It was one of those emails that I’ll always remember – Stuart MacDonald, former creative vision and leader of The Lighthouse and Grays Art College in Aberdeen popped an email into the Snook inbox inviting me to teach in Taiwan.
There wasn’t really much to consider, other than yes! I’ve never been this far across the world, the farthest “east’ I ever got was Tanzania back in 2004. So as I sit and write this at 39,000 ft as we skirt past Malaysia into Singapore I’m feeling slightly apprehensive, nervous but excited.
I’m off to teach service design to a group of commercial design students at the National Tawain University of Science and Technology. I’ve got six days with them to introduce the concepts behind the discipline of service design and take their ideas from scratch to full service concepts for new tourist services in Taipei. Tough? Yes.
As I’ve mulled over my day to day lesson plans on the plane through sunrise, sunset, sunrise, night…actually I have no clue what time it is any more…I’ve begun to question what l’ll actually be teaching – I’ve been asked to teach service design. More often than not, when faced with this challenge I end up concentrating mostly on the idea of prototyping and bringing ideas to life with an underlying focus of user centric thinking. I don’t care if the students design a product, a platform, a service or an application. What I do care about is how they consider the user experience and bring their thinking to life.
What I’ve found fascinating is language, and even more so culture. I’d love to continue teaching around the world and importantly learning from students and professionals in different countries. When Snook taught in Finland at the start of the year it was fascinating to talk to some of the innovation leaders from the northern part of the country. They spoke about the lack of empathy in the services they deliver. Finland offer very efficient services but are missing the ‘human’ element. I remember asking why and the answer I got was the reality that the Fins are shy. It’s part of their culture.
My service experiences in Taiwan have already been entirely different to anything I’ve ever experienced before. As I entered the Singapore aircraft I couldn’t believe there were framed pictures on the wall! It’s the small touches – staff dressed in traditional Singapore costume , their politeness, the attentiveness to your needs – that make a difference. But you know the thing that really got me ? The cutlery was metal and not plastic. It gave me that extra touch of luxury even though I was on an economy flight.
I’m intrigued to experience what Taiwanese services will be like and how the students will perceive our style of thinking. How does a countries culture impact on the way services are delivered? What does this mean when we come to design services? Could I really design a service for Tawiain without embedding myself here for a sustained period of time?
How do we consider the rich tapestry of different cultures when we are designing new experience for countries so different from our homes? It would be interesting to hear from those of you who have had experience in this..
As ever, I’ve got a plan but I’m willing to rip it up two hours into the week. That’s the art of iterative delivery right?
Wish me luck.