You go to a restaurant. Order everything on the menu, because you don’t know what’s good. Taste everything. And pay only for what you like. Doesn’t sound reasonable, does it?

In the world of public tenders, especially for ambiguous topics, such as design, this appears to be common practice. Often these tenders expect participants to do a lot of the creative work, for free, just to see if the buyer likes it. “The tenderer submits a concept of the creative solution, which includes five creative examples and visualisations”, “the task of the test is to create a new design for an existing voter application” while “the payment for a fee [for the work] is not justified.” These are real quotes in response to payment queries held in the Public Procurement Register during the past few weeks.

Man eating many courses and paying just for coffee

There are multiple reasons why this is wrong

Firstly, it is unethical. You cannot ask someone to do a job for free in the hope that, if you like it, you’ll pay them. In any case, all the other participants will be left with incurred costs and nothing to show for it. A lot of effort is just wasted. In the current crisis situation, where governments have promised to support companies and professionals, who because of the lock-down may not even be able to exercise their profession, asking for free spec work is plain cynical.

Secondly, there are no winners in this game. How can you compare the quality between paid and free work? Often, public procurements tend to be very bureaucratic and full of demands, that are neither negotiable nor very clear. The result is that participants are required to invest even more time to read between the lines and find additional information, to understand the actual needs and goals of the procurement. If this is unpaid work, the motivation to really get it right is limited.

Thirdly, the “let’s see what we like” approach to judging just the visualised drafts combined with the least expensive bid, often finally leads to a poor solution. What looks “wow” often doesn’t work very well and is a recipe for bad results. Designers will invest as little effort as possible to win the tender, not to do the work right. The customer will end up with a mediocre solution that was bought by ticking all the right boxes, but doesn’t compare at all to having done things the right way. At the end, everyone loses. The buyer loses. The tenderer loses. And the tax payer loses. Which is all of us.

However, complaining is easy so we decided to see, if we could fix this problem

During the Global Hack a small team from Brand Manual worked on a solution for this and created Tenderly. Tenderly helps procurers (whether they be public or private sector) to really think through the whole tender. With the support of helpful questions, they describe the actual problem to be solved and the context, in which it exists, the needs and pains of the target group and tangible deliverables they expect.

tender generator user interface

Based on this, Tenderly helps them set up the right requirements, the design team competencies they need to have for the project, relevant references of the team and the previous experience to look for. Tenderly also guides them through setting up the evaluation criteria so that they can have confidence in the results, that the best proposal wins and that the team behind it really can do the job. No more evaluations on price alone.

For the tenderers, Tenderly provides them a detailed design brief that includes relevant background and contextual information, describes the actual problem to be solved, the needs, pains and what they are expected to deliver, in the end. It helps them “tick the boxes” so that they know, whether they even qualify without making them do unnecessary spec work.

Tender generator user interface

By making tenders transparent with the help of clear evaluation criteria, basing them on team competencies and methodology, Tenderly helps both procurers and tenderers get the right job done right. With fair compensation.

The reason most products are alike is that they are the first thing that came to someone’s mind.

Or in some cases the second or third thing, which is invariably still a variation on the theme of the first thing. This is why most cars look broadly alike, most ads on TV (if you still watch that kind of thing) feature a product and a price, and why all our smartphones are slick rectangular slabs.

Now, you might argue that this is because it is an established product (or service). That it is a standard and that deviating from that standard would make it unrecognisable for the customer and therefore a flop. Consequently, the logic goes, developing a product or service that in broad terms is exactly like that of the competitor, is a safe and brilliant idea. After all, why stick out in the market place?

Don’t stop at 1-2-3

Developing a new idea, one that is not just a variation on the same theme but really new, requires you to force yourself to iterate. To not stop when it is comfortable, but to keep going until you are in uncharted territory. This is hard, but rewarding.

Try this exercise

It is called crazy 8’s and we’ve run this in all kinds of workshops with all kinds of people. Take a piece of paper, fold it three times in half and you end up with 8 rectangles. In the first draw and apple. In the second draw a completely different apple. In the third an apple that is different from the first and second one and so on. What this exercise clearly demonstrates is that everyone’s first apple is exactly the same. The second is a variation on the theme and so is the third one. By the fourth rectangle people are generally running out of good ideas of how to draw an apple and start clutching at straws. By drawing a pack of apple juice instead. And then the floodgates of ideas hit them as they realise, it is also possible to draw apple pies, apple trees, apples seeds, happy worms in apples, I love NY symbols and computer company logos.




