My outer layer

This is a story about my outer layer. My skin. I have psoriasis. I have had psoriasis for close to 10 years now. For 5 of those years I have been in denial, and depressed about this loss of my pristine outer layer.

What is Psoriasis? For wikipedia on Psoriasis click here.

Image Source:

Then about a year ago things started to get worrying. I was red, and patchy. My UV treatment was not working all that well. It wasn’t clearing me up anymore. And I had become completely reliant on creams. When it was suggested I get onto a medical trail for a new experimental drug I jumped at the chance. I was looking at potentially getting an injection periodically and would no longer have any skin issues. Or so went the promise.

I went through the process of signing up for the trial. I was going to the hospital and was very excited by all the new stuff I was learning and the new experiences I was encountering. I have to admit I was loving being a mild form of lab rat. Then one day I got a phone call as I was driving home. There was an issue. There was a possibility I had Tuberculosis. It was pretty shocking to get this news. Or ought to have been. Luckily by this I am 54 years old and have reached a point in my life when I am venturing information about myself to others. So in a phone call to Pramod in India I mention the TB result. He is dismissive and says that almost all Indians have latent TB. I suddenly acquire a different perspective, and am instantly relieved. I promise myself that everyone would begin to hear about my body malfunctions and contaminations. I made a note to write this piece. That was 7 months ago – this post has been long overdue.

Soon I would go in for another verification blood test. It confirms that I indeed have latent Tuberculosis. Rapidly after that I am off the psoriasis biologicals trial, return the journal device and am now onto a new treatment. And a new trial. For more information on Psoriasis pharmaceuticals trails see pages like these. Plus for information about medical trials in Australia see here.

Now for my TB treatment. The infectious diseases unit, where I go for my appointments is up on the top floor, a forgotten level, of the hospital. A fitting locale where exotic people go to seek treatment for exotic emerging country diseases. I soon discover that there is a trial underway here too. This one is different, its an economic viability trial, for a new more expensive drug for TB. I agree and sign up for the trial. As part of the process of randomization for the trial I will receive either the existing drug Isoniazid (three tablets a day for nine months) or this new drug (fewer pills and for just three months). The decision of which trial I get will be decided by the computer. Given my current luck of course the computer decides I get the Isoniazid treatment. For more information about Orphan Drugs and economic viability click here. (As the site says – ‘rare diseases are rare’)

I start taking isoniazid and notice a dramatic reduction of my psoriasis. Have I then discovered a treatment for psoriasis? I go online and find others who report similar outcomes. There is also a pubmed post about a treatment where you powder isoniazid and apply it topically with a cream base to the skin. Could this be true? My TB doctor contends the anti-inflamatory effect of isoniazid could be doing the treatment. I have three more months of the isoniazid to go. The big question for me is – what will happen after I finish my isoniazid treatment?

For now I am self-managing my Psoriasis with decent results. I follow the Pagano Diet – and in this I do two things. I avoid ‘night shade vegetables‘, and I drink saffron tea. I also have a food chart – more like how I police what I consume – Sam’s Pso-Diet Chart. I am not that strict about my diet.

I avoid sugar.

I have a salt bath, soak is the right word for this, every day. The salt for the bath is made up of Sea Salt+Epsom Salt+Bi-Carb Soda in the proportions of 6:3:1.

What makes it possible for me not to get depressed about my Psoriasis? I talk about it now, and I am signed up to two online forums. I get an email from #1 every day – and I flick through it most days.

  1. The National Psoriasis Foundation:
  2. Patients like me:

My next thing to try is a lotion of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and glycerine.

What would Gough Do?

I had a few names I was tossing up for this piece. Its the usual story – I have been listening to Freakanomics radio and have been inspired to write this. But first on the name:

I thought I would do a “Letter to Mr Shorten” in response to the Labour opposition leaders press release – Bill Shorten reveals Labor’s plans for services such as Uber and Airbnb – which said if Shorten was elected in 2016, he would work with state and territory governments to deliver legislative and regulatory reforms that would turn the six principles into “concrete laws”. Take a look at the principles and think about them. Do they anticipate the future or apply past norms to a new paradigm? Which brought me to my next title – The Third Industrial Revolution – which is Rifkin doing a take on predicting the future. Which is a bit disappointing too as it fails to take up the task of questioning the form of ‘regulation’ that we have been building for the past few centuries. (Nice website though!) This mechanism – regulation – needs a rethink and we are walking past the sign posts that are asking for a rethink of what it means to be in the new economy.

In short I don’t have a title that points to any of the current texts or pronouncements. This is where I settle upon a title that is better than all these titles which could serve as sign posts towards one or other theoretical formulation.

This is the 40th Anniversary of the sacking of Gough Whitlam – arguably one of the finest idea-people we have seen. So I am revisiting Gough with a title – What would Gough Do? This is a great idea for my friends who speak glowingly about the massive change he ushered in upon taking office. He modernised state regulation that was continuing to serve as a dam, a bottleneck, to keep the past surviving even when the world had changed beyond recognition. Sure – I can start to hear the howls of protest, for this is a splendidly divisive thing to say. Hey for the day – can we just leave him as the patron saint of visionary regulation. Just for for the duration of this post!

