Sources of insight and inspiration used by GOV.UK Product Managers

A list that came out of a GOV.UK Product Manager community hour I facilitated recently.

Blogs

Putting people first

Inside Intercom

Nielsen Norman

Mountain Goat software

John Cutler

Melissa Perri

DEV

Mind the Product

Product Hunt (also, the Product Hunt browser extension)

GoSquared

Silicon Valley Product Group

Pivot Product Hits

Books

About Face – the principles of interaction design

The Little Black Book

Step Up Club

The Design of Everyday Things

Podcasts

Aurelius Lab

This is Product Management

99 Percent Invisible

Intercom

Video

Product School video AMAs

Reading lists

Simon Cross’s PM essential reading list

Attack with Numbers

Ross Ferguson’s PM reading list

Exhibitions

Design Museum’s Designs of the Year

Royal College of Arts, Show of the Year

Events

Product Tank Events

Lectures, e.g. psychology

Formal guidance on the PM role and product lifecycle

DDaT skills they need – different levels of PM

GDS Service Standard

Service manual

Braun – 10 principles of good design

People to speak to

Other Product Managers

Other teams through internal show and tells

Other Product Managers on a shared task, e.g. working through 52 weeks of UX together.

Other organisations’ open roadmaps

Trello

Monzo

Newsletters

Exponential View

What is Service Design?

A service is a thing to help users to achieve a goal. It’s a series of touchpoints to achieve an outcome. e.g. ‘start a business’, ‘learn to drive a car’.

A service starts with a need and an idea of the outcome, but no clear idea of how this will be achieved.

Service design is the process of designing this set of touchpoints to meet the given goal.


(Image credit: Lou Downe. See Lou’s great post on sevice design)

https://twitter.com/Martin_Jordan/status/954321821796618240

Currently there’s a disconnect between a user’s experience of a service and the government’s stated policy intent.

Often senior management will make a pronouncement like “We need a portal so that applicants can upload bank statements”

But your responsibility is to challenge this proscriptive approach, and instead understand the problem and goals before even thinking about building anything.

So ask questions like:

  • Who are the users?
  • What are they trying to do?
  • Why now?
  • What is our motivation?
  • What outcomes do we want?
  • How does it relate to a wider service?
  • What are the key metrics?
  • How will it help users?

To frame your problem statement, focus on the organisation’s desired outcome, and on what the users are trying to do.

That keeps you focused on what you’re trying to achieve, leaving you free to explore how best to achieve those ends.

As you start building, it’s useful to cycle between optimising the big picture of the service (and, as the policy process becomes more amenable, the policy behind it) and the closer detail of a given task. Oscillate between the meta and the matter.

In the future, services will shape government, not the other way round.

One vehicle for achieving this transition is a service community.
Government is made up of disconnected units, but the user shouldn’t need to know how to navigate this complexity. A service community is a group of people whose touchpoints form part of a wider service. Newly-formed service communities include “Start a business”, “Employ someone” and “Import/Export”. They start by mapping out the current service, and then identify opportunities for improvement.

When designing a service, be mindful of:
The end-to-end service (from the user’s first step towards meet their goal, through to a successful outcome)
The front-to-back service (so make sure to include all back-office and technical functions)
Different channels (not just digital!)

The two most important things to do when designing a service:
Understand user needs
Prototype and iterate

Check out IDEO’s Design Kit for service design techniques you can use. (And read about the design project I worked on if you’re intersted.)

To improve an existing service, this flow of activities is useful:

  • Service walkthrough
  • User journey map + service blueprint
  • How might we’ questions
  • Prototype and iterate

https://twitter.com/mariecheungsays/status/954422063669837825

https://twitter.com/Martin_Jordan/status/954697550581387264

How to record electric guitar using a Steinberg UR12 and Cubase AI

A quick guide to recording guitar through a Steinberg UR12 in the Cubase AI DAW. I produced this to help other people, and to remind myself in case I ever forget, because the Cubase software is not very intuitive.

I’llassume that you’ve plugged and installed in the Steinberg, installed the Cubase AI Software, and opened up Cubase AI.

Go to the ‘Devices’ menu dropdown at the top of the screen, then select ‘VST Connections’.

Go to the ‘Inputs’ tab and create a mono input using “Yamaha Steinberg USB ASIO” and “UR12 Input 2”.Cubase AI VST Connections controls - Input tab

Keep output as default on “Yamaha Steinberg USB ASIO” – i.e. Stereo speakers and Device Ports “UR12 Output L” and “UR12 Output R”.

Steinberg UR-12 with guitar lead and headphones plugged in

Plug your lead into the “Hi Z” input on the UR 12. (This is “Input 2”. The other one is for microphones.) Plug your headphones into the “Phones” socket on the right. (If you’re using 3.5mm headphones you’ll need a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter, as pictured above.)

Turn the Input 2 gain knob up to about 1/4 of the max.

Strum a bit, and you should see the Cubase Monitor show the input levels increase as you strum. If it’s flat-lining like in the below picture, check that you’re plugged in and that you’ve set up the input correctly. Play some low, loud palm-muted chords, and turn up the Input 2 gain until you get a red square appear above the blue input monitor. Click on the red square to make it disappear, and turn down the Input 2 gain a little. Your goal is to have it as high as possible without clipping.

Cubase AI monitor showing no input

Now left click in the audio panel, and select “Add audio track”

menu for adding new tracks in Cubase AI

A popup with a load of options will appear. Ignore them and add the track.

