And I think this is through some of the conversations that I've had with people more in a business environment. Often businesses are great at saying, we need to grow 10% in 12 months, or, you know, that's the aim. But then they don't specify the behavioural change or the steps that need to happen to get there.

And that might be, we need to train this many people to do this thing differently. So that, that's another area where I think learning design is a really powerful internal mechanism. And I've been able to have some of those conversations around, well, if, if you want to achieve that, what are you actually going to do differently to deliver that outcome?

Then you can start to see that this is where learning outcomes become really important, and it took me a while to sort of cotton onto this as well. You know, learning outcomes are very much a sort of an academic term for a course, but actually a, a business has clear outcomes and they need to get to these outcomes, so they need to design a system that will deliver those outcomes. That’s where I think learning design is perhaps undervalued as a discipline. And in combining it, the service design you can really leverage both, what needs to happen and who, and how you need to train people to deliver those outcomes.


Yeah, that's really interesting because what I'm hearing is almost like, it's calling on two things that I have been maybe reading about or playing around with. For example, like outcomes driven innovation, in your case it's like learning outcomes in line with service outcomes that we intend to achieve and kind of work back from there as opposed to just doing stuff with a lack of sight of what is the real end game of why we are doing this stuff.

And then, I think the other thing that I'm finding interesting in what you are saying is you are almost like, or it sounds to me like you're almost like creating a little bit of a hierarchy of how these two orchestrate. So, you know, in one thing that I find interesting is the word design in both of them. A t the end of the day, it's like, you know, the bold word is service, and the bold word is learning and design is just an enabler. It's just an approach that we use for the learning to actually stick and to be successful and to achieve the X outcome that you wanted to achieve or for the service to achieve that outcome.

I think it's really interesting because maybe designers have this over focus on methods. Yeah. Method, method, method. It's like method is the thing, but the Method is just an enabler. The end goal is actually the service or the learning, et cetera.

I think that's interesting for me as well, when you mentioned that, you know, you go to a university and of course they are experts in learning - It's their bread and butter theoretically, right! I think what you are now touching on is the fact that maybe designerly approaches might just kind of allow everyone to just ask the question, which I, I think I was actually writing down in preparation for this just to, to pick someone like that everybody knows, Dieter Rams, who was saying “Question everything generally thought to be obvious”. That's kind of what designers should do, could do. And that could be their role at the table. It's just question everything that's thought to be obvious and never be afraid to ask a stupid question - the stupid question, which doesn't exist. Right?

Maybe there's something there, which is where the design converges with the service or the learning, which is more about the approach, I guess I don't want to talk about design thinking because I think design thinking is kind of maybe on a, on a slow spiral down, but, maybe that's what design thinking is trying to teach people who are running businesses and running organisations and they're not necessarily thinking about these things as intently as we are.

It's like giving them a framework or a tool to approach what they're doing in corporate, in law firms, in insurance, et cetera, in car manufacturing with a bit of a different lens. And I just went into a bit of a long-winded talk about this, but I think you are kind of touching on all these elements, which is, you know, how do we make sure that we are doing the right thing? Then how do we make sure we're doing the thing right? And how does design then equip us? To achieve that in a way that's kind of sensible and, and outcomes driven.


I think you're absolutely right and I think it's so important to try and move towards some kind of framework, not a kind of a conclusive framework, but some set of principles that enable people who are very busy to put these things into practice.

Because as we both know, time is very precious and you can't expect people to get into the detail, but I think it feels like there's an important piece of work that needs to be done, which is, as you say, to map how and when service and learning design can add value and at what stages?

I mean, I think to be honest language is a big barrier to that, but these two disciplines at the moment are still quite distinct in terms of language, but there are lots of overlaps. So, you know, service design talks about user research, empathy mapping, service blueprints, prototyping, co-creation, user-centered design, and those are not very far away from a lot of learning words around empathy and figuring out what the offering is, developing, iterating and feedback. So, I think there's an opportunity to overlap those things and make it clearer where the similarities are.

You kind of reminded me, Agnese, we had a conversation last year where you talked about service designers identifying the start point for an experience, for example, which I think is really important. So, service design clearly says this is where the process of learning probably needs to happen, and then learning design would come in to sort of build, build some kind of support after that. But I think we need to do more work to clarify how that works. But, I mean, do you wanna say a little bit about that, Agnes, because that was, I thought that was a really important in sort of insight into where service design starts and how learning design might then follow on from that.