The title having been dealt with lets proceed with the topic of this post: Regulation. This Freakanomics podcast (Regulate this!) – transcript here, podcast in iTunes – does a great take on showing the global confrontation underway between the regulators and the solution visualizers within the sharing economy. Zimmer (Lyft) puts it one way:

“ZIMMER: They interpret laws one way and are trying to do their job. And we interpret laws another way and are trying to innovate. And those two things are at odds, and the timelines are at odds. And if we took the approach of, “Hey, let’s wait and see what the government does to create a path that is very, very clear for this new industry” that we believe benefits drivers, passengers, and cities, then we wouldn’t be operating anywhere.”

This is the small view, to use a Tim Brown phrase. Or to use Dubner’s phrase – “this is what creative destruction looks like”. Let us fast forward to a future somewhere in the 2050s. Today’s battle will look ridicuclous – yes Napster was destroyed, but what happened to the music industry. The end of the music industry is something we are comfortable with. That sunset industry used its might and connection with the regulators and lawyers. Yes they destroyed one idea – but the collective change process underway was much bigger and would transform the whole ecosystem. Levin in this pod cast puts it devastatingly:

I think the more fundamental threat to taxi drivers in the long run, as a way to be employed, is almost certainly autonomous cars… In 20 years, it may be that there actually aren’t people in the front seat of the car.

Wow – here comes the empty front seat!

We are witnessing “an amazing democratization of personal service and convenience” (Levin). Where will this process, this transformation brought on by contemporary technology, lead us? We are already witnessing a new culture, a new sociality and a new emergence of ‘trust’ within the youth. Privacy which is such a big thing for the older people just does not have the same currency with the young.

Urry has a brilliant phrase that explains one form of the new sociality that we despair at. He calls it ‘copresencing’ and this explains how young people, spending all their time on their phones, are actually hanging-out (digitally) with friends. They are in effect practising co-presence. Now there is nothing wrong with hanging out – is there? Here is a plug for Urry’s book Mobilities where you can find this and a lot of other very insightful ideas. Check it on Amazon here.

What we are missing is a conversation and a spirit of wonder at the way the new is changing us, our ways and then proceeding to knock on the doors of the regulators to ask for a conversation. If the regulators are responding with more regulation – we need to protect the industry, tax system and the consumer – we know this is temporary and a form of slow adaptation. Imagine if we could have another way to look at this change – such as visualizing the change, and coming up with scenarios. So we codesign our way into an inevitable future. So that we don’t battle our way into the future. Yes we don’t have a Gough around with the boldness to make regulation vanish – snap – but hey why don’t we start by invoking his spirit today and see what it does to our way of thinking about regulation. Need I add @billshortenmp and @malcolmturnbull.

“Let me make quite clear that I am for abortion and, in your case Sir, we should make it retrospective.” (GW)

More Reading

If you want to read up more here is a list of books. All the annotation text is from Amazon. So do go there to take a look.

What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption

by Rachel Botsman & Roo Rogers

“Amidst a thousand tirades against the excesses and waste of consumer society, What’s Mine Is Yours offers us something genuinely new and invigorating: a way out.” —Steven Johnson, author of The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map

A groundbreaking and original book, What’s Mine is Yours articulates for the first time the roots of “collaborative consumption,” Rachel Botsman and Roo Roger’s timely new coinage for the technology-based peer communities that are transforming the traditional landscape of business, consumerism, and the way we live. Readers captivated by Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, Van Jones’ The Green Collar Economy or Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point will be wowed by this landmark contribution to the evolving ecology of commerce and sustainability.

The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing

by Lisa Gansky

Traditional businesses follow a simple formula: create a product or service, sell it, collect money. But in the last few years a fundamentally different model has taken root-one in which consumers have more choices, more tools, more information, and more peer-to-peer power. Pioneering entrepreneur Lisa Gansky calls it the Mesh and reveals why it will dominate the future of business. Mesh companies use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright. Gansky reveals how there is real money to be made and trusted brands and strong communities to be built in helping your customers buy less but use more.

The Business of Sharing: Making it in the New Sharing Economy

by Alex Stephany

The ‘sharing economy’ is changing the rules of business.

Why buy a hedge trimmer that you use twice a year? Why not borrow someone else’s? Why leave your driveway empty all day while you’re at work? Why not charge someone to park there while you’re not using it? And if your business is selling hedge trimmers or parking – or anything else people can share – what do you do about it?

Already, the sharing economy or ‘collaborative consumption’ lets people earn over $15 billion a year by renting and selling what they own: from cars and homes to money and time. And that’s almost nothing. According to PwC, the sharing economy will grow into a $335 billion market by 2025. TIME Magazine calls it “One of 10 Ideas that will Change the World.” Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas L Friedman calls it “The real deal”.

Today, fast-moving tech startups like Airbnb and Uber are disrupting huge sectors of the old economy, mobilising millions of micro-entrepreneurs in the process. As Silicon Valley investors pile cash into sharing economy startups, some of the world’s largest companies are watching their backs. How can the 20th century’s corporate beasts not only survive but thrive in a new world of peer-to-peer commerce and sharing?

Written by one of the business leaders of the movement, The Business of Sharing is an insider’s guide to the sharing economy: for anyone thinking of entering the sharing economy and profiting from the upheavals ahead. From the boardroom of Sequoia Capital to 10 Downing Street, Stephany meets the powerbrokers pulling the strings in this new economy. And he meets the ordinary people cashing out.