Click on the speaker symbol next to this track. This will allow you to hear the input as you play. It’ll turn orange to show that the “Monitor” option is enabled.

Audio track with Monitor option selected

Make sure to turn the ‘Output’ knob on the UR12 up a bit so you can actually hear it. At this point you should be able to play something on your guitar and hear it through your headphones from the UR-12.

If you’d like to add some amplifiers or other effects, go to “Inserts” on the left-hand “Inspector” and choose one. There are loads of free VST amplifiers and effects available.

Now let’s record something. To record audio from a track (e.g. “Audio 01” in the above image) you need to make sure that the record icon for that track is red. Cubase has a concept of an audio track being enabled or not enabled to record, and it just ignores it if it isn’t enabled.

Before you start recording, turn off the orange “Monitor” option. It’s useful for experimenting with a tone, but adds latency when recording so can mess up your timing. Use the “Direct Monitor” button on the front of the UR-12 box to send a dry (non-processed) signal back to you as you play.

To start recording, click on the recording circle near the top of the screen.

Bonus – fixing audio distortion in Windows 10

There’s a bug with Windows 10 whereby you hear horribly distorted output.
The two most useful threads on the topic (first and second) suggest that it’s been an issue for a couple of years. The fix is downgrading from 1.96 to 1.95 of a key driver. To do this, uninstall “Yamaha Steinberg USB Driver” via Add/Remove Programs (not via Device Manager – it won’t fully get removed if you try this route.), then install version 1.95 of the driver.

Bonus – gain screen space by removing VST Instruments and Media Bay

I don’t know what these do, so I’ve hidden them.  To do this, click on the button of three rectangles, just under the “File” menu. Then uncheck “racks”.

 

Don’t worry about starting with a blank canvas

When starting a new project/product job, I used to worry about starting with a blank canvas. Now I’m more alert to the challenges of established systems.

Earlier in my career, when starting a new project I’d wonder: Where will I begin? How will I set up the right structures, ways of thinking?

In practice I’ve found that generally you inherit structure, process, documentation. And even if you don’t, you will come in to an established culture with a set of expectations and values (which you likely won’t fully understand straight away).

So actually the challenge is generally more about understanding what’s been done already and why, and working out what needs changing.

I’ve come in to organizations and been initially relieved at the structure and scaffolding in place, only later to realise that there might actually be some quite big problems with those cultural norms or established processes.

Did they start with user needs?
Is their conceptual approach to procurement the right one?
Are the governance ventricles predicated on the right foundations?
Are there cultural warning flags associated with some of the ways of working?

Worry less about what is missing and more about what is present but wrong. Your toolkit of techniques will help you build anything that is missing – the bigger challenge is assessing, challenging and changing what’s already there.

What are the next frontiers in interaction design?

Voice assistants – such as Siri and Alexa – are becoming viable because the accuracy of speech recognition has increased significantly through machine learning.

I’m concerned about the political ramifications of the technical underpinnings of voice interfaces. Voice recognition has advanced through access to lots of data, and machine learning. This means that for people to use this interaction medium, they need to be using tools provided by big providers like Apple, Amazon and Google. How easily will people be able to create their own voice interfaces without relying on a corporate provider? How easily will you be able to identify the thing that you’re interacting with, the logic it’s driven by, and who ultimately owns and controls the means of interaction? What is the product, and what generates value and to/for who?

Voice as a interaction medium has limitations. Voice requires (quiet) private space, and for you to be able to speak in an understood language. And so far voice interactions have focused on information or commerce transactions.

It’s worth reflecting on what problems we’re trying to solve when we pioneer a new interaction paradigm. What value are we trying to realise? Are transactions the big challenge we need to solve? (Would interaction approaches based around critically managing and engaging with information flows, or social connectedness, be different?)

The dominant method of interacting with computers so far has been mechanical, with feedback and state communicated visually by the computer.  Thinking more broadly, the interaction channels we use to interact with computers could be mechanical or oral, and each of our senses could be a channel for the computer to feed back information. And we could design for more than one type of input and feedback at one time. This Smashing Magazine piece on multi-modal interfaces outlines interfaces that take visual and audio elements:

“When​ we’re ​designing​ an ​interface,​ ​if​ ​we​ ​know​ ​the​ ​context​, ​we​ ​can​ ​remove​ ​friction.​ Will​ ​the​ ​product be used​ ​in​ ​the​ ​kitchen​ ​when​ ​the​ ​user’s​ ​hands​ ​are​ ​full?​ ​Use​ ​voice​ ​control;​ ​it’s​ ​easier​ ​than​ ​a touch​​screen.​ ​Will ​they​ ​use​ ​it​ ​on​ ​a​ ​crowded​ train?​ Then ​touch​​ing a screen​ would ​feel ​far​ ​less awkward​ ​than​ ​talking​ ​to​ ​a​ ​voice​ ​assistant​.​ ​Will ​they​ ​need​ ​a​ ​simple​ ​answer to​ ​a​ ​simple​ ​question?​ ​Use​ a ​conversational​ ​interface.​ Will​ ​they​ ​have​ ​to​ ​see​ ​images​ ​or understand​ ​complex​ ​data?​ ​Put​ ​it​ ​on​ ​a​ ​screen”

So rather than just focusing on voice input, it might make sense to think about how to structure our data to be agnostically accessible. Agnostic interaction channels don’t privilege one way of perceiving or interacting with the world.  Now that more of the population is computer-literate, we might be able to relax skeuomorphic baggage. Skeuomorphic design’s visual language helped communicate but also constrained the behaviours and interactions we could design, because they had to be intelligible as physical metaphor. Old metaphors or expectations, like “saving” files by clicking on a floppy disk icon, could be seen as blockers to thinking more broadly about interaction.

