A Live Google Session

I woke up Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, feeling off…very off. My throat was razor-blade sore and feeling achy. It also happened to be the day of my soon-to-be Godson’s Christening. Somehow I made it through the ceremony, but at the party afterwards it started to get worse. Now I have to tell you, at the party there were five moms from age 41 to 73; a Polish mom, a Belarusian mom, a French mom, a Polish-Russian mom, and an Anglo  mom. No joke.

“Chris you don’t look so good.” said the Anglo mom.

“I know.  Its my throat, and I feel awful.” I immediately felt five sets of eyes on me. My words had activated the mom-emergency-response-system. Looking at each mom, you could see the calculations being conducted, centuries of passed wisdom being accessed, and just a little bit of posturing.

“You maast shqueeze frrresh lemon wit equal shut-gar, and drrrik everrry hour,” said the Polish mom.

The Belarusian mom cut in, “No no no. You must cut lemons, dip in honey, and eat them.” This actually had to be translated by the Polish-Russian mom as she only spoke Russian.  Watching her explain this remedy was a bit disconcerting as she kept pointing at me and chopping.

“Gargle every 15 minutes with Listerine.  It’ll kill everything.  I swear by it!” said the French mom.

“Tea with lemon and honey.” said the Anglo mom.

On the plus side I received five remedies in two minutes flat. The downside was that I had five set of eyes all waiting for me to choose my “medicine”, potentially declaring one mom the winner. I slowly backed out of the kitchen, and crawled into the guest bed for a snooze.  I would not be taking sides at the moment.

As I was falling asleep I starting thinking that what I had just experienced was Google in action the last several thousands years. A small group of moms sharing, comparing and competing with remedies to keep their families and friends safe. And to be honest, this old fashioned “Google” was so much warmer than the online version.

And it reminds me that healing is a “touch experience”.  As we shoot for high tech solutions to keep us healthy through our tablets and smartphones, as drugs are mailed to our homes, and we conduct office visits by email, that part of the healing is another person putting a hand on your forehead, offering a gentle smile, and telling you its gonna be ok.

Which did I finally choose? The tea with lemon and honey of course.  For that was my mom who offered it up.

Oh Behave!

No, this is a not about Austin Powers. This is about the tiny little things that cause us to move through our days seamlessly.  They are our little patterns and rituals that make our complex lives seem almost mindless.  Here is how I get to the gym each morning:   I wake up at 4:45am.  I brush my teeth.  I put my gym clothes on. I drink protein.  If I do these four “things”, it is almost assured that I will get to the gym and have a great workout.  Forget one, and chances are I won’t make it to the gum. For me the final commitment that I am really doing this is the chugging of my protein drink.  One time I forgot, and halfway to the gym I turned the car around and went home back to go back to sleep.  What a powerful little sequence!

These little “things” I do are behaviors, and I spent the last 48 hours studying them with Behavior Design guru, BJ Fogg. (If you don’t know who he is, you should. ).  In his behavior bootcamp he gave me and my team a new lexicon to more precisely define, analyze and design.  For several years we used product design methods to solve our complex challenges, and it was a bit like trying to throw a baseball with big fat mittens on. The past two years, we incorporated service design techniques, and that moved us from mittens to gloves. My guess is that adding behavior design will allow the gloves to come off, and we’ll be able to throw the damn baseball with speed and efficiency.

Please don’t mistake this posting as a complaint with methods.  We learned the right things at the right time. Each layering of method, prepared us for the next deeper level.  But how exciting when you feel the clicks and sparks of connection. More to come on our behavior design journey….


Dr. Evil: Are those sharks with laser beams attached to their heads?
Scott Evil: [nods]
Dr. Evil: Cool! You mean that I actually have frickin’ sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their frickin’ heads?

The Play Bow

The Man of Play: Barry Kudrowitz
I had the good fortune to see Barry Kudrowitz share his insights on how play can/should influence every step of the design process. And the myriad of games that just might stimulate different phases of your work from Pictionary & Apples to Apple to Legos and Taboo, each triggers different (and happy) insights. Perhaps my favorite moment was his explanation and demonstration of the Canine play-bow. The play-bow is the playful pose that dogs use to invite other dogs for a rough and tumble play fight. Ass in air, front paws jetted straight out…which of course resembles a bow. And then the dogs are at it! Rolling, romping and……learning. Learning what works and what doesn’t in the very important function of a fight. Seeing a grown man demonstrate this on stage if far more hilarious… both ways, whether man or dog its fun to watch, and you can really feel the “playfulness” barrel through.