This critically acclaimed new book includes colorful original interviews with entrepreneurs like the founders of Airbnb and Zipcar and the world’s top venture capitalists, plus case studies of major brands from around the world. The Business of Sharing is essential reading for anyone looking to get to grips with one of today’s must-understand global trends.

Peers Inc: How People and Platforms Are Inventing the Collaborative Economy and Reinventing Capitalism

by Robin Chase

When Robin Chase cofounded Zipcar, she not only started a business but established the foundation for one of the most important economic and social ideas of our time: the collaborative economy. With this important book, she broadens our thinking about the ways in which the economy is being transformed and shows how the Peers Inc model is changing the very nature of capitalism.

When the best of people power is combined with the best of corporate power to form “Peers Inc” organizations, a potent creative force is released. The “Inc” in these collaborations delivers the industrial strengths of significant scale and resources, and the “Peers” bring together the individual strengths of localization, specialization, and customization, unlocking the power of the collaborative economy. When excess capacity is harnessed by the platform and diverse peers participate, a completely new dynamic is unleashed.

In Peers Inc, Robin Chase brings her provocative insights to work, business, the economy, and the environment, showing:

  • How focusing on excess capacity transforms the economics of what’s possible and delivers abundance to all
  • How the new collaboration between the Inc and the Peers enables companies to grow more quickly, learn faster, and deliver smarter products and services
  • How leveraging the Peers Inc model can address climate change with the necessary speed and scale
  • How the Peers Inc model can help legacy companies overcome their shortening life cycle by inviting innovation and evolution
  • Why power parity between the Peers and the Inc is a prerequisite for long-term success
  • How platforms can be built within the existing financial system or outside of it
  • What government can do to enhance economic possibility and protect people working in this new decentralized world

Chase casts a wide net, illuminating the potential of the Peers Inc model to address broader issues such as climate change and income inequality, and proves the impact that this innovative economic force can have on the most pressing issues of our time.

Sharing: Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age

by Philippe Aigrain

An in-depth exploration of digital culture and its dissemination, Sharing offers a counterpoint to the dominant view that file sharing is piracy. Instead, Philippe Aigrain looks at the benefits of file sharing, which allows unknown writers and artists to be appreciated more easily. Concentrating not only on the cultural enrichment caused by widely shared digital media, Sharing also discusses new financing models that would allow works to be shared freely by individuals without aim at profit. Aigrain carefully balances the needs to support and reward creative activity with a suitable respect for the cultural common good and proposes a new interpretation of the digital landscape.

Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators

by Clay Shirky

How new technology is changing us for the better.

In his bestselling Here Comes Everybody, Internet guru Clay Shirky provided readers with a much-needed primer for the digital age. Now, with Cognitive Surplus, he reveals how new digital technology is unleashing a torrent of creative production that will transform our world. For the first time, people are embracing new media that allow them to pool their efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind-expanding reference tools like Wikipedia to life-saving Web sites like, which allows Kenyans to report acts of violence in real time. Cognitive Surplus explores what’s possible when people unite to use their intellect, energy, and time for the greater good.

Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World

by Don Tapscott

The Net Generation Has Arrived. Are you ready for it?

Chances are you know a person between the ages of 11 and 30. You’ve seen them doing five things at once: texting friends, downloading music, uploading videos, watching a movie on a two-inch screen, and doing who-knows-what on Facebook or MySpace. They’re the first generation to have literally grown up digital–and they’re part of a global cultural phenomenon that’s here to stay.

The bottom line is this: If you understand the Net Generation, you will understand the future.

If you’re a Baby Boomer or Gen-Xer: This is your field guide.

A fascinating inside look at the Net Generation, Grown Up Digital is inspired by a $4 million private research study. New York Times bestselling author Don Tapscott has surveyed more than 11,000 young people. Instead of a bunch of spoiled “screenagers” with short attention spans and zero social skills, he discovered a remarkably bright community which has developed revolutionary new ways of thinking, interacting, working, and socializing.

Grown Up Digital reveals:

  • How the brain of the Net Generation processes information
  • Seven ways to attract and engage young talent in the workforce
  • Seven guidelines for educators to tap the Net Gen potential
  • Parenting 2.0: There’s no place like the new home
  • Citizen Net: How young people and the Internet are transforming democracy

Today’s young people are using technology in ways you could never imagine. Instead of passively watching television, the “Net Geners” are actively participating in the distribution of entertainment and information. For the first time in history, youth are the authorities on something really important. And they’re changing every aspect of our society-from the workplace to the marketplace, from the classroom to the living room, from the voting booth to the Oval Office.

The Digital Age is here. The Net Generation has arrived. Meet the future.

Shareology: How Sharing is Powering the Human Economy

by Bryan J Kramer

Technology continues to evolve and make our lives busier and more complicated, but it can never replace true human connection–our fundamental need to share information, stories, and emotions.

Sharelogy explores the history, art and science of sharing, and illustrates why sharing is what gives us a unique competitive advantage as individuals and brands. It is meant for entrepreneurs and marketers who want to make their content more valuable, shareable, and for individuals who want to understand the power of sharing to grow their personal brand.

Kramer’s best-selling second book, Shareology raced onto the USA Today’s Top 150 Book List the week of its release, as well as onto #1 on Amazon in four categories includingBusiness & Planning, Strategic Planning, Hot New Releases and Communications, and Business Best Sellers Top 25 and Jack Covert Selects list on 800 CEO Reads.

