Better by Design Academy

Day 1: 11th December – Exploring

We hope you enjoyed Day 1 of the Better by Design Academy.  The series of slide packs, background articles and a list of further references that are aimed at supporting and reinforcing what we covered on the day can be found below.

To recap, Day 1 was the first in our four-phase ‘Framework for Learning’, where the focus was on ‘Exploring’. We know that for design approaches to embed and sustain, organisational cultures need to be welcoming of exploratory, uncertain and relationship-led approaches. It’s a leadership task in itself to develop these cultures while continuing to focus on ‘keeping the lights on’ and maintaining delivery in challenging times. Therefore, Day 1 focused on Design-Led Leadership and introduced tools and frameworks to help navigate through this array of challenges.

Following a brief introduction to the Better by Design Programme itself, we considered some of the fundamental principles of the application of design in our shared context – people and services. We introduced some mindsets and techniques that we are using in Better by Design and we worked together to build a model of an alternative future in which inequality was reduced using our newly adopted Horizon Thinking skills!

In the latter part of the day, we began to look at how cultures in organisations can affect behaviours and how such patterns might become more discernable. Finally, we shifted the emphasis firmly to Design-Led Leadership and looked at how we might think differently about the complexity we are faced with in our everyday challenges and how people respond differently to these challenges depending on individual ‘action-logics’.


  1. Day 1 Slide Pack – the pack used throughout the day. –  Day 1 Slides
  2. Three Horizons Slide Pack – the set of slides used by Tony Hodgson. – Three Horizons Slides
  3. Journal of Futures Studies article on Three Horizons Thinking. – 3 Horizons Thinking
  4. Harvard Business Review article on Seven Transformations of Leadership. – Seven Transformations of Leadeship HBR


Restarting Britain 2, Design and Public Services, Design Council Report

Design Council, Leading Business by Design

Lucy Kimbell, The Social Design Methods Menu

Daniela Sangiorgi & Anna Meroni, Design for Services

 Andy Polaine, Service Design: From Insight to Implementation

Joyce Yee, Emma Jefferies and Lauren Tan, Design Transitions

Day 2:  14th January  – Sense making

On Day 2 we looked at sources of insight – quantitative and qualitative – and how to look for patterns and make meaning from data and experience.  We highlighted the importance of empathy in a human-centred design process in which we look to uncover previously unspoken or unidentified wants and needs.  We are looking to make empathy a ‘mental habit‘ and ‘cultural value‘ so that we continually put people at the heart of our services.  You’ll find attached a good short article from IDEO, world leaders in human-centred design, that describes the importance of empathy.

Neil Mackin from Capita joined us and without any apology for being a data geek, talked us through some insights that he has derived from analysis of a range of complex social problems and showed us that the numbers can tell stories too.  With willing volunteers from Citizens Advice and Rights Fife (CARF) he mapped out the information available in the organisations and some of the questions and insights that some analysis might unfold.

In the afternoon, Hazel White introduced Affinity Mapping, a method for identifying themes and patterns in multiple data points, and facilitated a session to enable everyone to practice the technique based on the information we had taken from the morning’s presentation.


Neil Mackin  – NM for Design Academy 2015-01 v3

Hazel White – Sensemaking-HW



Day 3: 11th February  – Synthesising 

As you will recall, on Day 3 we looked at the creative design process and used the analogy of a creative rollercoaster to describe the process of getting people on board and then plunging into the unknown before coming back up the other side having developed something genuinely new (be it a new product, service or network) and also having gone through a learning process.

We talked about the tendency to stick with what’s known – what we might call the ‘comfort zone’.  We also discussed the leadership role in getting people on board, creating a safe space for exploration and creativity, and encouraging people to step out of the comfort zone by asking good questions.

We explored current challenges facing us all and identified a number of themes.

Then we came up with a question that we could all play with to start some different conversations and gather some fresh perspectives and insights.

With thanks to Paul Fagan, here is a picture of Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, pictured alongside his wife, Mary.

In a key scene from the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, Clarence Odbody (George’s guardian angel) asks George, ‘What would the life of others have been like without you?”  Then Clarence goes on to show George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would have been if he had never been born.

So, we hope you have had a chance to get out of your own comfort zones and plunge into the unknown through asking a similar question of your colleagues and acquaintances…“what would life for people be like if we weren’t here?”  By playing with this question we hope you will be able to gather some fresh perspectives and insights that connect with the themes that emerge from the challenges currently facing us.
Our aim on Day 4 is to finish on a high!  We would like to ‘help’ you to use the fresh insights and perspectives that you will bring to inspire and underpin a design challenge.  With the full array of tools and techniques that have been introduced through the Better by Design Programme at our disposal, we will work collaboratively to develop our new thinking into new ideas and opportunities that may even have a lifespan beyond the Academy experience
Day 3 slides


Day 4: 12th March – Codifying

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s