Each persona is based on a fictional character whose profile gathers up the features of an existing social group. In this way, the personas assume the attributes of the groups they represent: from their social and demographic characteristics to their own needs, desires, habits and cultural backgrounds.
Personas can be assumption-based or research-based. And sometimes one leads to the other.
For my project, I needed to develop personas that were composites of different kinds of tutors, educators and other support personnel working in the foundation education sector.
My process for this evolved over time and I would modify it based on each group I worked with. But the basic idea was this:
Get a group of tutors together who share common attributes. An example might be that they all work in an ESOL context with refugees and migrants, or that they work with Māori learners in a particular special character context.
Talk about my project in a way that makes sense to the participants. Often this involved telling the story of the most recent personas created from a previous group. And then drawing out differences or similarities to their own contexts.
Set up a task with two or three key questions. In this way, they were able to describe the kind of work they do and evidence that they might bring to the table.
Facilitate a discussion around the emerging categories. Usually, I’m finetuning the categories with each group. By the end, I had a good idea about what categories would encompass all of the different kinds of responses I was likely to encounter.
My questions were specific to the context of my project. For example, we were looking to create a draft professional standards framework for educators and others. This meant that there were three key questions to ask.
Responses didn’t give me the broad categories I needed for the framework. Rather, the responses allowed me to play with different categories and see how the responses fit.
The result: Now I have a selection of personas that I can use to tell stories about different kinds of tutors who may be affected by the new service that we are looking to design. This cuts across a lot of technical jargon and needless education-speak.
And that makes it easier for me to pitch the work to others when I need to in a very user-friendly way.
The idea with a stakeholder map is that you can visually represent all of the various groups involved in a service. This might include organisations, staff, experts and others.
I got to this late. So the image above is one that I did retrospectively after I did the Service Design course at Auckland Uni. I’d already made a start on my project but it was still helpful. The context for me is education service provision.
What it made me realise, is that when I encounter difficulties it’s because the network of relationships in my field is complex. No kidding, right?
But this helped me realise that it’s a bit like an ecosystem. Which is a polite way of saying that it’s really like a swamp.
Here’s how I mapped my stakeholders:
I started with my project in the centre.
Then I listed all of the key organisations or types of organisations that I needed to work with or talk to.
Then around the outside, I added other influences.
Finally, I added questions that I needed to think about.
What I haven’t shown on here – that some people like to add – is arrows showing linkages and relationships between organisations and groups.
If I did it would start to look like a crazy wall very quickly.
The way I’m using this now is that if I need to, I can structure discussion or thinking around one or more aspects of what I’ve mapped. And at the same time hopefully not lose sight of the bigger picture (which sometimes has a habit of slipping away when you go down a particular rabbit hole).
Key to acronyms in case you read this far.
TEC = Tertiary Education Commission.
SME = Subject matter experts.
ITP = Institute of Technology and Polytech.
PTE = Private Training Establishment.
WPL = Workplace literacy.
NCLANA = National Centre for Literacy and Numeracy for Adults (Now defunct).
ESOL = English for Speakers of Other Languages.
ITF = Industry Training Federation.
ACE = Adult Community Education.
NZCALNE = New Zealand Certificate in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education.
NZCATT = New Zealand Certificate in Adult Tertiary Teaching.
I’ve put my own spin on this, but there are a couple of things that the graphic above does not show:
One is that the creation and concept design phase includes making mistakes. Sometimes you need the freedom to make these mistakes in order to do the learning you need in order to refine your prototype.
The other thing is that the process is not really linear. I’ve dropped in the icon with the circular arrows to suggest this. But I think the reality is quite messy as you flip back and forth across different phases in the design process. More like the squiggle image below.
What’s a good book or reference on Service Design?
As I’ve read a bit more about Service Design and bought a bunch of books, there are a couple that really stand out. This is one of above. You can order through the website but also they have a massive PDF file of practical stuff that they are giving away for free. You have to submit your email to get this.
Here are my notes from the first part of this book looking at some basic principles for service design thinking. And here’s a question to consider, if you’re reading:
How do these principles and values align with your own personal, organisational or other kaupapa?
Service Design should be…
Consider the experience of all the people affected by the service. This requires empathy, listening, and relationship.
And we need to agree on a common language… it’s the language of the service user.
Stakeholders of various backgrounds and functions should be actively engaged in the service design process.
Who are the customer groups, service providers, stakeholders?
Who are the customers in education? How do we even define “customer”?
A customer is someone who pays. But in service design, a customer is someone who is transformed by the service.
Service design is an exploratory, adaptive, and experimental approach, iterating toward implementation.