Shareology includes:

  • The Shareology Backstory
  • Sharing in the Human Economy
  • The Importance of Context
  • The Human Business Movement
  • Sharing: A Sensory Experience
  • Timing Is Everything
  • Redefining Influencers Inside and Out
  • Connections and Conversations
  • Creating Shared Experiences
  • Social Selling Helping
  • What Makes Stuff Worth Sharing
  • Brands on Sharing
  • The Sharing Future: What’s Next?

Bryan Kramer is a renowned global speaker, consultant and trainer. He’s also one of the world’s foremost leaders in the art and science of sharing, and has been credited with instigating the #H2H human business movement in marketing and social, which was the basis for his first book: There is No B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human #H2H ~ another Amazon bestseller.

It’s a Shareable Life: A Practical Guide on Sharing

by Chelsea Rustrum (Author), Gabriel Stempinski , Alexandra Liss

Three 20-somethings started off as strangers and came together through experiencing the life-altering benefits of sharing. Through their sharing experiments, they gifted, bartered, rented, and swapped their way to a richer life.

Now, you too can learn how to lead a Shareable Life through the practical know-how and real life stories highlighted in this comprehensive guide.


  • Live rent free
  • Pay for your car
  • Increase your free time
  • Work from anywhere
  • Find work, even in a down economy
  • Travel the world on a backpacker budget
  • Reduce your monthly expenses sharing
  • Build a stronger community
  • Develop more trust in people
  • Create a healthier lifestyle
  • What are people saying?

“It’s a Shareable Life is a ‘must-read’ for anyone interested in the practical side of living the sharing economy.” – Rachel Botsman, Author of What’s Mine is Yours

“This is the best guide I’ve seen for the sharing economy.” – Casey Fenton, Founder of Couchsurfing

Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business

by Jeff Howe

Why does Procter & Gamble repeatedly call on enthusiastic amateurs to solve scientific and technical challenges? How can companies as diverse as iStockphoto and Threadless employ just a handful of people, yet generate millions of dollars in revenue every year?

“Crowdsourcing” is how the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the responsibility of a specialized few. Jeff Howe reveals that the crowd is more than wise–it’s talented, creative, and stunningly productive. It’s also a perfect meritocracy, where age, gender, race, education, and job history no longer matter; the quality of the work is all that counts. If you can perform the service, design the product, or solve the problem, you’ve got the job.

But crowdsourcing has also triggered a dramatic shift in the way work is organized, talent is employed, research is conducted, and products are made and marketed. As the crowd comes to supplant traditional forms of labor, pain and disruption are inevitable, and Howe delves into both the positive and negative consequences of this intriguing phenomenon. Through extensive reporting from the front lines of this workplace revolution, he employs a brilliant array of stories to look at the economic, cultural, business, and political implications of crowdsourcing.

Notes to Friends

To my friends in Design – Airbnb was born when two designers rented out their apartments to people, designers, who were coming to town for a design conference. This is a good idea, why don’t we propagate this? And so was born a new form of sociality.

To my friends in the Architecture space – there is an interesting link between the sharing economy and Architects. As Zimmer of Lyft says it:

ZIMMER: So in 2006, I went to Cornell Hotel School, and in my senior year took a class in city planning in the architecture school. And the class was called “Green Cities,” and had this amazing professor.

DUBNER: The professor was Robert Young …

The professor inspired Zimmer with something he said about occupancy. Lyft was born – eventually.

Design for Care

I recently finished reading Peter Jones’ book Design for Care: Innovating Healthcare Experience. If you are a designer and keen to enter into Health Service Design – this is a brilliant book. If you are a health care provider, or someone who works in the health care services industry this is a good way to see how ‘design’ thinks about health care. In simple term we make what is hard (health care services, medicine, hospitals) into something squishy (service, patient experience). Once its squishy we – designers – can remould it much as you would sculpy or your favourite brand of modelling clay. So in short – a highly recommended book. You can follow Peter @designforcare. Plus here is a video and a blurb (if you want to scan and come back for the video later)

Peter Jones, author of the new book Rosenfeld Media book: Design for Care: Innovating Healthcare Experience, presents a discussion of service design in healthcare as an integrated practice of empathic design. Designers are finally starting to make inroads in the practices of clinical healthcare, but are finding institutions have no context for their contributions. Clinicians, IT, health services and patients (people seeking health) tend to live and work in disconnected systems today, and the “best fit” of design practice has not yet been recognized. Designing for care complements clinical care practice, improving services and creating innovative and systemic responses to complex human system problems.

The webinar maps design practices and methods found effective in different contexts across the healthcare spectra (consumer, clinical, institutional), illustrated by current cases and design research. Brief design research studies are presented to prompt our rethinking of the meanings of care, of information sensemaking in care contexts, and designing for requisite complexity.

Plus more Videos

Transforming Healthcare with Service Design

Lovely Video from Karolinska: This service design project was carried out by Transformator Design Group at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, spring 2010.

Hitachi Design – an innovation centre serving all of the company’s sector-specific divisions – invited PDD to look at European trends and industry expectations regarding the use of digital health records.

Lets do Design Projects in the space of Open Government

I had a look at Open Goverment today – nudged by a twitter post. Great Video. This is their site:

OGP’s vision is that more governments become sustainably more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to their own citizens, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of governance, as well as the quality of services that citizens receive. This will require a shift in norms and culture to ensure genuine dialogue and collaboration between governments and civil society.

