Gardener vs Carpenter: How Service Design Works for Your Organisation and Prevents the Illusion of Choice
I recently read an interesting parenting analogy that actually works very well for service design. This may sound strange but hear me out. The parenting question in the article is based on is ‘Are you a gardener or a carpenter?’ Mainstream, modern parents are mostly considered carpenters - meaning that they put a lot of effort into helping to shape their kids into something. They sign them up for various hobbies, they make sure that their homework gets done right, they consistently check if they need help with something; they do their best to form them into the best that they can be. On the other hand, the gardener parent doesn’t try to form them into anything specific but makes sure that the conditions are right for the child to grow up strong, resilient, and feeling protected.
Carpenter-model & Goods-dominant logic
As Ms Wilson says in the Guardian article that inspired this article, “The parenting model [carpenter] assumes that parents are always active and children are always passive.” In respect to business, this is how goods-dominant logic works - specifying that the business is the producer (and therefore the creator) of value and the customer is always the passive receiver of value. This, of course, isn’t to say that the child has no choices…but the choices may be limited to “pick a team sport” or “pick an instrument”- there is the illusion of choice but it is within very narrow parameters. The same goes for consumers in a goods-dominant logic world. The business produces their product and then they set about creating a market for it. But does this work in reality anymore?
Gardener-model & Service-dominant logic
More recently the way we create, design, and market services (and products) is much more like a gardener than carpenter. The role here is much more equal, a gardener prepares the soil by actions such as lowering the pH and tilling, then they will determine how far apart (or how deep) to plant but at the end of the day (or summer) these plants will grow or not grow, come up a different colour than expected, thrive or not thrive. The gardener can only work together with the land to try to create their vision. Just as the parent may purchase books but it is up to the child whether they read them. So the preconceived vision of the gardener has to change. This also happens with business now- working with the customers to generate previously undetermined ideas. This is service-dominant logic…and service design.
When service design is used to its fullest, when the company allows the designers to truly work with their business and their customers, they will work with all the tools necessary to uncover the conditions so that your business can flourish. It digs deep into your customers and what they want (they are no longer passive receivers of your goods/services but co-creators of your business). It has many seeds of which not all will (or even should) be planted.
Creating real choice and innovation
By approaching this situation without any preconceived ideas of what might be found or how things should be, the value in service design is that it can help businesses discover possibilities and opportunities that they would not have been able to recognise. This process, when applied properly, respects no silos. It will require adjustments in mind-set and structure from you, the gardener, but it will be based on solid insights. This will allow your business to innovate or create in ways that it might never have expected. It allows your company to be bold and to lead rather than to follow an expected path with predictable incremental changes and, in the end, it will allow you to break the cycle of the illusion of choice.
Is your place of work a carpenter or a gardener? What about your boss? Can you see the changes taking place in your industry?