Perhaps the next paradigm of interaction design is to transcend interaction – to read and service our intent directly. This feels a way off, but here’s an early proof of concept

If we remove friction and translation from our interactions, what are we left with? Our own unmediated desires. Friction in transmitting intent can be a good thing – a chance to reflect and exercise deliberate control, rather than being driven just by desires. The task of cultivating deliberate intention, and making conscious decisions, rather than acting on impulse, is a design problem and a spiritual one.

 

Public Service Design – Cross Government Design Meetup 22

Today I attended a Cross Government Design Meetup at the Design Museum in London. Here are some of the highlights I took away.

Introduction – Lou Downe

“Bad service design is one of the biggest costs to government”

In the future, “Services will shape government, not the other way round.” “Transformation will never be done” so focus on helping change to happen sustainably.

Dan Hill, Associate Director, Arup – Design and the public

The contrasting experience of two social housing projects shows the need for service design:

Wohnpark Alt-Erlaa, Viennna; image by Thomas Ledl – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Alterlaa Kunstwerk.jpg
By Thomas Ledl – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

 

The Robin Hood Estate; image by stevecadman – Flickrtik hartua, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

 

Hill argues that the key difference between the success of the former, and the demolition of the latter is the ongoing maintenance, service and engagement.

Design needs a service blueprint. You aren’t just designing a one-off object – you’re building for life and for ongoing use. You need to design a service.
This is what was missing in the Robin Hood Estate.

There’s been a steep decline in the percentage of architects employed in the public sector. In 1970, 50% of architects were employed in the public sector; today only 0.7% of architects are.

Hill presents this as an opportunity. Digital has an opportunity to build design intelligence back into government. And we can build in this view of service design, making things better than before.

Prepare for the future by preparing to transition smoothly

It’s hard to know what the future will be like. So “The best focus for people is to make the transitions as effective and painless as possible as opposed to worrying about what the end point is.” – Michael Spence

The public sector needs to set out a vision for the future, otherwise the private sector will do it, leeching value out of a city and sending it to California.

Jean-Louis Missika, deputy mayor of Paris:
“We should announce, before 2020, that in Paris, no private owned AV will be allowed it will be only mobility as as service; not mobility as ownership”

Research in Zurich, Singapore and New York suggests that 80% of car use could be replaced by shared autonomous shuttle fleets.

DVLA – John Hewson

90% of DVLA interactions are now digital, up from about 9% in 2007. But that’s still 23 million paper applications per year, 5 million pieces of casework.

DVLA have made big changes to the user experience, but they haven’t yet made improvements to their internal systems.
Redesigning internal systems is another challenge, requiring slightly different expertise to building user-facing websites. These users often value efficiency over user-friendliness. One key piece of software is from 1990 and doesn’t even support a mouse, so this is a quite a challenge.

But the core discipline of prototyping, using best practices from the Service Manual, and testing iteratively will always work.

Panel discussion

https://twitter.com/Martin_Jordan/status/909797152427270144

The discussion reinforced the importance of applying service design to business models and procurement process – not just external user journeys. Take a service design approach to problem solving right through organisations.

Similarly, design for failure. Don’t just design for the perfect digital frontend – plan the whole service, and for all aspects of that service.

Design for the gaps between different nodes in someone’s experiences – e.g. a journey through healthcare. Each node can have its own effective risk register, but things can get lost in the cracks because there’s not always a holistic view.

How might we broaden political discourse and understanding in people age 25-35 in the UK? – Design project from the Design Kit course

This is a writeup of the design project I carried out with Tamsyn Hyatt as part of Ideo and +Acumen’s Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design. Check out the prototype we produced.

Inspiration

Interviews

  • We spoke to people with a range of political views, and carried out participant observation of their news-consumption activity.
  • We learnt from experts: Framing and messaging from a third sector expert; Rules of social media and political discourse from a digital communications director.
  • Key quotes

    “I don’t need stirring up. I want information and to make rational decisions. It doesn’t need to be heated.”

    “It sometimes worries me that I only read news from a source that shares my views. Yet clearly there’s a whole other perspective, because the majority of people voted for Brexit. I don’t understand that, and I never will if I only ever consume news written by people like me. It would be helpful to see other perspectives, even if I don’t agree with them.”

    “If I can understand what their argument is, I’m better placed to counter it. But that would need to be from a reliable source, even if I don’t agree with it.”

    “Reading contrasting opinion pieces is helpful in forming ideas, and in developing new ways of thinking.”

Ideation

Key themes

  • Desire for reasoned argument from both sides
  • Time and efficiency
  • Payment and paywalls
Insight Design Question
People are willing to consider alternative viewpoints but have limited time to do so. They’re struggling with business as usual, let alone anything new. How might we deliver diverse views that are quick to consume, but not sensational or click bait?
Users are concerned that they don’t know what a credible mainstream ‘opposing’ source looks like. How might we find the best content to represent diverse views?
People may not accept views wildly different to their own as untenable, and so not engage with them. How might we find content which will be acceptable/viable to people of different viewpoints?
People generally have a notion of reliability that transcends the political spectrum. i.e. they concede that publications that they may not agree with ideologically are capable of reporting something useful, despite ideological differences. How might we stretch and push people enough to challenge them but not repel them?
Most people didn’t pay for news. How might we make a product that is either zero direct cost to the consumer, or which is seen as sufficiently valuable to warrant purchase?

