Service design – a feminist manifesto

Just watched another great Car Pool podcast, this one with Oliver James. They had a good discussion about feminism and how, from something in the 70s that was about women being allowed to be women, it’s turned into something that makes women act like men. The laddish drinking culture, the suit wearing female MP etc.

Got me thinking about the worst kept secret in service design, that 90% of clients are women. I’ve been pondering this and reckon it’s down to the method – an approach to change that is about collaboration and listening. Not wishing to stereotype, but those are not characteristics of the male board room. Certainly my years in management consultany were about command and control, with top down change imposed and directed. The greatest appeal of service design as an approach is that it looks to peoples inherent resourcefulness for the answers. It says to people – you have it in you to transform the service you deliver. For me there’s something quite maternalistic in there.

Seeing the CEO of the NHS on stage last month, talking in these terms, was odd. It felt like a pretty significant change in approach. I wonder whether service design isn’t a bell weather for a wider shift, towards a more feminised approach to business.