OGP aspires to support both government and civil society reformers by elevating open government to the highest levels of political discourse, providing ‘cover’ for difficult reforms, and creating a supportive community of like-minded reformers from countries around the world.

And I of course naively dream of redesigning Government. Gov2.0 is potentially different things for different people. What if we codesigned Govt? This is not as odd as it sounds in the first instance. Designers and govt? Is this a form of design? Or sceptics from another side – why would you open govt up for a design exploration? But that is all not as odd as I was to discover. Here is how “open source” proposes the future of Open Govt:

As new technologies become available, citizens’ ability to participate in their governments’ proceedings will continue to improve.  Although we cannot know the future, we can expect the definition of “open government” to evolve as our capabilities and expectation for participation and collaboration increase. Thus, it is important to recognize that “open government” is not so much a fixed term as it is an ideal to inspire and strive for–one that has and will continue to change with the times.

The you have the world Top 10 Govt 2.0 Initiatives

The Gov 2.0 movement continues to gain momentum around the world with a number of inspiring people, projects & ideas rising to prominence over the last year or so. Sometimes the most important innovations emerge from the periphery where creative citizens take a “do it first, ask for permission later” approach that can generate a wealth of benefits for the entire global community. So here’s my pick of the world’s best Gov 2.0 initiatives. What are your favourites?

Then there is a “how to” or good practice service design principles from Gov.UK

Listed below are our design principles and examples of how we’ve used them so far. These build on, and add to, our original 7 digital principles.

We are not totally sure if the mood in local and federal government is towards seeing Government as ripe for service redesign projects. There is some hope that some of the state and quasi state agencies are open to seeing how ‘apps’ (very fashionable) can improve their customer relationship. Are they thinking of redesigning themselves? Do they see Govt as a ‘service’? Not sure about this.

Quick intro to case studies

Meet the Govt.UK Content Team.

A short film to explain what we mean by Government as a Platform. By designing government services in blocks which do one job each, it’s easier to fix them, upgrade them, share them, and scale them up.

GOV.UK Verify is the new way to prove your identity when accessing digital government services. Janet Hughes explains how it works.

Leisa Reichelt: How to transform public services – An experience working for the UK government

The UK’s Policy Lab was launched at the beginning of April 2014. Policy Lab is a creative space where civil servants can experiment with new techniques and approaches to policy problems from data science to design. Its existence is born of a recognition that government needs to get better at policy-making; open it up, make it quicker, more digital and more connected with the people who are affected by it.

In this session Andrea shared their projects and revealed how they are working with design ethnographers, data scientists and other experts to develop new ideas in Government.

Future Ways of Living

I am great fan of Freakanomics Radio. So this morning I was listening to an episode – “Think Like a Child”. Now as a designer educated in India, with its gestalt psychology leanings, and complexity theory narratives this is what you would hear; think like a child, learn to see things from unorthodox perspectives. So I was mildly curious, and wondering if I would be dissappointed – I need not have worried. As a Dubner fan I know better than to predict content – so I was again inspired by this podcast. So get your Frekanomics radio app, download this and listen. If you want to skim – here is the transcript.

I will open with this crucial section that was a great takeaway.

DUBNER: Okay, so you’ve given us a number of traits that children exhibit in much larger measure than we might’ve thought before. What about the ways in which the old wisdom was right? What are the ways in which children really are kind of a dormant or latent version, at best, of what they will become?

GOPNIK: Yeah. It’s interesting. The kind of conventional wisdom was really that children were sort of defective grownups. So they were grownups, but missing pieces, with bits that hadn’t developed yet. But if you think about that from a biological or an evolutionary point of view, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. An alternative way that you might think about them is think of the kids as being the research and development division of the human species. And we’re—adults—we’re production and marketing. So from the production and marketing perspective, it might look like the R & D guys are really not doing anything that looks very sensible or useful. They sit around all day in their beanbag chairs playing Pong and having blue-sky ideas. And we poor production and marketing people, who are actually making the profits, have to subsidize these guys. But of course, one of the things that we know is that that kind of blue-sky, just pure research actually pays off in the long run.

I am writing this post to talk about – Contemporary Industrial Design and how Industrial Design reimagines ways of living. First I pull out phrases from the text above and list it.

  1. Research and Development division – As Industrial Designers we are familiar with the R&D Wallahs who are always dreaming up new innovations.
  2. Production and Marketing – We are also familiar with this lot who can shoot down what we propose. The market is not ready for that. This is what will sell.
  3. The R & D guys are really not doing anything that looks very sensible or useful – Often the obsessions that lead to innovations and inventions can be hard to fathom.
  4. They sit around all day in their beanbag chairs playing Pong and having blue-sky ideas – Such as having endless conversations about the future. Or thinking up ridiculous ideas – which they then propose to develop.
  5. Blue-sky, just pure research actually pays off in the long run – But for now they seem to be having endless conversations about the way things will be in the future.