Ideas from Brainstorming

  1. A twitter account – or accounts – sharing ideologically diverse content. Users can subscribe to high-quality content outside of their ideological viewpoint.
  2. A news site where diverse content is submitted by users, grouped by theme and ranked for quality. This means that the most high-quality articles to represent a given ideological position on a given topic bubble to the top.

Storyboard overview

The person
Name: Brian Simmonds
Age: 29
Profession: Administrator for a small healthcare company

Step What is happening? What is the most important question to answer? How might we answer it?
Reads the day’s news following his normal routine Brian rushes to work. He squeezes on to the train and checks his regular news sites on his phone. [already explored in Inspiration stage] [already explored in Inspiration stage]
Becomes aware of the tool He receives a message from his friend suggesting that he check out a new news tool What channel of communication is likely to encourage someone to look at a new news source? Who would the message need to come from? Test with real content in people’s facebook feeds, versus whatsapp recommendations and personalised emails
Looks at the day’s news on the new tool Brian reviews the content on the news site and is prompted to read content from different ideological viewpoints to his own. They are high quality, so he finds them challenging but interesting and informative. Will people actually choose to read an article that they disagrees with ideologically? Build a basic wireframe prototype and carry out participant observation user testing
Rates an article that he read Brian gives a thumbs up or a thumbs down to each article he read, helping other users see which ones are best, from each ideological point of view. Do perceptions of quality actually cross ideological boundaries as our research suggested they could? Will people positively rate an article that they ideologically disagree with? Build a basic wireframe prototype and carry out participant observation user testing
Shares an article that he enjoyed in his own reading Brian notices that one good article he has read today isn’t listed. So he submits this article to the site Will he take the time to share content if? (Particularly as there isn’t currently any social reward to him for doing so) Trial submit form on test service. This could be achieved using a Google Doc. This would then be manually added to the site, if the article passed a basic quality check
Shares the tool with others Brian finds the tool useful so he shares it with others in his network. Will the service be able to spread to others without paid advertising? Test on a functional prototype, and invite users to share. Build in basic social sharing features to prompt and facilitate this. E.g. facebook and twitter.

Prototyping

What did you prototype? What question(s) were you trying to answer?

We ​tested a clickable digital prototype​ made using the Balsamiq mockup tool.

The most important question to research was:

  • “Will people actually choose to read an article of an ideological perspective that they disagree with?”

The most important secondary questions were:

  • Will people understand our way of representing ideologically diverse content? What interface design approaches might be best?
  • Do perceptions of quality actually cross ideological boundaries as our research suggested they could? In practical terms, will people positively rate an article that they ideologically disagree with?

What did you learn from testing your prototype?

  • People looked at ideologically diverse content But this may have been ‘under duress’ as they knew they were being observed. To have confidence in this result, we would need to test in a more anonymous fashion, and in a more real-life context.
  • Users were unclear what the ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ meant. Does a thumbs up signify endorsement, or liking, or was it a dispassionate quality measure saying that an article makes valid points and makes you think, even you don’t actually agree with it?
  • Some users found the left-right split a bit binary. Could this be improved, to better show nuances of different positions? Is it actually useful to divide content up into different ideological sections of the page?

What might you consider for future iterations?

  • Change the ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ to something more emotionally neutral. It will need to signify that this piece is well-constructed and reasoned, but must not imply liking.
  • Explore whether community submissions are the best model for discovering new content.
  • Explore pulling in content automatically from high-quality sources with different editorial perspectives.
  • Explore visual and layout approaches to presenting diverse content relating to a given topic that will scale well to mobile devices. (The approach tested was desktop only, as it required more horizontal space than is available in a smartphone or tablet)
  • Explore how to categorize content beyond a left-right binary. Consider in relation to the above point about visual design and layout.
  • Allow people to add tweets, and embed these directly on the page.

bell hooks: Teaching to Transgress – Education as the Practice of Freedom

Some key quotations from bell hooks’ ‘Teaching to Transgress’. 1994 / Routledge.

Introduction

“Critical reflection on my experience as a student in unexciting classrooms enabled me not only to imagine that the classroom could be exciting but that this excitement could co-exist with and even stimulate serious intellectual and/or academic engagement.” [7]

But excitement about ideas was not sufficient to create an exciting learning process. As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interest in one another, in hearing one another’s voices, in recognizing one another’s presence.” [8]
“There must be an ongoing recognition that everyone influences the classroom dynamic, that everyone contributes. These contributions are resources. Used constructively they enhance the capacity of any class to create an open learning community. Often before this process can begin there has to be some deconstruction of the traditional notion that only the professor is responsible for classroom dynamics.” [8]
“Seeing the classroom always as a communal place enhances the likelihood of collective effort in creating and sustaining a learning community.” [8]

“I celebrate teaching that enables transgressions – a movement against and beyond boundaries. It is that movement which makes education the practice of freedom.” [12]

Engaged Pedagogy

“To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn.” [13]

“many professors have intensely hostile responses to the vision of liberatory education that connects the will to know with the will to become.” [18-19]

“Any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered by the process. That empowerment cannot happen if we refuse to be vulnerable while encouraging students to take risks.” [21]

Chandra Mohanty: “resistance lies in self-conscious engagement with dominant, normative discourses and representation and in the active creation of oppostitional analytic and cultural spaces.” [22]

