Competition and Schools

I’m sympathetic to the argument that introducing some form of competition to public schools could be beneficial. However, in practice, I don’t see it as the panacea that many do. The main issue for me is that businesses are able to make choices that aren’t open to schools. For example, if a business is unable to compete in a locale, it can choose not to and open an office somewhere else. Or, if a customer group is unprofitable, the business can target that segment for a price increase. These options are not open to public schools.

A Letter to the Editor in today’s Wall Street Journal also made a highly illustrative point:

As a public school teacher, I often muse that if my school ever operated as a business, I would be allowed to return inferior raw materials to their place of origin.

Service Design

I’ve been doing a bunch of research into service marketing issues and today I came across what seems to be a new field. Designers are applying their product design skills into the services realm. The Copenhagen Institute of Design defines Service Design as:

[An] emerging field focused on the creation of well thought through experiences using a combination of intangible and tangible mediums…Service design as a practice generally results in the design of systems and processes aimed at providing a holistic service to the user. This cross-disciplinary practice combines numerous skills in design, management and process engineering.

At the Service Design Symposium in Copenhagen this past March, a British company called Engine gave a presentation which included these 12 tips:

1. Be use-centric: Always view the situation from your customer’s perspective
2. Have principles: Innovate within a robust creative framework
3. Co-design: Bring stakeholders into the heart of the process
4. Map journeys: Services happen over time, so explore them that way
5. Visualise: Bring ideas to life to engage and solicit input from those around you
6. Back stage: Innovate throughout the whole system
7. Design measurables: Ensure staff measures and incentives support a delightful customer experience
8. Everyone serves: Because everyone’s actions impact the customer’s experience
9. Prototype: Over and over and over and over and over again!
10. Evidence: Create tangible evidence of the service in action
11. Join the dots: Make the experiences as seamless as possible for the user
12. Work with designers: we don’t bit

Even if #12 is a bit self-serving, these are all good, if not necessarily that different from how you would approach any product design / marketing project.

From a business-to-business perspective, offering Evidence (#10) of the service you are providing is critical. It is particularly important when your end-users are different from the people who pay the bills. If a service organization can’t continually provide evidence of its value, it is going to have a hard time justifying its fees and retaining its customers