A service should be visualised and orchestrated as a sequence of interrelated actions. The best way to do this is to imagine the service as a movie. It takes place over time and has a rhythm. Some parts are slow. Others are fast. Too slow = bored. Too fast = stressed.
Storyboarding can help with this.
Consider: Pre-service, service, post service.
Needs should be researched in reality, ideas prototyped in reality, and intangible values evidenced as physical or digital reality.
This includes how to make the intangible tangible. E.g Hotel backstage services.
Services should sustainable and address the needs of all stakeholders through the entire service and across the business.
Cf Te Whare Tapawha for an example of holistic model from Te Ao Māori.
Services are intangible, but they take place in a physical environment, using physical artefacts and [usually] generate some form of physical outcome.
Also consider alternative customer journeys, touchpoints, approaches.
In Part 1 I talked about what service design is and how a service is different to a product. Here I want to outline some of the reasons why we might need service design thinking.
What’s a good definition for service design?
First, though, I want to look at a definition. There are academic definitions, but here’s a non-academic definition that I prefer.
When you have two coffee shops right next to each other, and each sells the exact same coffee at the exact same price, service design is what makes you walk into one and not the other. (31 Volts Service Design, 2008).
Now substitute swap out coffee shops for education providers. And allow for the fact that “right next to each other” in an internet economy includes online and blended education opportunities.
You get the idea… But see the short video above if you need some further elaboration.
How can service design thinking help me?
Drawing from my workshop notes again, here are some of the reasons why I need to embrace service design methods, tools and techniques. I’m not saying everyone needs to, but here are some of the reasons that stand out for me personally.
Service design thinking tools and methods could help me by:
Giving me the tools I need to increase productivity. This includes my own and others that I work with. Actually, we need to increase our national productivity if we want to compete internationally.
Giving me a competitive edge in a world characterised by increasing change. This applies personally as well as in terms of my organisation.
Allowing me to embrace the increasing rate of change in the worlds of education and business and actually gain some leverage off this in my own work. If you’re about the status quo and business as usual then service design thinking is not for you.
Helping me deal with the negative aspects of an educational culture characterised by “she’ll be right” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Helping me learn how to recover effectively and quickly from adverse circumstances. This is a tricky one. No one wants to fail. But it has to be a given that in a world characterised by increasing change that we’ll all fail more frequently.
A little while back I did a short course through the University of Auckland’s executive education programme run through their business school.
It was called Service Design Thinking.
For me, it was interesting as it brought together a lot of things from the worlds of design, lean startup, business and entrepreneurship… but in the context of service delivery. For me this context is education.
What’s wrong with normal design thinking tools?
Nothing is actually wrong with the standard design thinking tools. I love all the tools and techniques used by designers. But I’ve struggled with some of the application in my own setting.
The workshop training helped clear some of this up for me. For example:
Tools and techniques from standard design thinking and user experience (UX) design are primarily for online and digital products. Designing and implementing an effective website is important as part of delivering a service in the 21st century, but a website needs to serve the needs of the customers. Or learners, in my case. And these learners are only interacting with the website (for e.g.) as part of their journey through a much larger service experience.
Tools and techniques from the lean startup movement grew out of a focus on companies building – primarily – products, not services. The Silicon Valley giants of technology started out as product-based companies, even though many have now evolved into service companies. An example would be Amazon. While they still have a major focus on products like books and other goods, a massive part of their business is web-related services. But this means that a lot of the wisdom out there on building a business relates to product-focused business development.
Things like education and health are not products at their core. We might purchase products along the way, but receiving an education or getting good health care is fundamentally a service. It’s not a thing.
I have nothing against the idea of product-ising services and service-ising products… I just want to make the observation that something like education is fundamentally a service. And as such, we need to treat it differently to if we were making widgets in a garage somewhere.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but these approaches are not neutral. Approaching design from a service design perspective alters the design process.
Thinking of education as a product or a service affects how we treat our learners.
A service is not a product
Here’s a question to ponder:
How are services different to products?
Here are some possible answers. These grew out of my workshop notes.
Services are intangible. You can’t hold them or see them. You can’t drop a service on your foot.
Products are tangible. They are physical things that you can touch and hold.
Services are harder to standardise. This is because services rely on human beings more often than not.
Products are easier to standardise. This is where production lines and quality assurance processes kick in.
Services are co-produced when delivered or consumed. Services are sold, produced and consumed all at the same time. A service is a kind of eco-system. In other words, it’s a whole string of elements that make up the whole. And you have to look at the whole to make sense of it.
Products are produced, sold and consumed at separate times. You can break the process down and examine each of the linear components.
A further question to ponder:
What are the results of treating education as a product as opposed to a service?