A Revolution of Values: The Promise of Multicultural Change

“In the book Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, Martin Luther King, Jr. told the citizens of this nation, with prophetic insight, that we would be unable to go forward if we did not experience a ‘true revolution of values.’ He assured us that
‘the stability of the large world house which is ours will involve a revolution of values to accompany the scientific and freedom revolutions engulfing the earth. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing'”-oriented society to a ‘person’-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets or racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered…'”

“The public figures who speak the most to us about a return to old-fashioned values embody the evils King describes. They are most committed to maintaining systems of domination – racism, sexism, class exploitation, and imperialism. They promote a perverse vision of freedom that makes it synonymous with materialism. They teach us to believe that domination is ‘natural’, that it is right for the strong to rule over the weak, the powerful over the powerless. What amazes me is that so many people claim not to embrace these values and yet our collective rejection of them cannot be complete since they prevail in our daily lives. “[27-8]

Embracing Change: Teaching in a Multicultural World

“We found again and again that almost everyone [in the faculty attending the transformative pedagogy seminars at Oberlin] , especially the old guard, were more disturbed by the overt recognition of the role our political perspectives play in shaping pedagogy than by their passive acceptance of ways of teaching and learning that reflect biases, particularly a white supremacist standpoint.” [37]

“… it is difficult for individuals to shift paradigms and … there must be a setting for folks to voice fears, to talk about what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why. One of our most useful meetings was one in which we asked professors from different disciplines [including math and science] to talk informally about how their teaching had been changed by a desire to be more inclusive. Hearing individuals describe concrete strategies was an approach that helped dispel fears. It was crucial that more traditional or conservative professors who had been willing to make changes talk about motivations and strategies.” [38]

“Accepting the decentering of the West globally, embracing multiculturalism, compels educators for focus attention on the issue of voice. Who speaks? Who listens? And why?” [40]

“Often, professors and students have to learn to accept different ways of knowing, new epistemologies, in the multicultural setting.” [41]

Shifting paradigms can be uncomfortable. “White students learning to think more critically about questions of race and racism may go home for the holidays and suddenly see their parents in a different light. They may recognize nonprogressive thinking, racism, and so on, and it may hurt them that new ways of knowing may create estrangement where there was none…”[43]
difficult experiences are common, so we need “practice at integrating theory and practice: ways of knowing with habits of being.” [43]

Paulo Freire

Freire: “We cannot enter the struggle as objects in order later to become subjects.” [46]

Theory as Liberatory Practice

Theory helps us “understand both the nature of our contemporary predicament and the means by which we might collectively engage in resistance that would transform our current reality.” [67]

“By reinforcing the idea that there is a split between theory and practice or by creating such a split, both groups [excessively theoretical, anti-intellectuals] deny the power of liberatory education for critical consciousness, thereby perpetuation conditions that reinforce our collective exploitation and repression.” [69]

“I continue to be amazed that there is so much feminist writing produced and yet so little feminist theory that strives to speak to women, men and children about ways we might transform our lives via a conversion to feminist practice. Where can we find a body of feminist theory that is directed toward helping individuals integrate feminist thinking and practice into daily life? What feminist theory, for example, is directed toward assisting women who live in sexist households in their efforts to bring about feminist change?” [70]

“I am often critical of a life-style-based feminism, because I fear that any feminist transformational process that seeks to change society is easily co-opted if it is not rooted in a political commitment to mass-based feminist movement. Within white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, we have already witnessed the commodification of feminist thinking [just as we experience the commodification of blackness] in ways that make it seem as though one can partake of the ‘good’ that these movements produce without any commitment to transformative politics and practice. In this capitalist culture, feminism and feminist theory are fast becoming a commodity that only the privileged can afford.” [70-71]

Essentialism and Experience

“Often it is forgotten that the hope was not simply that feminist scholars and activists would focus on race and gender but that they would do so in a manner that would not reinscribe conventional oppressive hierarchies. Particularly, it was seen as crucial to building mass-based feminist movement that theory would not be written in a manner that would further erase and exclude black women and women of color, or, worse yet, include us in subordinate positions. Unfortunately, much feminist scholarship dashes these hopes, largely because critics fail to interrogate the location from which they speak, often assuming, as it is now fashionable to do, that there is no need to question whether the perspective from which they write is informed by racist and sexist thinking, specifically as feminists perceive black women and women of color.” [77-78]

“I am always amazed by the complete absence of references to work by black women in contemporary critical works claiming to address in an inclusive way issues of gender, race, feminism, postcolonialism, and so on. Confronting colleagues about such absences, I, along with other black women critics, am often told that they were simply unaware that such material exists, that they were often working from their knowledge of available sources.” MDL – I need to broaden my network / inflow of information to broaden my understanding [80]

“…the very discursive practices that allow for the assertion of the ‘authority of experience’ have already been determined by a politics of race, sex, and class domination. Fuss does not aggressively suggest that dominant groups – men, white people, heterosexuals – perpetuate essentialism. In her narrative it is always a marginal ‘other’ who is essentialist. Yet the politics of essentialist exclusion as a means of asserting presence, identity, is a cultural practice that does not emerge solely from marginalized groups.” [81]

“a critique of essentialism that challenges only marginalized groups to interrogate their use of identity politics or an essentialist standpoint as a means of exerting coercive power leaves unquestioned the critical practices of other groups who employ the same strategies in different ways and whose exclusionary behavior may be firmly buttressed by institutionalized structures of domination that do not critique or check it.”[82-3]