Yes, of course, when this was in more of a Madefor. context and then we kind of made a parallel with universities, right? So, when universities say that they are experts in learning that might be the case but are they experts in learning experience for a student? Also, where does that experience start for the student. We chat about that a student chooses the university with a certain goal in mind, right? Either they are really passionate about the topic, they're passionate about potential employment opportunities afterwards, whatever it is. There is certain starting point and often universities or learning organisations miss that out. Service design really addresses that starting point, asking, where does your journey start? And I think that's very interesting from learning experience perspective because first of all is that starting point. - how do you actually go through the admissions? how you are treated? what kind of services are provided for you as a student? then even like which class you take and which campus and how do you get between them?

This all adds to your learning experience and it even can add to your learning outcomes because if the campuses are too far away, you might always choose to attend one or another class because you just can't make it on time and you don't want to be stressed, so maybe you'll find it very anxious experience, right? There will be choices that you've made because of basically bad service design in your learning experience. Then the last one that I think is a super interesting topic is measurement of education outcomes, so measurement of these outcomes, have you actually achieved them?

How do you measure them? It's a big topic, and I think what serves design can address in this as well is to extend that journey. Not in a point where you get your diploma, but what happens afterwards. Right. So I know that some universities of course, and some educational institutions have some kind of follow up and, and let's say life design opportunities afterwards, but it's not really common.

Often students come out of university and it feels like, okay, now on your own, you figure it out! And there again, can be I think loads of opportunities, how to make it better, and make people feel more at ease. I know that I come from Soviet Union and it's a funny fun fact is that in Soviet Union, if you finished your bachelor’s degree, you were immediately assigned to a job, in a specific company, in a specific role, everything, I knew exactly how my life will look like. I'm not saying that with our mindset and with the democratic view and opportunities and all that, that it's the right way to do it, but there is a huge amount of anxiety and unknown taken away from young people where they currently struggle, in that context, you know, like to make the choices and figure out what's next.


I think that's really useful and, and it just, it reminds me about this idea of who's good at what. You know, like you say, universities, particularly, let's say they're good at knowledge, they employ people who are specialists in knowledge, they've got lots of knowledge. They're not specialists in design often and businesses are great at identifying gap in the market, making a product or service to fill that, marketing it, but they're not great at design and iterating the organisation to evolve. So I think this is, Design adds value in all sorts of context.

And this is one of the overlaps between learning and service design. It's recognising that all organisations are good at something or they wouldn't be in existence, but often they're not, they're not great at sort of reflecting, although these processes of learning and evolution that that enable them to remain competitive.

I think that's where service design and learning design together can really add a lot of value!


Definitely, because you help form an understanding of how these things work and how they might be actually done differently. In service design you have like “what if” questions and things like that, which are just kind of linguistic resources to deal with this.

But if everybody sort of respects their own specialism, let's call it specialism and then is able to collaborate across discipline. So I'm, I'm really interested in this, I've been calling it like in my head, intergalactic, you know, but it's like we are good and intergalactic Yeah. Within, within our own knowledge silos or with, you know, adjacent ones, but then when, when we need to really collaborate more broadly with people who come from a completely different paradigm from the one that we come from, then how do we make things work? How do we bridge those gaps? And one of the things that I think service designers pride themselves in actually being those guys. Yeah, we can be the ones who bring all these different stakeholders around the same table and convene some way of understanding, and bridge these intellectual silos and, and put everybody on the same page. And that's all very interesting. But then it's towards which outcome and what are we trying to do.

And this also made me think, Agnese when you were talking even the construct of how education is delivered. So this idea that education is front loaded very deeply at the very early in your life, and then it's like you come out of uni and it's almost like you forget about education and there is an increasing industry of continuous learning, right?

Executive learning and is learning, which is trying to fill that gap, which is extremely lucrative, but then it's also like sometimes we forget that universities are also business. Then it's like, you know, what is the right thing to do by the students? Do we kind of lose sight of that sometimes?

We have our own incentives to get X amount of students in and charge them X fees, et cetera. So it's also like maybe the role of the designers is to kind of keep everyone real in that sense. It's like we don't lose sight of the business goals, or we don't lose sight of the outcomes of the other stakeholders, but let's not allow them either to lose sight of what we are really here to do for the students or for the employees, or for whoever we are designing for.

