The Design Puzzle

The designing of services requires the collective intelligence of many disciplines, and a dialogic process that makes the designs free of gaps and conflicts. But that is difficult because every discipline has its own way of thinking, because as John Kay says, they prefer to understand and interpret things through their own ‘best and most helpful’ models – ones that make them smart and efficient.

Therefore, to make the design process more inclusive, we should store designs in an open format, so everyone can read or write, analyze or interpret, and criticize or correct a design. Regardless of their function or discipline, training or education, culture or background.

A story format.

It is through stories that we best absorb arguments and make sense of a complex world. We prefer to tell stories than to use analytic models, and the best and most helpful models are, at their root, narratives.

~ John Kay

Design is for implementation. Therefore, to be suitable for ‘storing designs’, our stories should be like ‘scripts’. Clear, concise, and complete. They should have multiple threads, to avoid gaps and conflicts, woven together into a single coherent narrative.

The 32x Frame
The 32x frame is a design puzzle that organizes the 32 elements of design found in every service. It is an analytical method for synthesizing strategic narratives. Each narrative has 32 declarative statements, each describing a particular element of design. Teams implementing the strategy, interpret statements within their own context. The narratives are woven from eight story threads. Each thread has four statements describing a promise.

Solving the puzzle is kept difficult. It requires thinking at once from eight different perspectives. This forces collaboration and seeking of input from those who are normally not included in the design process. Every function and discipline has its own biases and blind spots. The dialogic process helps reduce and eliminate gaps and conflicts that later on cause the service to fail. Only upon completing puzzle do you get the full narrative. Think of this as “proof of work”.

Once the narrative is complete, it can be turned into an executable script through a process of annotation. The statements have fixed meaning (strategic design intent) but with room for interpretation to those who implement the script. Each statement gets its own page of commentary that includes principles, procedures, guidelines, and templates. The result is a document of approximately 40 pages that provides comprehensive guidance on strategy.

Johnson & Johnson is using this method to develop strategic designs for a new ecosystem of services that aims to accelerate clinical research and clinical care through adoption of digital measures. The designs are published as service protocols and define the basis for customers and suppliers engage each other. The Dutch Ministry of Defense uses 32x scripts for strategic planning and mission development. Each sentence of a narrative serves as high-level guidance for unit commanders. The government is also using the 32x method to create a new kind of document to be used by procurement teams during the market consultation stage. The aim is to develop a shared concept of a service with suppliers. Boeing has used the system and method to create new service concepts, from cloud computing to the design of workspaces that support a diverse workforce. UnitedHealthcare used the method to help an internal start up pivot towards a more sustainable business model.