I decided to read Pine and Gilmore’s The Experience Economy (1999/2011) because it was frequently cited in Peter Benz’s recent collection on Experience Design.
Here, Joseph Pine introducing the concept of economic progression, which is at the heart of the The Experience Economy:
This theory makes for an entertaining business anecdote — the other famous one in the book is the fact that people are very happy to pay €17 for an expresso to sit amidst St. Mark’s Square in Venice — but I question the underlying model of economic development. (Thank you, Mary Bryson and Erica McWilliam for helping me to learning to question taken for granted concepts like development.) Only towards the end of the text do Pine and Gilmore point to business models that are social- or value-driven rather than simply capitalist in focus.
Pine and Gilmore’s text has lots to offer service and experience designers who are developing service- and experience-based business models. In fact, in the later parts of the book, the authors present the idea of transformation-focused business. Orginally written at the turn of the 21st century, this book resonates with transformative learning theory, which was at the peak of its popularity around the same time.
Pine and Gilmore have a penchant for models built around 2×2 matrices, and they devote an early chapter to aspects of effective experience. Personally, I prefer Grimaldi’s adaptation of Desmet and Hekkert’s experience design framework because it is more flexible . Overall this book now seems a bit dated, having been surpassed by social innovation and the Internet of Things. What is lacking for me is serious critique. I found myself pining for Ian Bogost’s amazing essay “Welcome to Dataland” as I read Pine and Gilmore’s retelling of the history of Disney experience design.
The chapter I like the most is entitled “Performing to Form”, which makes the argument that workers can draw on four classic forms of theatre to craft and hone authentic workplace performances:
Pine and Gilmore spend a lot of time looking at improv and street theatre. There is no question that improv remains a popular method for business to respond to dynamic and emergent conditions. I’ve toyed with reading some of the more recent popular titles like Yes, And.. or Do Improvise, but would rather play with it as an experimental method to prototype service experiences. The most fascinating sections of the chapter were Pine and Gilmore’s analysis of street theatre, drawing extensively on Sallly Harrison-Pepper’s study of street performers in Washington Square, Drawing a Circle in the Square. The point they make is that regardless of where you work and what you do, we can all strive to cultivate performances adaptable yet thoroughly rehearsed.
What do street theatre or improv look like in you workplace?
Taken as a whole, this special issue contributes valuable and critical perspectives to the service design community.
Through conceptual and empirical studies of particular service design initiatives, the authors explore a range of important questions that service designers worldwide are facing:
How can an anthropological view of service practices usefully inform conceptions of co-design and co-production? (Blomberg and Darrah, 2015)
How do “organizational design legacies” frame and impact the kinds of change outcomes that service design can and cannot produce? (Junginger, 2015)
How might service design unpack place-making to understand community? (Predville, 2015)
What conditions and relations impact the success of experience-based co-design in the public sector? (Donetto et. al, 2015)
How do “fragile relations” amongst partners in cross-organization and cross-sectoral service network impact service design initiatives? (Hyvärinen, Lee, and Mattelmäki, 2015)
How can local service design initiatives scale across large geographical areas (Morelli 2015)
What stood out for me as I was reading these papers was the need for service designers to address power relation amongst partners and stakeholders at the outset of any service design initiatives. I was reminded of Wenger-Trayner et. al‘s call for system convenors to carefully design early interactions amongst networks of collaborators and to openly address power differentials. The papers that stood out most to me were Blomberg and Darrah’s exploration of what anthropology can offer service design, Junginger’s analysis of how existing organizational design practices (however tacit) shape and in some cases thwart service design initiatives, and Moretti’s case studies on how service design initiatives can scale.
Hyvärinen, Lee, and Mattelmäki’s exploration of “fragile relations” offers useful ideas for public sector partnerships with private sector organizations. What sticks with me is the idea that the bureaucracy of the public sector inhibits progress in complex service design initiatives and colours other participants perceptions of whether an initiative might succeed.
Morelli (2015) makes the point that the measure of a service design network at scale is not the number of users who engage with a platform but rather the number of “circles” or communities it spawns. This insight is relevant in social learning circles as a way to figure out how best to measure an initiative’s impact at scale.
What this special issue reveals for me is the complexity of service design. Lauren Currie, Wim Rampen, Fabien Segelstrom and others on Twitter are absolute correct when they playfully commented recently that there is more to Service Design than workshops, touchpoints, or digital or even design. Indeed, I am left pondering how service design is also a field at the front end of systems and organizational change that extends learning and development beyond the scope of the individual or an organization, to systems concepts like communities and regions.
If buildings can learn (cf. Stuart Brand) and organizations can learn, then how can service networks and other assemblages learn as well?
Enough philosophizing. Get you hands on the special issue and share your observations and insights.
Kees Dorst’s Frame Innovation (2015) centres around a methodology and model for framing problems.
The most compelling part of this book were the varied case studies, which grounded the methods and principles underlying the model in concrete examples. Also, Dorst bases his method and model in empirical studies of expert designers and how they address problem situations.
Frame Innovation will interest service designers working in the public sector or with government because many of the problems that Dorst explores in frame innovation address problem situations in public spaces or in local government interactions with the public. For example, one example that surfaces multiple times in the text is the case of King’s Cross in Sydney, Australia, and how, through the project, the participants were able to reframe the situation from an entertainment district as a centre of crime to an entertainment district AS a music festival.
Watch Dorst explain this example in more detail:
Dorst shies away from prescribing processes. In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to a critique of rationality particularly in relation to problem-solving methodologies, and like Thomas Wendt and Dan Hill challenges rational-technical design thinking. The brainiac that I am, I loved Dorst’s detours into philosophy and into the difference between beginners and experts.
My takeaways from reading this book will be the nine-step model Dorst proposes, the particular propositional approach he suggest for describing paradoxes at the heart of complex design situations and potential frames. I am reminded of transformative learning theory (Mezirow et. al). If one successfully innovates the frame through which we or others experience a situation, how we see the situation may be radically transformed.
Note: Thanks to Thomas Wendt for recommending this book on Twitter.