There is one branch of Industrial Design that does blu sky thinking – this is popularly referred to as Design Thinking. Jon Kolko does a great job of appropriating Design Thinking as a process Industrial Designers use. He writes; “In the past, design has most often occurred fairly far downstream in the development process and has focused on making new products aesthetically attractive or enhancing brand perception through smart, evocative advertising. Today, as innovation’s terrain expands to encompass human-centered processes and services as well as products, companies are asking designers to create ideas rather than to simply dress them up.” He goes on to give the example of an Ideo/ Tim Brown project: “Brown, the CEO and president of the innovation and design firm IDEO, is a leading proponent of design thinking—a method of meeting people’s needs and desires in a technologically feasible and strategically viable way. In this article he offers several intriguing examples of the discipline at work. One involves a collaboration between frontline employees from health care provider Kaiser Permanente and Brown’s firm to reengineer nursing-staff shift changes at four Kaiser hospitals. Close observation of actual shift changes, combined with brainstorming and rapid prototyping, produced new procedures and software that radically streamlined information exchange between shifts. The result was more time for nursing, better-informed patient care, and a happier nursing staff.” Heaps more on that great Kolko article here.

Now if you are an industrial designer all this is music to your ears. Its also a convenient stick with which to beat the thing-making designers who as Kolko says above are “focused on making new products aesthetically attractive”. I will add a small addendum here that pretty things and goodlooking designs have their place. Its just that they are, to use Brown’s words, not that important. That 2009 TEDTalk by Tim Brown is a classic: Tim Brown says the design profession has a bigger role to play than just creating nifty, fashionable little objects. You can see that here.

Now I invite you to think about the R&D people in bean bags doing blu sky thinking as the people who do not make usable stuff. They spend their time thinking about changing the way things are done. They are design thinkers – switched on by Brown, Kolko and the story of Kaiser Permanente. The production people (adults) are then spending time creating nifty, fashionable little objects.  This sounds rough, much like the barbs aimed at ‘design thinking’ and ‘innovation’ by the fashion wallahs. So there is this divide – and a tension.

Or in freaknomics terms – the children and the adults.

Now how would this design thinking, innovation and service design orientated approach reimagine ways of living? This is what I set out to answer in this post.

I directed a studio with undergraduate industrial design students to find out. The goal was stated as micro living in the future. The designer were then invited to think up propositions that visualized the living infrastructure of the future. Would sharing play a big role in this future? What could we learn from Airbnb to reimagine sharing?

Much in the way the car is recast as a mobility appliance, the apartment becomes an appliance. Seen as appliances – the role of technology and consumption of appliances can be queried. On one side we start blusky thinking by visiting all the sci films – fifth element is a favourite – and also thinkers like Ray Kurweil who urges world changing as a great thing to do, “There are young people who followed their own instincts and changed the world.” What does this kind of thinking do when confronted with the notion of living and the living appliances we currently use? Lets say there exists an outmoded way of thinking about living.

Then there is the aspect of how do you consume these appliances – these living modules. Not like your mobile phone or other contemporary tech appliance. You have to buy this appliance hard wired into a specific geographical location. One immediate query – that can potentially break down the meaning of modules for living – is why do we have a hard-tie with geo-location? There is no way to answer this except to say – this is a legacy issue that will go away at some point in the future.

Seth Godin, in his blog, does a pithy take on legacy. He asks questions such as, “How long did it take Detroit to take the ashtrays out of cars? The single-sex admission policy at the club? How many people who use your website need to speak up on behalf of a button or a policy for you to persist in keeping it there? How long before you cancel the Sisterhood meetings that are now attended by just three people?”

To this we can add – How long did it take for governments and city councils to change laws about consuming living appliances?

Focussing away from some obvious bottlenecks to innovation – such as legacy issues – we can take a look at the people who need these appliances. Into this conversation we introduce some very powerful issues such as coproduction, cohousing, cocreation and collaborative consumption.

What happens to living then? What happens to living appliances and the living ecosystem when service designers are asked to design apartments?

To be continued.

See my earlier post inspired by the theme of – if apartments were cars here.

Projects for VicRoads

News Item: VicRoads has admitted more than 1400 motorists could have been wrongly fined for driving an unregistered car due a computer glitch with its licence and registration system. Read more Here.

VicRoads had a problem with their software[1] – a technical malfunction that did not communicate with the customer – with disastrous consequences for the customer. VicRoads did send out emails reminders for Registration[2] payments[3] to many who then ended up driving unregistered vehicles[4]. This is illegal[5] – so these people became criminals[6]. As criminals they were then accosted by the police[7]. This is a simple description of this event. It is sufficient to open up a discussion of the existing design of “a service[8] that people in Victoria use to consume mobility”. For more information on the actual events see below:

  • John Fayne ABC 774 Sound Cloud Link here.
  • News Item: “Vic Roads admits stickerless vehicle registration system ‘not up to scratch’, after complaints mount over missing renewal notices” Here.
  • News Item: “VicRoads launches probe after 1432 Victorian drivers wrongly fined due to IT ‘error’” Here.
  • An earlier account of a similar problem with Licences Here.

I am now looking at the possibility that we can undertake a CoDesign exercise to come up with a new way – to reimagine a service surrounding mobility. This is potentially an iterative process of designing. A way that delivers an outcome that meets contemporary standards of expectations of service delivery. 

Or as Fayne says about a future when looking back we are able to say “isn’t it good that VicRoads is now a model agency with no complaints from people”.

In the above account we encounter the existence of:

  1. Software (not apps?)
  2. Registration
  3. Payments
  4. Vehicles
  5. Illegal
  6. Criminals
  7. Police
  8. Service


The VicRoads software is a database of vehicles. The data on the vehicle potentially contains information about the Vehicle. It also merges information about each vehicle with data about a specific and particular human (customer) or firm – the owner.

