Innovators, read Michael Quinn Patton

At the urging of my friend and colleague Barb Berry, I recently read Michael Quinn Patton‘s book Developmental Evaluation.

It has been a long time since I have read a professional text with as engaging a style and tone.

What challenges me about Patton’s book is that it addresses evaluation work at a high level of sophistication. It assumes readers are capable evaluators and explores the practice of evaluation in a way that focuses on the why? rather than the how. True the book offers lists of possible evaluation frameworks and describes cases and examples of how complexity concepts may be applied by evaluators, their clients, and collaborators. But, even though I am a dabbler in the field of evaluation, I appreciated not being told what to do and rather being able to reason my way to what might work in a given situation.

The book has resonated as I have gone about my week observing an innovative program and offering just-in-time developmental feedback to the people involved. It has primed me to attend to the emergent, unanticipated outcomes and situations and the obstacles that they have created for people.

Patton’s book will resonate for anyone who is working to develop a social innovation. It persuades me that there is value for an insider/outsider evaluator on high stakes innovation programs. Patton’s book will appeal to innovators who are already inclined towards complexity, systems thinking, and other outside-in ecological ways of looking at growing a product, service or program. Cynefin practioners may appreciate Patton’s application of Snowden and Boone.

For pioneering service and strategy designers, developmental evaluation offers ways to evaluate the impact of service and strategy prototypes and innovations. If a future goal of service design agencies is to take service designs all the way to implementation and evaluation, developmental evaluation should feature on user research teams’ learning plan.

Service design and organizational change


I’m drawn to creative people and to organizations seeking to design systems and solutions, to implement them, and to effect change.

Through my work, I’ve become aware of the gaps between developing coherent strategy, a kernel, as Richard Rumelt suggests and the endless complexity of implementation. Without strong shared commitments, teams dissolve into coalitions, people reenact learned habits, and conversations turn prematurely to the IKEA-instruction sets of implementation.

Service Design: Insights from Nine Case Studies offers an interesting collection of service design project descriptions, methods and interviews surrounding a public transit service design initiative in Utrecht, Netherlands. A recurring theme in the collection is the challenge of achieving consensus and buy-in from stakeholder organizations, particularly in the early stages. Co-creation and visioning workshops were among the most successful ways of bringing people together and moving forward. Reading the project reports persuades me that leadership team coaching offers a powerful set of tools for facilitating collaboration amongst design firms, client organizations, people and users, and other stakeholders.

Planning demands that teams step out of time and context and park egos and agendas, at least momentarily, to envision shared futures.

As another example, Kronquist et. al describe the challenges of aligning all the factors to “go all the way” and implement service design innovation. To create an innovative pharmacy required significant commitments amongst the pharmacy brand, the individual pharmacy owner, and the employees and customers.

What are your insights about initiating successful service design collaborations?

Kanban (or how to manage email in 2014)

I’ve been exploring Kanban over the winter as part of my efforts to take control of my workload.

Kanban originates with the Toyota Manufacturing Systems. It is based on two simple principles:

  1. Visualize the work.
  2. Limit the work in progress.

What I find most valuable about Kanban is that it demands that you clarify what your work is, how it flows (or doesn’t), who informs your efforts, and who your efforts serve.  It might be going too far to suggest that Kanban enables co-creation, but at least it escapes the dominant logic of individual psychology in its propositions for enabling work.

Check out the books and tools I’ve been playing with on on my Pinterest board:
Follow David’s board Kanban on Pinterest.

My own experiments with Kanban has been somewhat tentative to date, partially because I operate independently in my day job, and my tasks are not as standardized as those in software development or manufacturing, where Kanban is widely used.

Can public sector services be ambidextrous like Apple?

Ian McCarthy posted a link to Ben Thompson’s interesting analysis What if Steve Ballmer Ran Apple?

As McCarthy points out strategic ambidexterity is a choice between short-term exploitation to maximize profit or longer-term exploration to create the future.

Strategy lessons in the technology sector can inform public-sector services. Organizations that aim to maximize and co-create value with clients and other stakeholders will have strong long-term prospects. The field of educational development, for example, wrestles with ambidexterity on a daily basis. Should one offer learning events that cut across an institution or should one dive deep into the situated mess of daily practices and look for ways to create value with communities in ways that matter most to people themselves over a longer time frame? These are wicked problems without easy answers, but, ultimately, I believe learning and development has better prospects if we situate ourselves with the clients we serve for the long haul.

12 books that can help you teach or plan better at a university or college

As the fall semester approaches here in North America, I wanted to share some of my favourite books on teaching and learning in higher education and course and program planning for anyone who is returning to campus in a few weeks.

Here are 12 or my favourite titles that I think could help you with your teaching or planning.

What is your favourite book on teaching and learning in higher education, or in business or management education?

Tools for Service Design

My consulting practice centres around User Experience Design (UX) and Service Design.

I’ve created a mural on to share my favorite resources on these area of practice. You are welcome to browse:

Here are three places your can start learning:

  1.  Service Design Network. This organization connect service designers from around the world.
  2. Smashing Magazine. The UX Design section of Smashing Magazine regularly features useful posts on user experience design approaches.
  3. Service Design Tools. This collection of communication tools demonstrates the many ways you might represent the system you are aiming to create.