Maybe that's also an a nice thing of, of seeing this kind of patchwork of, of skills and focus and how they might work together.


I just wanted to kind of literally move towards recognising that's those similarities, right? So the design principles that we discussed, you talk about respecting the craft, and kind of collaborating, breaking the silos at the same time. Often it is really focused on difference, right? So really like, okay, we do this and you do this, but then we actually all are designing something and we have those principles that are so similar. It feels like just natural way of doing. And then, if the outcome is better after that, like for everyone involved, including the business side, I think feels like no brainer.

But Tony, tell me.


You make a real interesting point because I think there's a perpetual problem in the relationship between education and business as I'm sure you and listeners will be well aware it is education that is consistently accused of failing to deliver people who are employable in the workplace. So, we have this strange situation where people go through a process of education and they go into work, then they realise they need to learn something, they come out of work, go back into education. Come back into work and it's all very kind of like backwards and forwards. And it does feel like the world and businesses particularly are moving at a speed now where you often can't take a year out to go and do a course.

It's not the businesses that should be responsible for learning, but I think that particularly post pandemic, this realisation that there is value and also a need to create more contextualised learning experiences within the organisation, this is why businesses are hiring learning designers. I've been trying to get to the bottom of this for the last couple of years and saying, well, why is there this sudden uptake in learning designers in businesses? You know, why is that happening? But I think it is, to try and address that issue of context.

You know, we just built a course for a data analyst and one of the biggest issues for data analysts is lack of commercial awareness, lack of understanding of process. You know, they go and learn data analysis and they, they get really excited about data analysis and they come into an organisation and they've got no idea of strategy and KPIs and North Star metrics and what teams look like and how they work.

So it feels like, there's a growing need and a shift towards providing these learning experiences, perhaps, that are a bit shorter. They don't need to be sort of three years or even a year, but they do need to be more effective, more contextualised, and more focused on the needs of the business to try and reduce this constant disconnect between people coming out of the university with loads of qualifications, having spent loads of money, and yet unable to perform effectively in businesses for at least a year.

I mean, that shouldn't be happening, and it's not like there aren't loads of people in universities trying to make learning relevant. There's thousands of people there going, career support and employability and still we have this disconnect, which I just find really fascinating.


100% I'm now collaborating with a Spanish university and basically what we're looking at is some design methodology courses, so some credits which are for last year's students in business, international affairs law, et cetera, and you know, things that might make them more “Sexy”, more employable in the workplace, which are coming kind of from a design curriculum and how to package that and what would be the most useful approaches, methodologies that they can bring to them.

To make them more employable and this kind of gap in the angst of what recruitment managers are looking for in this, in this just graduated and undergrads, and what they think they bring to the table is very interesting. And I don't believe we will crack it! Yeah, we're not going to find a solution for that, but I think, looking at that space, looking at those gaps and then applying these designerly approaches to try to fill them might be a really nice way to go about solving this kind of stop and go problem that you are describing.

I think there is a lot of other things which come into play here, which is this Contextual. We've been doing a lot with Agnese, also a lot of upskilling kind of capability building programs with large corporates who have internal teams. Internal teams might be a combination of people who are from industry who have been doing this maybe on agency side or consultant side, and also guys from inside the business who have transitioned.

You know, this is what Gary Hamel called boxology, that you take somebody who's a business analyst and boom, suddenly you're a service designer - off you go! And it's like, whoa, whoa, hang on a sec, there is a whole toolbox for these people and then they kind of need to get it.

It’s like, we just try to fill those gaps through different learning formats which are a bit experiential and a bit focused to this kind of people in the workplace, but it's almost like, is this the beginning of something? Is this going to become more mainstream? and, you know, are learning designers that missing piece inside the businesses, just like service designers are increasingly in-house who can actually help the business navigate that in a contextual way. Because contextual means everything, right?

They might have very specific niche needs in their business context, which are not necessarily like a cookie cutter, that you can apply everywhere else. And I think there is this industrial paradigm where it's like, yeah, we need to industrialise everything. We all want moulds and cookie cutter approaches, but as you say, maybe we need to provide a more loose framework and then allow people to bring in all the contextual elements into that framework so they can actually solve real world problems, in their own context.  


Yeah. I think that's so important that this issue of context, I think is really a big one to try and, like I say, not crack, but really walk into purposefully because a course outside of a business will only ever be able to deliver a certain amount of context. It won't be specific to that business.

