What can we learn from computer science and biology?

Reuse of components implies reusability of their design. But design may not be readily reusable across markets, economies and societies which vary by type of government, social norms, and culture. This is true of manufactured goods, which is why models of cars are often specific to certain countries or regional blocs. It matters as much in services if not even more. Some service providers have footprints that span very different environments or theater of operations, for example as in the case of Lufthansa, Marriott, IBM and the US Army. How might they do a better job of adapting an existing service to a whole new environment. If we’re able to express design as a code, would it not be faster and cheaper for code from the design of a mobile payment service in India to be adapted into the design for providing healthcare in rural Montana? Reusing design code would be there is a ready library of software code, devices, interfaces, interactions, and performance data, also to be customized.

What’s important is that, much like software code, the design of services evolves with customer needs, and with advances in platforms, technologies, and business models. So, the question is, if software code can evolve like genetic code, can the design of a service be more like software code? Would it then be possible to code fragments of the design of one service, into that of another? Could there be a programming language for services?

Programmers are remarkably agile and productive in developing new solutions, partly because of reusable software objects in class libraries. Every object is an instance of a class and inherits the structure and behavior. Design at each level inherits properties from the previous higher level. This is very important in exploring the idea of service design in the form of reusable code.

We could learn from computer science. It should be possible to codify design to express it as a set of macro instructions executable by various layers of the service enterprise, to be able to modify it, reuse or repurpose it, by inserting it part or whole in the design of another service. Design should have flexibility and modularity in its structure.

Filed under: thoughts


TL;DR I can audit the design of a service to prevent or predict systemic failure, using a proprietary method called 16F I make intractable problems, tractable by reframing them. I then design solutions that won't create problems elsewhere, now or in the future. The solutions are in the form of services. I focus on system-level structures that give meaning and purpose to the design of lower-level constructs such as processes, interfaces, and interactions. I've spent the last 10 years obsessed with the questions: What are services? Why do they fail? Why do they exist? I'm now writing a book. Design is my dogma. Curiosity is my doctrine. Industrial engineering is my discipline. @mxiqbal

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