This past Fall I had the unique opportunity to attend 4 conferences in 4 weeks! Friends thought I was crazy but I was thrilled for the chance to hear from esteemed colleagues around the world about their latest thinking on the current state of design… at least within these 4 quite distinct communities. The four conferences were UX Strat in Boulder Colorado, where I had the honor of being one of the speakers; FutureM and DMI Annual Conference both held in Boston; and finally the Service Design Network’s annual conference in Stockholm, Sweden. I have added links to the conference sites below.

The greatest buzz was at both the UX Strat Conference and the Service Design Network conferences. As User Experience matures and finds itself tasked with the design of multiple-channel experiences and additionally the connections between the digital and physical work so too is there a need to evolve and innovate the tools and techniques and skills required to keep pace with the rate of change. There was a palpable skepticism for all things Lean and Agile as designer-strategists continue to have trouble with the strategy-is-where-we-end-up methods of these development-led processes. It is clear that it will take some time for folks to recognize when is the right context to use one method or another.

The Service Design Network conference in Stockholm was a true eye-opener! Over 600 people from all over the world gathered to explore how we as designers can create value that improves quality of life. I think I may have met as many or more people who work at or run user experience agencies as I did service design agencies. It reflects the increasing blur between the two practices where many tools and methods are shared. “Customer Experience” was an often-used term by presenters looking to cross boundaries. I believe there are significant differences between the two practices, one being that service designers take a more holistic view of the experience and how it is delivered by focusing their activities on understanding both the customer and organizational context. There was little reference to lean or Agile methods here… it was not about this, but I imagine many are facing challenges of integrating these practices with the holistic approach to service design, which is naturally very strategic and research-driven. I explore this idea further in an article just published in the latest issue of Touchpoint, the Service Design Network magazine. (http://www.service-design-network.org/products-page/article/tp6-3p40/). I am waiting for someone to write the Lean Service Design book!

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