Holding My Sister’s Hand

“Although they have written poignant memoirs which describe affectional bonds between themselves and black female servants, white women often failed to acknowledge that intimacy and care can coexist with domination. It has been difficult for white women who perceive black women servants to be ‘like one of the family’ to understand that the servant might have a completely different understanding of their relationship. The servant may be ever mindful that no degree of affection or care altered differences in status – or the reality that white women exercised power, whether benevolently or tyrannically.” [98]

“Until white women can confront their fear and hatred of black women [and vice versa], until we can acknowledge the negative history which shapes and informs our contemporary interaction, there can be no honest, meaningful dialogue between the two groups. The contemporary feminist call for sisterhood, the radical white woman’s appeal to black women and all women of color to join the feminist movement, is seen by many black women as yet another expression of white female denial of the reality of racist domination, of their complicity in the exploitation and oppression of black women and black people.” [102]

“what factors distinguish these relationships we have with white feminists which we do not see as exploitative or oppressive. A common response was that these relationships had two important factors: honest confrontation, and a dialogue about race, and reciprocal interaction.” [106]

Feminist Scholarship

“black gender relations were constructed to maintain black male authority even if they did not mirror white paradigms, … white female identity and status was different from that of a black woman.” [120]
“In search of scholarly material to document the evidence of my lived experience, I was stunned by either the complete lack of any focus on gender difference in black life or the tacit assumption that because many black females worked outside the home, gender roles were inverted. Scholars usually talked about black experience when they were really speaking solely about black male experience.” [120]

“the vast majority of white feminists did not welcome our questioning or feminist paradigms that they were seeking to institutionalize; so too, many black people simply saw our involvement with feminist politics as a gesture of betrayal, and dismissed our work.” [122]

Recommendation for Michele Wallace’s “Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman” [125]

Building a Teaching Community

“The person who is most powerful has the privilege of denying their body. I remember as an undergraduate I had white male professors who wore the same tweed jacket and rumpled shirt or something, but we all knew that we had to pretend… The point was we should all respect that he’s there to be a mind and not a body… The traditional notion of being in the classroom is a teacher behind a desk or standing at the front, immobilized. In a weird way that recalls the firm, immobilized body of knowledge as part of the immutability of truth itself. So what if one’s clothing is soiled, if one’s pants are not adjusted properly, or your shirt’s sloppy. As long as the mind is still working elegantly and eloquently, that’s what is supposed to be appreciated.” [137]

“The erasure of the body encourages us to think that we are listening to neutral, objective facts, facts that are not particular to who is sharing the information. We are invited to teach information as though it does not emerge from bodies.” [139]

“the ways erasure of the body connects to the erasure of class differences, and more importantly, the erasure of the role of university settings as sites for the reproduction of a privileged class of values, of elitism.” [140]

“professors may attempt to deconstruct traditional biases while sharing that information through body posture, tone, word choice, and so on that perpetuate those very hierarchies and biases they are critiquing.” [141]

“many teachers who do not have difficulty releasing old ideas, embracing new ways of thinking, may still be as resolutely attached to old ways of practicing teaching as their more conservative colleagues.” [142]

“To educate for freedom, then, we have to challenge and change the way everyone thinks about pedagogical process. This is especially true for students. Before we try to engage them in a dialectical discussion of ideas that is mutual, we have to teach about process. I teach many white students and they hold diverse political stances. Yet they come into a class on African American women’s literature expecting to hear no discussion of the politics of race, class, and gender. Often these students will complain, ‘Well I thought this was a literature class.’ What they’re really saying to me is, ‘I thought this class was going to be taught like any other literature class I would take, only we would now substitute black female writers for white male writers.’ They accept the shift in the locus of representation but resist shifting ways they think about ideas.” [144]

“one of the responsibilities of the teacher is to help create an environment where students learn that, in addition to speaking, it is important to listen respectfully to others. This doesn’t mean we listen uncritically or that classrooms can be open so that anything someone else says is taken as true, but it means really taken seriously what someone says.” [Ron Scapp] [150]

Language

“One line of this poem that moved and disturbed something within me: ‘This is the oppressor’s language yet I need it to talk to you.'” [167]

“…these words… make me think of standard English, of learning to speak against black vernacular, against the ruptured and broken speech of a dispossessed and displaced people. Standard English is not the speech of exile. It is the language of conquest and domination…” [168]

“It is not the English language that hurts me, but what the oppressors do with it, how they shape it to become a territory that limits and defines, how they make it a weapon that can shame, humiliate, colonize.”[168]

“How to describe what it must have been like for Africans whose deepest bonds were historically forged in the place of shared speech to be transported abruptly to a world where the very sound of one’s mother tongue had no meaning.” [168]

“I imagine, then, Africans first hearing English as ‘the oppressor’s language’ and then re-hearing it as a potential site of resistance. Learning English, learning to speak the alien tongue, was one way enslaved Africans began to reclaim their personal power within a context of domination. Possessing a shared language, black folks could find again a way to make community, and a means to create the political solidarity necessary to resist.” [170]

“Using English in a way that ruptured standard usage and meaning, so that white folks could often not understand black speech, made English into more than the oppressor’s language.” [170]

“The power of this speech is not simply that it enables resistance to white supremacy, but that it also forges a space for alternative cultural production and alternative epistemologies – different ways of thinking and knowing that were crucial to creating a counter-hegemonic worldview. It is absolutely essential that the revolutionary power of black vernacular speech not be lost in contemporary culture. that power resides in the capacity of black vernacular to intervene on the boundaries and limitations of standard English.” [171]