And I think if you have service designers, learning designers and UX designers in an organisation, that's a really powerful combination, and I think what's needed is this sort of guidance as to how these three design disciplines and customer experience, actually to this four, how they work together to really to kind of create this sort of engine of values like customer experience is sort of horizon scanning, figuring out what's needed, reflecting that back inwards.

Service design identifies the start point of the experience. Learning design then delivers the training, the programs that can deliver the strategy. And UX designers and UX writers are often able to reduce those language barriers and look at, well, how do we get people to talk to each other across silos within an organisation?

It's not just about what the customer needs, it's about how do we break down those l those language barriers and those silos internally. And I think if you can get that combination right, you've got a really powerful engine for driving value in the centre of an organisation and just to kinda.


Just to build indeed are on the context, right? So, there is element of indeed contextualising education, but there is element in outcome for learning that gives confidence. For learner to contextualise, especially if we talk about adult education, where people are professional, so they're not coming out of school right away, but they, let's say learning actually to deal with context. And, maybe that has to be a skill learned much earlier in life. That's a different, all different topic - not gonna go there.

However, like just asking questions about context instead of expecting answers in a learning program, okay, this will be my tool. I will go back and I'm gonna just use it. Instead of doing thinking like, okay, how it fits what I need to modify, having that confidence, having the curiosity, having that a bit disruptive approach in order to make it work, I think that's something.

Like if we talk about hidden curriculum a bit referring back to, the little video before on social shared that is something I believe very strongly is missing from many programs to measure confidence of applying and contextualising any knowledge or toolkits or method.


I think that's it, and I think this idea of what's hidden versus what's overt is really important. I think there is a shift away from learning as acquiring content to learning as behavioural change. And I think there's certainly an educational theory “Behaviourism" is viewed as something that's very outdated, it's like, wow, that was early 20th century behaviourism. It was wrapped in boxes, blah, blah. We passed that and actually, Behaviorism is so important because you can learn content, but you only really know how to apply that content when you're within a given context.

It's often these ideas of you know, what are the rules, regulations within an organisation, what are the routines of that organisation? How does it work? How do you apply what you've learned within a different context?  

So I think a good program of learning design shouldn't really be focusing on content really, you can get content from anywhere! It's more about how do you apply that content, how do you equip people with the questions, the attitude, the behaviours, the confidence the contextual knowledge to go out and talk to other people in the organisation to get out of their chair, and go and make contact, because that's when things really start to happen.

You know, change happens at the intersection of disciplines, at the intersection of silos, the intersection of departments. That's when you know, productive conversations happen, and change starts to happen. But if you keep people siloed, as we know from organisational literature, nothing really changes very much. So I think that there is a real need to, to focus or shift away from learning as content and, and really look at learning as equipping people to adapt in different context.


I feel like it's amazing. Kind of roundup of our discussion. Clara, please add your note.


No, I was just thinking that, absolutely! One of the things that is also maybe kind of in the, in the design, sort of way of doing is exactly that - you go and do it, you know? And, we have ample evidence of action research, you know, prototyping, what is even prototyping, what does it actually mean, and then just learning by doing and, and gaining those, those hard-and fast skills and being in the discomfort of not doing it right, which is, I think it was one of your short videos Tony, where you talk about, you know, it's, you can memorise a recipe, right? But until you actually go and make the beef stoganoff, you know, you don't actually know what that actually means in practice. I think there's a lot of, there's a lot of that maybe that needs to be further explored, and delved into, and that will be the source of that confidence maybe.


Yeah, I agree, and I think this is where this comes down to the overlap between these disciplines, which I suppose is the focus of this conversation is what do you want people to do differently?

And then how do you equip them to do those things differently, whatever the context is, whether that's a learning context or a business context. Focus on what you want people to do differently and then plug in aspects of learning service. Customer experience, user experience design to create that experience that enables you to move people from where they are now to where they need to be to, to deliver that strategy.

So for me, that's where there's, there's real untapped potential in the intersection of these disciplines, I think.


Totally. Okay, well, on this note, I'm conscious of time on this note. I want to really thank you, really insightful conversation, and I hope we will meet again in a follow up conversation on this because I feel like we can talk forever and there's so much to untangle and so much to kind of figure out and how we can help each other and learn from each other and work together.

So thank you again really much for, for your time, for your intelligence, for your effort putting into this conversation.

Thank you.

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