What does it take to shift an organisation’s mindset to think beyond digital services by considering environmental impact?

We’ve slowly moved from service design and digital products to more environmentally conscious approaches to thinking. This mindset shift means our work is heavily informed by our surroundings. Over the last few years, we’ve become more aware of social and environmental movements that make the need for sustainable design more apparent.

Credit: Krisztian Tabori — unsplash

Considering the bigger picture

Design thinking, sustainability, and systems thinking all require a mindset shift. They require an innate ability to see things from a different perspective. As both individuals and organisations look at the problem space in multi-layered ways to consider people across society, impact on the environment and ethics around profit. Better known as the triple bottom line that goes beyond digital services.

A systems approach to understanding our environment reminds us that everything we work on is a complex dynamic system that is intertwined. This view of the world makes it easy to zoom in or out of the problem when necessary. Whatever your role maybe within this system it is important to consider how the bigger picture can impact an organisation’s ability to consider interaction, experiences and services that are both digital and in-person.

When conversing with senior management, you need to convince them to look at the whole ecosystem instead of individual areas. Remind them of the consequences of acting without considering the whole system. Asking “what if?” questions and initiating conversations through ideation exercises gives stakeholders several ideas while also addressing potential risks.

Implementing a nature-based design

We must prioritise conversations about regenerative design and nature-based solutions. We need to understand the built environment around us, including the trees, the ocean, and even the air. These are aspects of our environment that we need to look after so they can operate and reduce the carbon footprint.

The rise of sustainable design has led to the development of a biophilia approach to design, which acknowledges that we’re part of nature. We’re bringing in more greenery and access to nature in our workplaces. In so doing, we have built a massive case for nature-based solutions. Implementing nature-based design is about interconnecting the built environment within our work.

Thinking ahead — the importance of foresight in service design

The traditional mindset in organisations has been to complete projects in the simplest and quickest ways, often with little consideration for long-term implications. This makes it hard for some stakeholders to engage with the service design world, which requires a lot of foresight.

Strategic foresight is a fantastic practice in service design, but introducing it to stakeholders can be a challenge. Organisations often show interest in implementing systemic change. However, short-term thinking amongst stakeholders can be challenging for designers trying to advocate for systems thinking.

People often think service design can solve a legacy of problems that have existed for years in a matter of months. However, service design isn’t a magical solution. It’s a continuous conversation and implementation of services that could take years. As such, it requires a lot of foresight. So, it’s a designer’s responsibility to convince stakeholders to create long-term change within the organisation.

The challenges of getting stakeholder buy-in

Getting stakeholder buy-in is one of the bigger challenges in service design. But it’s crucial to remember that service design can be a team project. Therefore, you can get ethical design advocates within the organisation. These advocates will bring a fresh perspective to the design process because they’re more familiar with the business. They could also get more stakeholders to understand service design principles.

We also need to incorporate metrics throughout a service, whether that’s environmental, business, user, or tactical metrics. These can help validate our work and show key stakeholders how the service can measurably impact their profit margins.

Several factors within the organisational space can impact the stakeholders’ priorities, and you must align your services with these priorities. We also need to align our practices with the company values so we can better influence different stakeholders. Striking a balance between respecting and challenging the heritage of the organisation can be tricky. But understanding the legacy of that business will show you how you can add value to that environment.

As designers, we must build emotional resilience and intelligence when trying to get buy-in from senior stakeholders. It’s equally important to understand that it might take time for people to buy into service design. We’re equipped with extensive knowledge and understanding of our work, and it will take time for other people to catch up to that. Therefore, we need to be patient.

It helps to remember that we have tools and visualization techniques that are not accessible to everyone, especially in environments that require quick decision-making. Therefore, providing an insightful visual to drive your point across can minimise the friction that sometimes arises between designers and stakeholders.

Understanding our stakeholders and their motivation is key to successful service or product design. You can indirectly interview the stakeholders to understand what drives them and why. This can help you cater your pitch to the stakeholders present. If you’re new to the organisation, you could take time to consider what’s in it for the stakeholders. If your pitch lets your stakeholders know what they stand to gain from your design framework, they will be more likely to buy in. So, all it takes is patience, understanding, and empathy.



Innovation | Strategy | Making a difference through writing, listening, talking and doing

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Daniel Tuitt

Innovation | Strategy | Making a difference through writing, listening, talking and doing