The thing is, that not everyone can do this the first time. It requires you to be fairly comfortable thinking laterally about things, not just literally. Working in a group with critical colleagues, it requires real courage to zig when everyone else is only zagging. Within a real brainstorming session inside an organisation, when you have only two hours to come up with new ideas, where you have to be “creative”, it might just be impossible to stick your neck out with an abstract concept when everyone else is sticking to safe and proposing a new and better colour for the shoes, that will really make them stick out in the sneaker category.

Forcing yourself, and your organisation, to really iterate and develop a theme until it is only connected in thought to the initial concept, is difficult. However, as the crazy 8’s exercise clearly demonstrates, if you don’t iterate further, then all you’ll do is end up in exactly the same place as your competitors. Because they didn’t push ideas further either, and came up with the same variation of theme as you did.

Same shit, different channel

Playing it safe is the least safe game you can play. While inside your organisation, it affords you the comfort of not sticking out, in the market place the safe play will disappear on the shelf with all the other safe bets. Consequently, since nothing is really sticking out and making a difference, a lot of effort and finances will be spent on advertising the same-old-same-old product in a new and creative but still safe manner of showing the product at a discounted price, making the only thing that is unique about the product how cheap it is.

Since cheap products cannot be really good products (or services), then you need to sell more and more, which drives consumption but in the end creates very little lasting value for anyone. Which will inevitably lead to another “product innovation workshop” where you have to be even more creative to come up with the next new exactly the same product as your competitor, but now in a nicer package.

Out of more than 100 entries, 5 awards were given this year.

This was also the 5th year for the service design award. The work, as usual, spanned the breadth of business and public services as well as student work. Unlike creative awards, where the jury changes from year to year, the service design award jury has been semi-stable, with some members having judged work for all five years. This has allowed the jury to maintain a standard that includes raising the bar each and every year.

Reading through a hundred business cases is time consuming. Each one is a minimum of 5 pages long + illustrative materials. However, it does provide a very good overview of the development of service design over the past five years. In general, the work has become more focused and rooted in deliverables over process. There is now less worry over journey maps and personas and more stress given to tangible results.

The winners this year all exhibited depth. Proper research was a hallmark of all 5 submissions, which resulted in robust services that not only deliver on the research insights, but also make sense to the organisation as a whole. After all, staff buy-in is crucial for any new service to actually become part of the organisations DNA.

The jury chairman this year was Margus from Brand Manual. Below are his comments introducing the winners at the award ceremony in Toronto, on October 10th.

The best commercial project award this year went to

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UC Design School, Brandbook and SurAndina Consultores

for their work for

Caja de Compensación Caja Los Andes

Compensation Funds are private non-profit organizations of the Chilean Social Security System. Its purpose is to deliver benefits in the form of social benefits, financial products, deals related to health and education, and to manage state legal benefits. Companies join them free of charge, and their collaborators become affiliates who have access to the benefits offered. This project was developed with Chile’s most prominent company in the industry, which serves more than 4 million affiliates.

“This project achieved profound change within several different areas. Affiliate satisfaction increased, customer wait times were reduced drastically, abandonment rates dropped and payments turned from being largely cash based to becoming almost only digital. On top of that, the organisation changed and is able to maintain this level of customer involvement and centricity on its own.”

The award for innovative combination of technology and service design went to

Screenshot 2019-10-17 at 15.36.43


for their work for
Mandatum Life

This case is an illustration proving how machine learning models can seamlessly support the work of service designers and successfully forecast the business impact of specific design efforts. This understanding can be used when making decisions on where to invest.

“Original application and integration of machine learning / AI to the human-centred design process. The business impact of this marriage of technology and empathy impacted the business both inside and outside, achieving the necessary staff buy-in to deliver a superior customer experience throughout all the user touch-points.”

The award for lean approach to service design and prototyping went to

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Laboratoria Mobiele Alternativen / Twisted Studio

for their work for

Netwerk Duurzame Mobiliteit / Komimo

Laboratoria Mobiele Alternatieven is a co-creative design process developed to find cheap and simple solutions with great impact on local mobility issues.

“Service design doesn’t have to be expensive and extensive. LaMa proves that quick iterations with a hands-on, low profile approach that is quickly integrated and used by actual users can rapidly deliver innovation, buy-in and results in real-life situations.”

The award for application of service design to information transfer went to

Screenshot 2019-10-17 at 15.36.12

Good Innovation

for their work Lift the Lid for the

Alzheimer’s Society

The project was initiated to help the charity achieve its vision is to create a society where those affected by dementia are supported and able to live without prejudice.

