Thursday, October 13, 2011

Allowing your customers to codesign your services

Crowdsourcing often seems to be a high stress area for organisations, who fear what might happen if they allowed their users to design their products and services.

However what is often forgotten is that it's not about handing over the design process, it is about sharing it as a codesign process - combining the brain power of a few internal or contracted specialist designers who don't necessarily use your products or services with the brain power of thousands of non-specialists who use or interact with your products and services, often on a regular basis.

A good example of this process was recently discussed in Inc., where Fiat crowd sourced the design of its 2009 concept car, the Fiat Mio.

The main part of this process was conducted in Spanish (as Fiat is Brazilian based), and while I watched it occur at the time, there was only a limited subset of the conversation in English.

However Fiat ended up involving people from 160 countries - taking on board over 10,000 suggestions.  The website about the making of the car provides more information on how Fiat went about integrating these suggestions.

The concept car won widespread critical acclaim. 

This isn't the only approach possible, and the article in Inc, Letting Your Customers Design Your Products, describes five different types of crowd sourcing:
  • Crowdfunding: Sites such as Kickstarter that allow an individual or enterprise to receive funding.
  • Distributed knowledge: The aggregation of data and information from a variety of sources.
  • Cloud labor: Leveraging a virtual labor pool.
  • Collective creativity: Tapping "creative" communities for user-generated art, media or content.
  • Open innovation: The use of outside resources to generate new ideas and company processes.
 How many of these could your agency benefit from?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Craig

    I definitely agree with you that codesigning services with users is something that government departments and agencies should do a lot more of.

    I’ve had some really good experiences recently with commissioning user experience testing and information architecture professionals to run workshops with target users for a website we’re redeveloping. By giving our intended service users a say in the design process and letting them become part of the show I think we’ve greatly improved our chances of delivering a high quality service.

    While committing to a user centred or codesign approach can take time and money to do properly, it can save you money in the long run. Codesigning services with citizens lets government determine which service features are must haves, which are nice to haves, and which features users don’t actually want or need at all.

    In a perfect world every government service would be codesigned from the outset. But I think there’s lots of low hanging fruit to be found by introducing codesign to new parts of the health and education systems that are in need of fresh approaches.

    Department of Human Services appear to be one of the leaders in the field within the Australian Public Service. This document explains their approach

    Another great resource for thinking about codesign is Tim O’Reilly’s manifesto on Government-as-a-Platform.

    My favourite quote from it: “This is the right way to frame the question of Government 2.0. How does government become an open platform that allows people inside and outside government to innovate? How do you design a system in which all of the outcomes aren’t specified beforehand, but instead evolve through interactions between government and its citizens, as a service provider enabling its user community?”

    You can read the full version here



Bookmark and Share