The myth of the 'O'-gap

The theme of yesterdays Service Design Thinks #2 in Amsterdam was “exploring the ‘O’-gap”. My personal take-away is that the ‘O’-gap is a myth. The ‘O’-gap is the status-quo phase in which a lot of innovation projects eventually end up. You’ve created some great new (service) concepts but the organizations isn’t able/willing/ready to operationalize them.

the 'O'-gap

The discussions I’ve been hearing about the the ‘O’-gap focus on how to get things moving when you’ve reached this phase. I think this is a fundamental mistake. Most likely from the perspective of your client there is no ‘O’-gap.

He just hired you to get those customer insights or to create some new service scenario’s. Once you’ve delivered on that succesfuly, his or her job is done. A lot of the times your client doesn’t need a new service, the scope of the project is much more limited. He’s not looking for implementation. He probably doesn’t have the ambition, resources or the holistic view to change the organization.

What’s happening is that you’re just running into organizational boundries. Even when you’re client is running the innovation department he’s stuck in a silo. Eventually he will need to “sell” the innovation to the rest of the organization.

I think the nature of the design proces is to create change and not stop before that change is realized. This is especially challenging within service design. In order to realize this change you need clients that have a holistic view of their organization. The reality is that most of the service design project are still initiated from within the organizational silos.

The ideal situation? Create small enterprises within a large organization. Bring 5-10 people together, give them their own budget, let them fail and eventually create new business. Scale up what works, and learn from the mistakes.

I’m still shaping my thoughts on this subject but I’d dare to argue that ‘O’-gap doesn’t exist, there’s just the next project. A project with a different scope, different resources and probably different people.

So what’s your stand on the ‘O’-gap?

Marc Fonteijn

Marc Fonteijn

Marc is co-founder of 31Volts and helps major private and public organizations to grow by designing services that cultivate a sustainable relationship with customers.

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