Designcoding

Designcoding is a new approach to strategic design. It helps organizations encode and express strategy through the designs of services. Whether for development or for procurement the process is the same. It involves diving deep into a problem space and gathering input from multiple perspectives to solve a design puzzle. The output is in the form of a strategic narrative that also an executable script. Suitable for planning, organizing, and implementation by development and procurement teams. Early adopters including Fortune 500 firms and the Dutch government.

Good designs allow strategies to be bold and expansive, and yet not too costly to implement. Not just in terms of money, but also political, social, and environmental consequences. Doing more for less has always been important in sectors such as healthcare and government, but the pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in other sectors. Sudden shifts in demand patterns and new kinds of constraints can be crippling. If not a pandemic, it could be the passing of new legislation. Surface level improvements to user experience may be necessary but not sufficient.

Design is hard. It requires creativity, imagination, and critical reasoning, to reach new places and levels of understanding. Design thinking is hard. Moving around and arranging abstractions in your head. Assembling them into concepts that are clear, concise and complete enough for others to understand and interpret. For design to be instructive enough, with code-like qualities, so humans and machines can confidently make things happen, without fear, uncertainty, or doubt.

Services are performances and affordances producing outcomes that satisfy a set of customer needs. We design services to make it happen within windows of opportunity: Rectangles of time and space within which outcomes are most valuable for customers. Outside these windows the outcomes are worth less, if not entirely worthless. If outcomes are the ‘goods’, experience is the ‘packaging’. It should be simple, suitable, and frustration-free. The challenge is to produce better outcomes and experiences at lower costs.

Strategic design for services requires a different type of thinking. Services appear to be in all shapes and sizes, and there is complexity. But with a little bit of imagination, after abstracting away physical appearances, we can see services are simply contracts, based on a set of promises customers and service providers make. Who will do what, why and how, when and where. Without coercion or compulsion, conflict or contention. Strategic design is then about structuring these contracts so there is cooperation based on mutual benefits, dependency and trust.