For this edition of FFS, we're delighted to be joined by service design & innovation specialist Marcus Kirsch.
If you're new to FFS, otherwise known as Futureheads Five Stories, this is a regular interview series where we speak to people who have interesting stories to tell.
And we couldn’t resist the acronym.
What’s the story of your career so far?
Curiosity hasn't killed the cat yet. Since coming over from Germany nearly 20 years ago, I have collected an eclectic mix of experiences in different industries and different sizes of projects and companies.
I started as 'sitting between the chairs' of technology and design. Back then I thought by 2005 every designer would be able to use code as a new tool. That never happened. So my career has been collecting different roles and titles that people gave me. The value of that experience has been to be able to put the right people together for the right reasons and be able to speak all sorts of design, business or technology languages. I like being able to solve problems by looking at human behaviour can be enabled through technology.
The bigger picture is that the current shift from an industrial revolution model to a deconstructed model (Derrida) or from System X to System Y is one that I am hoping to be able to contribute to that progress positively. People like Robert Townsend, ex-CEO of AVIS recognised the necessity and value of this 50 years ago. We better have some progress on that.
What advice would you give to yourself when you were starting?
Hard to say. That was about 20 years ago, and things looked very different. Startups weren't quite a thing, so it wasn't as easy to start a company, but I probably should have started earlier to create things that can become some business. I ended up with doing a lot of ideas for big companies, who weren't set up to carry innovative ideas. So most of them just died. The ones I did myself at least saw a launch and traction. I should have understood that capability of mine earlier, but I didn't have the network. I don't regret having gone through all the industries and seeing their pains close-up.
What do you love most about what you do?
Seeing the impact of what I do. This can be either in a project that launches, and people love, or people enjoying and understanding the value of a more human-centred approach in working. Having just come out of a big project, I have seen both. Great services that created massive business benefits and a new way of working that changed the way hundreds of people are working there now. It is all about context, and I like every challenge. I am just getting better at identifying the right timing. Not every company is ready for the right steps.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?
That enabling people is a better strategy than being the smartest person in the room. I was hired many many times for being the smartest person. People don't like that. Often people did not want to hear what I had to say. I found this very strange at the start. Now I know that most times, your clients won't know what they want, so going in and delivering a recipe rarely works. You can't drag a team kicking and screaming through a process either. This is why I have established an approach that asks more than it directs. It has a better chance of understanding the problem at hand. It also delivers better long-term value.
I am re-learning a lot of that through my daughter. You can't tell a child everything he/she has to do. They have to find it themselves. Otherwise, they will never get the confidence to function by themselves. Companies are like that. Every learning process is like that. That's what consultancies have been so bad at for many years, they just told their clients and then left. You need to build confidence and meaning.
Mind you the perceived problem is often different to the actual problem. You need to ask as many questions as someone's patience provides. Asking and supporting will turn your team into the best team it could be. I am a firm believer of System Y from Systems Thinking and a fan of the book "Turn the ship around!" by L.David Marquet. If the military tells you that top-down management doesn't create a good team, you better listen.
What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in our industry over the next twelve months?
Redefine what inclusion means. It is not just enough to be able to include different skillsets into our project processes; we need to open up and invite other practices to create a more holistic Service Design practice. There are probably half a dozen different languages and thinking worlds out there. Enterprise architects, systems designers, business designers, analysts, strategists. They are like Service Designers, all problem solvers, but we are all talking a different language and are measuring different things. It reminds me of when advertising encountered social media as a driver. We should all sit together and define a new map for problem-solving in business. Otherwise, we will disagree and fight for a seat at the table, which helps no one. I started forming a knowledge group of interested cross-disciplinary people. You are all happy to join by subscribing to my email list. A big part of this is finding better ways of measuring the impact of design.
A little bit more about Marcus
Marcus is a .com veteran with nearly two decades of award-winning, international and integrated strategy and technology project experience. A Royal College of Art alumni and ex-MIT Europe researcher, he has accumulated an eclectic mix of technology projects in the area of education, luxury, automotive, advertising, smart networks & IoT, telecoms, entertainment, healthcare and fintech. His clients include BMW, Natural History Museum, Nissan, Science Museum, Leo Burnett, Mitsubishi, P&G, Kraft, McDonald's, GSK, Guide Dogs, Telekom Italia, Patek Philippe and a variety of startups and SMEs.
He believes that the future is deconstructed, horizontal and inclusive.
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