“Service design is an effective methodology to tackle complex and sensitive tasks. In developing Lift the Lid, the team tackled a subject that has been considered taboo, helping the staff of care homes talk about and re-evaluate their own behaviour about intimacy and sex of their wards suffering from dementia.”

The award for best student project went to

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Ida Christine Opsahl, Julie Nyjordet Rossvoll and Nora Pincus Gjertsen
National Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

for their work to improve women’s maternal healthcare services in Nepal for

Green Tara Nepal

This service design project was conducted as a master thesis project for three design students. The project concerned using service design to improve women’s maternal health in rural Nepal and resulted in a new health service co-developed with users and field experts.

“Tackling a complicated subject in a challenging atmosphere, this student project demonstrates maturity and sensitivity in designing a sustainable and low-fi method to improving post-natal care in a rural environment. Taking into consideration both cultural sensitivities and the needs of the mother and baby, this project’s output can demonstrably improve people’s lives.”

You can read more about the other finalists here.

The annual service design global conference provides an opportunity to reflect on how service design is applied in the real world.

With case-studies from all over, you get an understanding of how the discipline is developing as well as what the challenges are for getting human centred design embedded in organisations.

Zachary Jean Paradis from Sapient provided some very important statistics to frame the whole conference:
– 89% of businesses expect to compete mostly on the basis of the customer experience by 2016 (Gartner Leadership Survey 2015)
– 60% of customers have higher expectations of customer service than they did just a year ago (Global Multichannel Customer Service Report 2015)
– 49% of customers reported switching brands due to a poor experience (Customer experience ROI study, Watermark 2015)
yet only
– 1% of brands excel in their customer experience, according to their customers
(Forrester CXI 2017)

The last figure quite clearly demonstrates, that there is room for improvement of the customer experience.

Technology came up often in different speeches. A very important observation was provided by Fjord stating that design will be critical to unlocking the transformative potential of technology because while technology changes fast, people really don’t. And, as things accelerate and technology becomes more and more ubiquitous and intelligent, we have to start teaching technology to understand humans instead of humans technology.

An excellent example of the problems with technology that is integrated into everyday human activities, is the fact that people keep rear-ending self-driving cars. It means, that the machines are behaving in a way that is unpredictable to people and it is having real-life consequences. Similarly, machine learning systems tend to amplify human biases, which can have radical consequences in, for instance, hiring and diversity initiatives.


The constant tug-of-war between operations and customer experience was also illustrated. There is a permanent conflict between the need to optimise and cut costs and the need to improve the customer experience, which can feel like adding costs. As long as companies are organised into departments that have (somewhat) conflicting goals and the customer is not at the centre of everything the organisation does, this will keep reinforcing the statistic from the top of this article. As Reed Hastings from Netflix succinctly put it, “Process brings seductively strong near-term outcomes.”

The role of the human in organisations was touched upon by Stefan Moritz from Veryday. He noted that 72% of people were not engaged at work which leads to 25% loss of productivity. He noted, that there are four barriers that keep organisation from becoming more employee and customer centric:
1) Complacency silos: Stuck in silos with a lack of urgency because business is still good enough not to change.
2) Human resources: Industrial and utilitarian view of workforce as assets creates disconnect with employee needs.
3) Old job mindset: Artificial boundaries of one career, rigid hierarchies and separation of work and home are no longer valid.
4) Getting stuck: Skill needs keep evolving, creating anxiety and confusion.

We are in the age of digitisation and automation and as it becomes all pervasive we will have to move into the age of humanisation, where human potential is the focus.

Alberta Soranzo framed the above observations slightly differently, within the flawed context of “human resources”. She said that there are two different theories about people and work and that theory X presumes that:
– People are a cost to be monitored and controlled
– Work should be highly segmented by expertise
– Technology should be used to control human behaviour and minimise human error

while theory Y assumes that
– People can be self-motivated and self-controlled
– The more people understand about the systems they work in, the better they can do
– Conditions can be created that will cause people to seek responsibility
– People can enjoy work.

The above cause and effect is best summed up by a quote from Dana Chisnell who said, “When people don’t understand how their own organisation works, they’ll back themselves into a corner and not participate in improvements.”

One aspect, that all speakers and workshops had in common, however, was the need to make sure that the team that learns what people have problems with in a service, are also the people that need to develop the solution. The cases describing failures in service design almost always feature a disconnect between strategy and execution. Simply put, they try to achieve different results by doing things the same way they use to do. Which Albert Einstein observed, is a form of madness.

Fair use,

United Press, Arthur Sasse