Selfishness is still stifling success

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Oli Taylor


July 14, 2020

Here at Absurd, we exist to ‘solve complex business problems’. So you’d assume that, given the number and different types of clients the team and I have worked on over the years (from huge corporations to charities) helping to solve business problems, we wouldn’t really see many common themes in the barriers businesses face when it comes to their digital transformation journeys.

But we do. And it’s still staggering that one of the most common business challenges we experience is the isolated focus across different business areas or departments within an organisation.

Despite there being so much talk in the industry about the negative effect of ‘silos’ we often see that this is still how many businesses are working. There remains a tendency for teams to be selfish about finding a solution to their challenges, without considering wider needs of a business or any implications.

But a service design approach tackles this head on. And it’s a big reason why our process is helping businesses to truly transform their operations and services. For us, to solve business problems research cannot sit in a siloed team. Great service design comes from strategists, designers and technologists working alongside stakeholders from all areas of the organisation, as well as with end users, to tackle the ‘problem’ from the start.

The whole ethos of our methodology is to think holistically across an organisation, meaning we bring people together from different areas of the business with the goal of aligning them on the overarching challenge(s). Through service design, we can then explore the dependencies across a service.

Traditionally, especially common in larger organisations, teams will identify and tackle problems that affect their own business area, e.g. a marketing team may be focusing on one challenge without even realising that another area of the business is looking to solve a similar problem. There can be a lot of overlap and wasted effort. Approaching things in this way may also mean that digital products are retrospectively ‘forced together’ between departments rather than having a fit for purpose solution for all from the start.

We aim to avoid ‘tunnel vision’, of addressing isolated issues, when there may be other elements which should be addressed first, which will then have a beneficial knock on effect, opening up further opportunities.

Only when we have viewed challenges from a holistic level, including end users, is when we can decide where to start, what to focus on, and in what order solutions should be addressed. By producing a service blueprint, we can visualise what the ‘ideal’ should look like; and show the business that if we did this here, then that could happen there. Or show that because this part of the service takes too long, we lose an opportunity there, so how do we go about speeding that up.

Added to this is that in many cases service design can deliver that ‘Einstein moment’; “if at first the idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it”. Bringing together stakeholders from all areas of the business can reveal some transformational opportunities – that simply wouldn’t have been unearthed by just working with one team or department.

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