What other information feeds can be accessed by this database? This is an interesting question that can be activated in the context of improving accuracy.

Let us imagine that VicRoads begins to trust people to be honest[9]. It then is able to handover the management of registration ( and also licence – aka permission for older driver to be allowed to drive) to the customer[10]. Let us imagine then that 80 percent of people will be truthful – I will put Christine Nixon into this category. 20% however will need to game the system – for a variety of reasons. VicRoads then will need a strategy to engage this situation – with multiple strategies – to get the outcomes they want. Let us imagine we have the ability to hire a team of criminals – very Hollywood style – to work up foils for a whole series of scenarios. Let us them imagine that we are able to design a smart system that can activate the FOIL through a very particular set of stages and protocols.

Let us propose that till today I have had no idea why I would need to game the VicRoads systems. I am in effect unable to ever game the system. What we get here is the possibility that I will be able to set up a auto payment system like the one I may have the option to set up for my other services. A very Bingle like app or interface that  we are slowly getting used to within MyGov. Its pre-populated – I can edit and make changes or confirm. So an App will be great to design and prototype [11].

Now to get back to the existing system: It is imagined the database can be queried by a whole series of instruments to generate reports. One report it can generate is about the status of service – has a fee been paid for the relevant period.

Very mobile phone. Only with mobile phone subscriptions you get email, sms/text and potentially hard copy paper reminders through the post. Delayed payments activate a recorded message, which then quickly escalates to a phone call from a real human. Does the software VicRoads uses have this level of engagement with the customer? Good to build the App! [11]


Telstra goes one step better. They advertise an App based way to self-manage your account. BE THE BOSS OF YOU they say. “Manage your account and services from your smartphone or tablet with the Telstra 24×7® App“. This puts the customer in charge – and so they can pay proactively. Without the interference of Telstra. Why does VicRoads not have an app allowing the customer to self manage their payments? App Again! [11]

In the contemporary period companies activate the proactive customer to work for them. The progressive company co-creates outcomes such as timely payments.

There is a unique philosophical position at the bottom of this narrative – I will state it here.

  1. The Customer is a partner.
  2. The Customer is respected.
  3. The Customer is trusted to do the right thing.
  4. The Customer has to be provided a service better than that being provided by literally everyone else.

The reputation of company as a responsible citizen is then confirmed by the customer. Their emotional value is captured by their expression of loyalty.

There are companies that operate monopolies – which have not, may not have, made the transition to the contemporary economy where goodwill is computed in monetary terms. Government agencies such as health care service providers (hospitals) struggle to make the transition. In an interim period it can be seen that such agencies use the customer feedback to improve service. Such incremental improvements of course mark these enterprises as obsolete. Of course private service providers that have obsolete models of practice close shop when they are accosted by forces of disruptive innovation (Clayton Christensen). Government and state agencies do not have such simple mechanisms of renewal and have to be updated incrementally. They are protected from the forces of disruptive innovation. A very important question then for VicRoads will be. How does VicRoads reimagine itself in contemporary terms? One way is to do a project that uses Scenario Construction. [12]


Is the notion of registration relevant in the emerging world?

Many people do not use this facility. We can categorise them as a population of people who don’t drive to get themselves about. Who in effect are not mobile or use assisted mobility.

  1. The very ill
  2. The very old
  3. The very young
  4. A group of people who do not have a driving licence.
  5. People who can be driven around.

The future is here as driver less cars. Will this be the new form of public transport? Has VicRoads imagined what will happen to notions of ownership and road use in this scenario? The emergence of driver-less cars has a significant impact upon the notion of ‘driving’. It is possible that in the future there will contain a diversity of mobility options and therefore a few distinct categories of people-vehicle combinations will emerge.

  1. The driverless cars will be common. This may have an older people option, or will permit safe Local Mobility. [LM] This is of relevance to medical aspects of individuals impacting upon permissions to drive/ use roads.
  2. Uber, Lyft and other disruptive services will disrupt successfully. Lets call this Ride Share [RS]. This is the possibility of competitive options of pervasive mobility becoming common.
  3. GoGet and Flexicar membership will be ubiquitous. Lets call this the Share Car population[SC]. This is a membership model – that even today as in GoGet has a free option – that is pay only when you use.
  4. Those taking up cycling will opt out [as in #1] or will drive occasionally and can plan their trips, such as weekend travel[WT]. This is the anti personal transport lobby. The state will build more and more cycling facilities.
  5. A new breed of mobility product will emerge. Lets call this new mobility products. [NMP] See the list at end #11.
  6. A population of people who will opt out of driving. The current generation of teenagers has this culture in some measure. Lets call these the Opt Outers [OO].
  7. A population of people who will want to own and drive. Lets refer to them as the Owner Collector [OC] lobby.
  8. A population of people who have to drive to do illegal acts. (“I don’t think there’d be too many bank robbers who use a driverless car as their getaway vehicle,” he said. For more click here.) Lets call these people the Get Away crowd [GA].

Now we have a question: What proportion of population can be ascribed to each category. I have made a list below – which gives us one scenario.

