#ThisIsWhyWeJam – Leeds GovJam 2018
I recently had the privilege of attending Leeds GovJam thanks to one of their sponsors and a client of ours Hippo Digital, and what a whirlwind 48 hours it was. Over the space of two days I learnt so much, met some great people. This years theme was “48 hours to rock the public sector” and remind people #ThisIsWhyWeJam
On the first evening of Leeds GovJam, we were let into what to expect for the next 48 hours. A fast paced journey applying the tools, techniques, and mindset of service design to the public sector. We were also introduced to our fellow UK Jammers in Dundee and Nottingham. Most importantly we were introduced to our secret theme, this being the same theme that would be unveiled in 35 cities across 26 countries around the world. Making GovJam a truly Global Event.
If you were to ask me now, with time to think and digest what that theme was, I still couldn’t tell you. We were played a video of an all black screen and various sounds, mechanical, cranking of gears, a spring and fits of laughters. I suppose an abstract theme helps bridge the gap of the various cultures of the participants, without a clear theme it’s left to the creativity of each participant to think what that could mean. This led to some wild guesses, and some interesting emergent themes what we would come to distil further over the coming days.
Day 2 – User Research, Keep On Jamming!
The second day started where the previous evening left off, we had picked our theme, now we had to run with it.
We were a mixed team, as well as myself there were two Graduates from the Digital Service Delivery Profession, Sam and Jordan, who I work along side at NHS Digital; Craig, a Web Officer from the Joseph Rountree Foundation; Kenny, A Law Student from Leeds University and Laura, a Digital Development Officer with Leeds City Council.
Our theme was Games, but we struggled to drill down to a single problem, lots of ideas, lots of what if, lots of how abouts. Already we were breaking one of the golden rules, we we talking and not doing. We quickly rectified this, we split into two teams of three and took our idea out to the people of Leeds and conducted some User Research.
On the streets
Armed with a handful of questions, we quickly experienced the harsh world of guerrilla research. We were knocked back but we were not disheartened. We eventually found some members of the public who were willing to talk to us, and we were soon in the swing of User Research. Human centred design has at his heart people.
This may sound obvious but can be forgotten especially when the ask of a service comes from management committee, or even worse dictated from high above, abstract from the people who would consume a service.
The actual experience of User Research was a positive one, but very nerve wracking at first. We quickly worked out the “look” of a person who might be approachable, and those who were most certainly not. User Research is an iterative process, constantly changing as we learn by doing. If I take anything away (and I will take away a lot) from Leeds GovJam, it was that User Research is an art, it may seem like “having a chat” with people, but it is so much more. Its less about the questions, more about natural themes of conversation.
Prototyping via Nottingham
Back in the comfort of our hosts ODI Leeds we learnt that ideas are cheap, and our theme of Games we went too broad, so we threw it away. We needed to pick a single service, an idea, a definable problem that we can work on. After a while we had it, staff performance development reviews. Leveraging the people in the room and members of the public who are/who have been employed and under gone the experience of a PDR we started again from scratch.
Splitting into three teams of two, one team concentrating on out side field research, the second concentrating on in the room and desk research. I was in the final pairing looking at deliverables that we needed to create. Starting with a high level mind map of the problem, we could then take this and drill down to focus on the detail. Quickly a new problem statement was written, new hypothesis to be tested in user research and new questions and themes to be taken out into the field.
Show Not Tell
The culmination of the second day was a “Show Not Tell“. Each team created prototypes which are real, not theoretical. Some teams has fully functioning working prototypes, some teams were abstract.
The philosophy of “Fail Fast Fail Often” could be seen by different teams. A low fidelity prototype can be thrown away as fast as it was created. Our prototype had come together, we had lots of good ideas and progress being made on understanding the problem. We were ready for the final day!
Day 3 – The Home Straight
The final day started with the “Double Diamond Dance”. Where in the first two days started with creative warm ups, 1000 ways to get juice out of a lemon (my favourite left field suggestion was to seduce it) and the always popular Blind Portraits. The third day stated with an energetic Double Diamond Dance, no one was really sure what we were doing, but we all had fun and ended the quick session energised and ready to go!
Feedback, Feedback, Feedback!
Yesterdays Show Not Tell provided the team with some valuable feedback, which we took forward as the submission deadline approached. It allowed us to further develop the prototype into something more tangible, from a story board during the second day to a useable prototype created with the Marvel App which takes images and links them together in a mock working application. One thing that quickly became apparent was that we had lots of deliverables in various states of completion. With the submission deadline looming we went into over drive tidying up and finishing various tools we had learnt over the previous 48 hours. Personas were created, Problem Statements wrote out, feedback gathered, our wall of stuff was soon too small for what we had created. Not bad for a team struggling to narrow down to a single problem the day before.
Leeds GovJam the final countdown…
The submission deadline came and went, I think we were even finished a little early, again a massive achievement seeing as we scrapped the idea and started from scratch halfway through the Jam. Which goes to show that service design is not a rigid process. Fail fast and fail often goes to prove that no idea is worth hanging onto if it’s not right, if it doesn’t fit the narrative you are trying to create.
While we had this down time we looked at what the other teams had created, how from a single theme we all had it splintered into may different ideas and services. As a whole Leeds GovJam looked at Social Isolation, Mental Wellbeing and how front line Leeds City Council employees can improve the service offered to the residence and visitors of the great city. We also had a head full of techniques and methodologies. Some new, some revitalised after blowing the cobwebs away and rediscovering why we love service design, and what it can do when it is done right.
They think Leeds GovJam is all over…
I had an awesome team helping me, we came from a diverse background, some new to Service Design, some on the periphery wanting to be more involved and take what they learn into their organisation. I certainly hope they had as much fun as I did, and they too learnt by doing not telling.
My Leeds GovJam Pledge: Tomorrow I will….
As the dust settles and the unmistakeable smell of sharpies and coffee fade (ODI have a fantastic IoT set up for tracking when ever a tea or coffee is made, given the temperature over the days was boiling I think we made a pretty good attempt at setting a high bar) I want to look at what I have learnt from the event. A pledge I made was to create a blog post, I think that is a tick now this has been published.
I learnt that the techniques I use already are working, this may seem silly but validation by your peers that you are doing OK is a big thing for me. As a freelancer I am often brought in to fix a certain problem, I am looked upon as the subject matter expert. Often people can rest on their laurels and think what they have always done, is all they ever will need to. Events like Leeds GovJam, Global GovJam and Service Jam proof that even those who have been in the business for years can benefit from a refresher, being exposed to new people and sharing their new found enthusiasm
The Art Of User Research
One major take away I have from the event, is a recognition as to how blessed I am to work with some great user researchers. I think as a team this could have been the area we were weakest in, and it showed. With a good User Research plan I think we could have found out earlier that we were off the mark with our initial idea. We are good at talking to people, but the science and psychology that an expert practitioner would have brought to our team would have been invaluable.
I have often sat in on user labs, behind a one way mirror thinking I can do User Research, as it’s just chatting to people. And to a degree I can, but not to the level it takes to be successful in the task. The planning, the preparation, the details needed to undertake the task properly is something I need to get better at, and I know just how to do so. I want to talk to people, I want to engage with them, I want to sit in and learn by doing. I want to help plan sessions, I want to help recruit participants, I want to analyse the output and turn quotes on post-it notes made in a lab into quantifiable and qualitative research. So when I come back next year, I can be better.