“That the students in the course on black women writers were repressing all longing to speak in tongues other than standard English without seeing this repression as political was an indication of the way we act unconsciously, in complicity with a culture of domination.” [173]

“To recognise that we touch one another in language seems particularly difficult in a society that would have us believe that there is no dignity in the experience of passion, that to feel deeply is to be inferior, for within the dualism of Western metaphysical thought, ideas are always more important than language. To heal the splitting of mind and body, we marginalized and oppressed people attempt to recover ourselves and our experiences in language. We seek to make a place for intimacy. Unable to find such a place in standard English, we create the ruptured,
broken, unruly speech of the vernacular. When I need to say words that do more than simply mirror or address the dominant reality, I speak black vernacular. There, in that location, we make English do what we want it to do. We take the oppressor’s language and turn it against itself. We make our words a counter-hegemonic speech, liberating ourselves in language.” [174-5]

Confronting Class in the Classroom

“During my college years it was tacitly assumed that we all agreed that class should not be talked about, that there would be no critique of the bourgeois class biases shaping and informing pedagogical process [as well as social etiquette] in the classroom. Although no one ever directly stated the rules that would govern our conduct, it was taught by example and reinforced by a system of rewards. As silence and obedience to authority were most rewarded, students learned that this was the appropriate demeanor in the classroom. Loudness, anger, emotional outbursts,
and even something as seemingly innocent as unrestrained laughter were deemed unacceptable, vulgar disruptions of classroom social order. these traits were also associated with being a member of the lower classes. If one was not from a privileged class group, adopting a demeanor similar to that of the group could help one to advance. It is still necessary for students to assimilate bourgeois values in order to be deemed acceptable.” [178]

“Silencing enforced by bourgeois values is sanctioned in the classroom by everyone.” [180]

“Even those professors who embrace the tenets of critical pedagogy [many of whom are white and male] still conduct their classrooms in a manner that only reinforces bourgeois models of decorum.” [180]

“Sharing experiences and confessional narratives in the classroom helps establish communal commitment to learning. These narrative moments usually are the space where the assumption that we share a common class background and perspective is disrupted. While students may be open to the idea that they do not all come from a common class background, they may still expect that the values of materially privileges groups will be the class’s norm.” [186]

“I have found that students from upper- and middle-class backgrounds are disturbed if heated exchange takes place in the classroom. Many of them equate loud talk or interruptions with rude and threatening behavior. Yet those of us from working-class backgrounds may feel that discussion is deeper and richer if it arouses intense responses. In class, students are often disturbed if anyone is interrupted while speaking, even though outside class most of them are not threatened. Few of us are taught to facilitate heated discussions that may include useful interruptions and digressions, but it is often the professor who is most invested in maintaining order in the classroom. Professors cannot empower students to embrace diversities of experience, standpoint, behavior, or style if our training has disempowered us socialized us to cope effectively only with a single mode of interaction based on middle-class values.” [187]

Eros, Eroticism, and the Pedagogical Process

“Suggesting that this culture lacks a ‘vision or science of hygeology’ [health and wellbeing] Keen asks ‘What forms of passion might make us whole? To what passions may we surrender with the assurance that we will expand rather than diminish the promise of our lives?’ The quest for knowledge that enables us to unite theory and practice is one such passion. To the extent that professors bring this passion, which has to be fundamentally rooted in a love for ideas we are able to inspire, the classroom becomes a dynamic place where transformations in social relations are concretely actualized and the false dichotomy between the world outside and the inside world of the academy disappears. In many ways this is frightening. Nothing about the way I was trained as a teacher really prepared me to witness my students transforming themselves.” [195]

​​Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design – summarised

Some highlights from my notes from Ideo and +Acumen’s Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design.

The steps of the Human-Centered Design process

“Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re design for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world.”

Human-centered design is based on creating opportunities for “high-impact solutions to bubble up from below rather than being imposed from the top.”

You can use this approach for

  • Products
  • Services
  • Spaces
  • Systems

Start by choosing a design challenge. Collect your thoughts; review what you already know; define what you don’t know; review constraints or barriers.

You move through three spaces (not always sequentially):

  • Inspiration – exploring the design challenge. “Too abstract and the brief risks leaving the project team wandering; too narrow a set of constraints almost guarantees that the outcome will be incremental and, likely, mediocre.”
    “learn directly from the people you’re designing for as you immerse yourself in their lives and come to deeply understand their needs and aspirations.”

    “focus groups and surveys, rarely yield important insights. In most cases, these techniques simply ask people what they want..” But people aren’t good at expressing their needs or imagining possibilities. As Henry Ford said – people would have wanted a faster horse. (Case Study: Clean Team toilets in Ghana. When interviewed, people said they’d prefer to dispose of their own waste if it could save them money, and were reluctant to allow service people into their homes. However, when they prototyped: people quickly realised the value of someone else handling waste disposal. A good reminder that self-report is highly flawed. Similarly, Ideo: Rockefeller Foundation health project in Bangkok: a Burmese immigrant self-reported as having no network, but actually it became clear in interview that she had a strong network.)

    Research methods: Learn from people, learn from experts, immerse yourself in context, seek analogous inspiration
    After each research item: Regroup, pull out sound-bites, interesting or surprising stories, interesting interactions and remaining questions. Don’t try to interpret yet – that comes later.

