How to be a more resilient service designer

Last week, I turned to Twitter for help. I needed some tips on how to cope with some of the stress I was facing at work. I guessed that the challenges I was facing were pretty common to those faced by service designers.

Service designers! How do you cope with the stress of feeling out of control/your depth, when you are constantly trying to breakdown the boundaries between team, departments and organisations?

— Benjy Stanton (@benjystanton) February 14, 2019

I got an amazing response, and I recommend you take a look at the entire thread, but I've tried to condense the tips into this blog post.

Tips for being a resilient service designer

  • Buddy up
  • Talk to others outside of work
  • Build relationships
  • Remember it’s a long game
  • Visualise your problems
  • Switch off
  • Zoom out
  • Keep going

Buddy up

  • It’s a team effort
  • You will lose the will to live if you're the only one driving change
  • Work with someone who is able to support and advocate for what you're doing
  • It doesn’t have to be another service designer (someone with similar agile, user-centred, silo busting mindset)
  • Share the load of firefighting

Find a buddy. Don’t say “yes” to the work if you don’t/won’t have one. You need someone who “gets it” (awful phrase I know), is working in the same context, who you can chew the fat and - yes - vent with

— Sophie Dennis (@sophiedennis) February 14, 2019

Talk to others outside of work

  • Talk it over with people who aren't involved
  • Go to meet-ups like OneTeamGov
  • Network on social media
  • Get a mentor

Build relationships

  • Go in as an explorer, rather then an expert
  • Focus on building networks not breaking down silos
  • Try to see things from other people's point of view
  • Find a balance between organisational goals and user needs
  • Learn about the personalities and values of the other stakeholders

I’m also big into not thinking about breaking down silos but focusing on building networks of interest. It’s more of a strength based perspective.

Also remember that change needs time. I’ve learned patience over the last ten years of working in and around gov.

— rufflemuffin (@rufflemuffin) February 15, 2019

Remember it's a long game

  • Change needs time
  • Be patient
  • Trust the process
  • Learn to spot opportunities
  • Think strategically about where to plant seeds and where they might grow best
  • Remember that others are trying to reach their own goals

Visualise your problems

  • Map out your stakeholders and priorities
  • Frame the big challenges by breaking them down into smaller problems and attach rough odds of success
  • Knowing how hard a problem is makes it less stressful to fail
  • Focus on smaller projects or task you can finish
  • Make sure your maps are accessibile to everyone
  • Go easy on jargon

I like to frame these big challenges by breaking them down into smaller problems with rough odds of success in my head. Knowing how hard a problem is, relative to others, makes it less stressful to fail. Then I say, “I tried my best, but that was always going to be a long shot”

— Harry Vos (@vosageroll) February 15, 2019

Switch off

  • Don't stare at the wall/screen trying to design solution
  • Go for a walk
  • Change your environment
  • Take a lunch or coffee break
  • Listen to music
  • Take up surfing or yoga
  • This can give you time to arrange your thoughts without realising it

Zoom out

  • Remind yourself of the context and purpose of the service
  • Remind yourself of the outcomes you want for the people using the service
  • Try not to attach your self-worth to the immediate feedback you get

It can be hard at times for sure. Reminding myself of the context and purpose of the service, and the outcomes we want for people as a result of the work. Going for a walk. Zooming out. Talking it over with someone not involved.

— (((Nic Price))) (@nicprice) February 14, 2019

Keep going

  • Trust yourself
  • Celebrate all the wins, no matter how small
  • Recognise that it's hard
  • Recognise that it takes emotional investment and mental strength
  • Keep reminding folk of the duty of doing the right thing

Further reading


Thanks to everyone who helped (apologies if I forgot anyone).