And THIS has everything to do with how we design new stuff, try new stuff and make new stuff stick. Being playful invites people to make mistakes, to roll around and tumble with new ideas, and to figure out how to make this important stuff work in important moments. Being playful and messy has been my teams mantra these past several weeks as several hospitals kickoff implementing some of our newest innovations. It’s amazing how disarming/charming being playful can be, morphing the painful process of “implementing a new system” to “tumbling to the finish line”. Which would you rather do?

Asses up, paws out!

Playful and Messy

Christine Richter and Chris McCarthy being playful and messy. 😉
Christine Richter and I just finished presenting a very special WebEx on KP’s innovative nurse shift change called Nurse Knowledge Exchange Plus (NKEplus). The format of the WebEx was a new feature of the Innovation Learning Network to help diffuse innovation across systems. This blog post is not about that, but about one question that really caught my attention:

“what special skills does your group bring to implementation? Meaning what would we be missing if we tried to implement without you?”

The answer is “being playful and messy”. Too often when implementing new stuff, the “serious factor” rises exponentially. There is pervading sense that all must go right and tolerance for the imperfection plummets. And this is exactly what we combat when we implement new ideas. We try to help the end user and management take on a playful and messy attitude. Get them to smile, laugh and stumble….laugh again, and get it a little more right. Official permission for playfulness goes a long way: stress is reduced, and users become more perfect, faster.
So give it at try. You will be amazed at the serious results from being truly playful.

(and smile).

For those of you interested in implementing NKEplus you can signup and get more info here: http://goo.gl/FhwW8

Don’t Forget the Humans

Last fall, my partner in crime, Christi Zuber and I had the opportunity to present on why we think human-centered design is so important…and so huge for healthcare. In an amazing event designed by Adaptive Path, UX Week took many of us on a journey of exploration, from comics to starships and behavior to dancing. I loved that the organizers made the week theme-less; instead they focused on bringing together cool, inspiring stuff.

Since the conference I’ve received several emails sharing that the video was an excellent “intro to HCD” for their organization. Although it was certainly not designed for that purpose I am thrilled it is finding a second life.

In any case, here is the video in its entirety…thanks to the folks at Adaptive Path (and you can get the Transcripts here).

I Heart Guardrails


What am I working on? Or what is the design challenge? For the uninitiated these may seem like silly questions. But rarely is a design challenge crystal clear. More often than not, it’s murky at best. It is the role of the designer to clarify, and point the way to opportunities where there didn’t seem any before. And the final phrasing of the design challenge is perhaps one of the most important elements especially if you are co-designing (more on that in another posting). Take for example a recent challenge that I was asked to pose for the Service Design Network Drinks night. My friend Jamin Hegeman hosts this informal monthly gathering. He asked if I could bring a healthcare challenge to the group.

The challenge I brought was one recently posed by the Innovation Learning Network, “non-healthcare provided healthcare”. We gave a few personas to help focus the drinkers, but did not provide much more guidance. From my sequestered healthcare life the challenge seemed obvious. However the group used the challenge to launch into all sorts of crazy and exciting areas from senior adventure tours and dementia television to church-based care and tech-enabled homes. All incredible stuff, however I was looking for their exploration of “off loading” the healthcare basic from the current healthcare system to non-healthcare systems. And THAT was the guardrail I did not provide.

The guard rail is the design constraint. Although called a constraint, I tend to see them as liberating. They reduce the universe to a galaxy to a star system of ideas. Most business leaders don’t want a universe of solutions, but something closer to the realm of the problem. It’s a delicate balance though. Too many guardrails and you will end up with known mediocrity. Too few and you won’t solve the problem. Guard rails need to be as carefully vetted as the design challenge itself.

So if I could do it again?

“How might we offload some of the basics of healthcare such as the basic office visit to non-healthcare industries?”

Of course the senior adventure travels might have not been born.

The Rise of Service Design

This title is a rip off of a panel I was on a month ago hosted by AIGA-SF; and seriously I could not think of a better title. All indicators are indeed pointing to its rise. It seems every design firm is retooling to offer it, entire consultancies are built around it, and everyone is talking about it. And this is a very good thing. “It” has been around for a long time, but most of us never knew what to call it. Its rise is giving it a name, language, tools and methods. It is even giving us jobs…and dare I say a culture?!

Friday I got to swirl in this world with some of the best and brightest in the field at the Service Design Network conference in Cambridge. It was amazing day that started out with Oliver King (Engine Service Design) who led us through some of the fundamentals. It was one of the talks where you have several mind bending “aha! Yeah that’s what I’ve been thinking!!” and concluded with Mark Jones from IDEO who gave us a compelling understanding of what attracts us to this “hairy” line of work.

Here are a few sources of service design knowledge:
Service Design Network
Hugh Dubberly
Service Design Tools
Shelly Evenson

Where do you think service design is taking us? What are your sources, tools or techniques?

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