LM/15%, RS/15, SC/15, WT/15, NMP/ 10%, OO/15, GA/2% – which leaves me with a Owner/Collector, aka those that will drive definitely, proportion of 13%. Are we saying that the population of individual ownership will drop to 13%? In which case we will need to reimagine the ecosystem of Tax as the premises of ownership have to be adjusted to a new reality. Is 750$ a year or 2$ a day the appropriate fee for supporting the road ecosystem? If the quantum of fee collected potentially drops how does the tax/ income stream work. This is a scenario project. [14]

What mobile phones do it they charge you a subscription fee, give you a phone, and then charge you for usage. This in turn transforms the design of the product and the economy of development. For example 41% of people use iPhones (link). Were this to happen to cars we would buy the service, and not the product, and the product would be the best technology. Potentially an intelligent TESLA with its NVIDIA TEGRA Processors [link] is a primitive look at the future of mobility appliances. This is a scenario project. [15]

If we imagine that there exist distinct zones of mobility – such as inner urban [Z1], outer urban [Z2], and rural [Z3}. Then we can start to see the possibility of alternative scenarios of Registration. Who registers, and who manages the registration will change. Also Z1 can see a drop in vehicle ownership. By how much? 75% in the above scenario.

Will that convince the government to close VicRoads and create a department of mobility? Whats is the best future for our children? Another scenario project. [16]

Victoria has approx 4.6 million registered vehicles. How many of these will be shared vehicles or be part of emerging services? Which then leads to what is the best way of ‘taxing’ these? This is another Project – again scenario development.[17]


One of the dimensions of the relationship between VicRoads and individual owners is a contract to pay a fee for the privilege of being allowed use the Vehicles on roads maintained by VicRoads. Its possible to have, own, a vehicle to look at – and in that instance no fee needs to be paid. There are a large number of such vehicles in Victoria. People who live in this place have this odd habit of owning many vehicles – only some of these being for the express purpose of being used to move about. The others are collected or treated as projects.

The fee that is paid to use the roads – a toll as it were – takes many forms. Vic Roads prefers to keep this privilege simple and charges a flat annual fee. Some other agencies charge on a pay as you go [PAYG] basis – the toll. There is a small amount of chatter about having a PAYG system. How will that work? Good to do a research project to simulate the PAYG system and see how it impacts upon the other “tacit protocols”. Apple convinced the music companies that music consumption through hardware devices – CDs and other material artefacts – was obsolete. Henceforth music would be consumed like a ‘personal radio’. Largely free for the most part – some would pay for a level of control or finicky personal preferences.

Is it then possible for this – fee for use – to be a contemporary service? When compared with iTunes – to consume music – how different is it? This is a scenario project. [18]

Of course Registration is a tax – and needed to maintain the roads. There is a bit of discussion around the need to have an alternative model – “In the end, it’s not important whether fuel tax and other fees pay for roads or not. They’re just another kind of tax and can be used for whatever we as a democracy want it to be used for.” For more click here.

Illegals, Criminals, Police

I am currently not writing this section. Will do this later. Here is a link to a service design project in Scotland by Snook: My Police. While the project of Codesigning the Police Force in Victoria is some distance away – it is possible to reimagine public services such as VicRoads. Or even renegotiate the notions of criminality in the VicRoads space. Of course it may just be that this is too early for Victoria.


This is a text under development – and I will add more discussion as I go. I am aiming to describe unique projects that can be undertaken to unpick and unpack current practices that are tightly packed into hard bundles. Once we have dismantled the – no you can discuss that – bundles we can start a process of innovation. I have marked 18 potential projects and will open them up one by one.

For now you can leave comments. For more you may need to come back to see updates.

For now I have listed some additional Reading re the FUTURE of MOBILITY – that add to the need to be proactive in reimagining contemporary services like VicRoads.

  1. We see three key trends shaping mobility, both personal and commercial: the move to on-demand mobility, the impact of driverless vehicles and the growth of electric vehicles. More.
  2. Will technological advances and shifts in social attitudes lead to our no longer owning or driving vehicles? More.
  3. What happens to mobility in the next 15 years? More.
  4. What might one expect for the future of mobility in the United States in 2030? Mobility is defined as the ability to travel from one location to another, regardless of mode or purpose. RAND researchers used a six-step scenario development process to develop two thought-provoking scenarios that address this question. More.
  5. In 2008, after I told a global leading car company that they are not in business of making cars, but in the industry of personal mobility, and that car sharing would be an important personal mobility business model of the future, I was almost thrown out of the factory gates. Six years later, the same car company now runs a car sharing business and is in the forefront of developing new mobility services around vehicle usage rather than car ownership. More.
  6. According to the Picture the Future – Mobility research, Australia must focus on social and economic hubs, freight and logistics, alternative energy and intelligent mobility to achieve seamless mobility. More.
  7. Next is an advanced smart transportation system based on swarms of modular self-driving vehicles, designed in Italy. Each module can join and detach with other modules on standard city roads. When joined, they create an open, bus-like area among modules, allowing passengers to stand and walk from one module to another. More.
  8. Twenty years from now, transportation will look a whole lot different. Boston Consulting Group estimates that self-driving cars may account for a quarter of all global automobile sales by 2035. More.
  9. We are experiencing a fundamental shift in the history of transport: the end of the dominance of the privately owned motorcar. More.
  10. AGL toys with idea of electric vehicles for customers. More.
  11. Here is a list of 10 electric bikes made by car companies, placed in the order in which they are likely to come to market. More.
  12. Drivers who have lost their licenses for drink driving and other offences are  another a significant source of electric bikes buyersMore.
  13. Throughout Europe, commuters are ditching high petrol prices for eco-friendly electric bikes. More.