A weeknote, starting Monday 15 May 2023

Paul Moran
5 min readMay 20, 2023

I’m definitely not at the leading edge of AI developments although I’ve had a small play with a couple of the models. I’m currently a bit overwhelmed by what I see in my social feeds of all of the types of AI model and all of the hot takes on what they could mean for jobs, education, creativity and more. This reflection by Samantha Osys on the need for ethics in design decisions and the challenges of understanding biases in models and their impact on users feels important. It also pairs well with the 14th principle of good services from Lou Downe: Clearly explain why a decision has been made.

It was interesting to then read this article about using AI to deal with the ‘digital heap’ of unorganised and unstructured data in government followed by this from Tom Read (CEO of Government Digital Service) which includes the recognition that technology has limits and there challenges are broader:

The problem is, technology can only go so far. In government, as in most sectors, the real work is on service design: fundamentally redesigning business processes to be human-centred, efficient, and data-driven. This is a whole organisation problem and needs sustained leadership vision and energy at all levels.

With that context, it’s really great to see the new multidisciplinary Policy to Delivery course landing with real impact. Having seen the curriculum which is delivered by local subject matter experts in a department I’m sure it’s going to help level up skills across government.

Added to that the inclusion of sustainability in the NHS digital design principles is a step towards embedding broader systems thinking into day to day design activities. This brought to mind the free United Nations Digital4Sustainability learning path I spotted a couple of weeks ago.

I like this thoughtful expansion of thinking on effort v value by John Cutler. It’s a simple visual for thinking about when the value is delivered is for different features and the characteristics of things that would follow those paths. Seeing the differences and potential similarities between the paths would make an interesting discussion point during prioritisation conversations.

I read Emma Parnell’s reflections on entry routes into service design with a lot of interest. I recognise the need for hiring managers like myself to provide routes for people to find a way in to the profession and Emma nicely describes some of those opportunities. The exploration of the current consultancy model and how junior staff are used in projects is interesting. Not just because I’ve seen it in practice but also because of how she breaks down the effects.

I really hope I can make the next edition of the Service Designers Connect meet-up in Nottingham on Thursday 27 July which is going to explore Lego Serious Play. This week we focused on accessibility with a series of lightning talks, my biased favourite coming from Nichole Browne talking about her work establishing empathy labs in different organisations, including her work at DVSA where she started work which has led to an accessibility community in excess of 60 people across the organisation. I have so much to learn in that space but working with people with skill and expertise in the topic gives me confidence we have a positive impact for users of our services.

It was useful to see this post on design leadership by Andy Polaine again this week. I had a couple of conversations talking about this exact point and also reflecting on my own journey. Hiring great people who’ve turbo charged the team means I can focus time on other issues but they often take me further away from the day to day craft.

So, prior to that event on Thursday evening I enjoyed an impromptu whiteboard session in the office helping structure some thinking around an important topic. It was nice to be back in front of a physical whiteboard after spending the whole of an exhausting Wednesday in back to back video calls. It gave me a change of pace and a chance to have an impact in a more personal way which gave a good counterbalance to all of the screen time.

And the week ended with a good chat about service blueprinting with a team planning some ambitious training across their organisation. Initial contact was prompted by them finding my couple of blog posts on the subject from 2017/18:

It was good to spend a bit of time talking round the benefits we’ve seen of using this particular tool – alignment of teams, providing a framework for facilitating discussions about a service, building understanding of what goes into delivering a full end to end service, and plenty more besides…

It comes with challenges for using it effectively but it’s one of the tools I’ve had the biggest impact with.

Things I didn’t get chance to read or finish watching/listening to:

And finally, I love this simple exercise for drawing out issues and helping people move forward with a better understanding of each other. And the Lego.

“I wanted to make the best duck”


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Paul Moran

Head of Service Design & User Research @ Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, UK https://linktr.ee/pauljosephmoran