  • Ideation – Exploring your design opportunities. Generating, developing and testing ideas. Distil insights from research. Brainstorm to generate ideas – and withhold judgement.
    Linus Pauling: “To have a good idea you must first have lots of ideas” And you need multidisciplinary teams with multidisciplinary people to make interesting connections.
  • Implementation – Making your concept real and a sustainable success. “the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives”. Prototyping is at the core of this – turning ideas into products and services that you test, iterate and refine. Prototyping – “cheap, quick, and dirty” helps de-risk the process. Have a main idea for the prototype to convey, and test that idea.

Mindsets of a Human-Centered Designer

  • Learn from Failure: “Don’t think of it as failure, think of it as designing experiments through which you’re going to learn.” Through prototyping, you’re de-risking by making something simple first, and checking it early in the process.
  • Creative Confidence “the notion that you have big ideas, and that you have the ability to act on them.”
  • Empathy – you can’t come up with any new ideas if you don’t go beyond your own life.
  • Embrace Ambiguity – Let multiple ideas exist simultaneously. You don’t know upfront what’s going to work out.
  • Be Optimistic
  • Iterate, Iterate, Iterate “we gain vaildation along the way… because we’re hearing from the people we’re actually designing for.”

Doing the hard work to make it simple – Tom Loosemore

Below is a video and summary of a talk by Tom Loosemore at the Camp Digital conference, 2016.

Design is inherently political, and we must not ignore this

Ask yourself: who is the “we” that gets to build the future?

If you don’t understand how something works, you are a consumer, not a citizen. Don’t be fooled by ‘magic’.

Richard Pope – “Software is politics, now” – it shapes power dynamics.

GDS came up with the design principles so that people would have a new language to use to change reality.

The advantages of working in the open

Child benefit tax calculator. They made a mistake, so someone suggested a fix on github which has now been incorporated.

Ministry of Justice – problems with a form used by divorcing couples. Proprietary software. Took months to fix.
The change on github took 3 days. Massive difference.

What is digital, and what is our job in a digital world?

Definition of digital: “Applying the culture, practices, processes & technologies of the Internet-era to respond to people’s raised expectations.”

It’s not about technology – it’s about taking advantage of technology to redesign services and organisations to meet changed expectations.

Focus on delivery

Martha Lane Fox’s 4-page report gave just enough cover to start delivering. No need for a big strategy.

“The strategy is delivery” – key phrase at GDS.

Internal metric: write 100x more lines of code than lines of business cases justifying code.

Guy Moorhouse designed icons for GDS. But then he tested and found out that they didn’t help people, so he removed them and blogged about why.

Building the political case for change

GDS alpha was done openly. This was to create buzz outside the system to convince ministers that it was a good idea. This helped overcome reluctance from senior civil servants.

Do something valuable -> build political capital through an early win -> get rid of the ‘no’ people (spending all of the political capital)

Old approaches to service delivery are flawed

When Tom Loosemore started at the DWP in 2013, he asked ‘so, what have you been doing with all this time and money?’ For 3 years of work, they showed a 600 page policy design manual.

The DWP senior leadership thought of Universal Credit as a policy. But they hadn’t designed anything – they’d written a document. It had thousands of untested assumptions about people’s behavior.
“a document full of false certainty”

When Tom arrived, the DWP processes were as follows (with each step done by a different team):

  1. Invent policy
  2. Guess requirements
  3. Procure IT system
  4. Inflict on users
  5. Operate (aka ‘stasis’)

This is the wrong way to deliver services.

You must observe real user behaviour

People don’t know what they need. You have to observe real people in the real world
“observer their actual behavior. Surveys are useless. Actually focus groups are useless.”

“Watch what they do, don’t listen to what they say”

“False certainty if our mortal foe”

“Start humble, stay humble”

Start small, build a shared vision and empower the team

Start really small. Iterate based on how people actually use the service.

Craft a vision that everyone can use to steer every decision. Use simple language.

Empower people to make decisions based on this vision without having to run it up the hierarchy.
And because you have governance check-ins every 2 weeks through a show-and-tell (demo), things won’t go out of control.

Build an empowered multi-disciplinary team

The multidisciplinary team worked together in a room.

To enter the room, you had to be fully empowered by your bit of DWP or HMRC or LA to make decisions in the room. No one senior. It was surprising how easy it was for the organisation to identify who needed to be in the room.

Video of user testing convinced IDS to make a change to the benefits policy immediately.

Start multi-disciplinary; stay multidisciplinary.
Don’t just remove these people once you’ve ‘launched’

Obtain a mix of mindsets: Pioneers, Settlers, Town Planners.

“User research is a team sport”

Continually assess your knowledge and your readiness

Each sprint, they asked themselves: What have we proved? Do we understand user needs better? Have we designed the service to scale massively? Do we know how to operate?

“If you can’t release software every day in an emergency you’ll never be secure, because a new threat will emerge and if you can’t respond like that *clicks fingers*, your organisation is inherently insecure”

Governance

“Governance was very simple: Ministers come to the show and tell, we’ll show you what we’ve made, we’ll show you what we’ve learnt, and what we’re going to do next, and we’ll talk about risks and issues if you want. But the real governance is seeing the thing being made and seeing the evidence and user research that it’s likely to have the intent that the minister wanted. Every week. And give credit to ministers, they turned up.”

“If your senior management doesn’t show up to show and tells, look them in the eye and tell them that they are failing at governance. Use that word.”

“Show the thing” – a thing you can use, not a thing you can see.
If you’re sending screengrabs, you aren’t showing the thing, you’re showing pictures of the thing.