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Francis Rowland & Michele Ide-Smith - How to sabotage an organisation


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How to sabotage an organisation
Designing for distinction

Designing services and experiences requires cooperation and understanding between a range of people; it requires an adaptive, nimble organisation. Our talk will tell you how to sabotage and undermine all that. Inspired by a CIA manual on sabotage, we select and present some of the most effective tips as anti-patterns for modern, collaborative service design. We expand on these points, setting them in the context of our day-to-day work, as designers and innovators, highlighting the damage that can be done. We’ll also outline a practical game that you can use to solve problems creatively using anti-patterns.

Our innovation is that, by using selected anti-patterns, we invite the audience to play “devil’s advocate” for a change, and to consider how to design terrible services! Wikipedia defines an anti-pattern as “a common response to a recurring problem that is usually ineffective and risks being highly counterproductive”. Considering anti-patterns for solving problems can be a powerful way to help designers (and others!) to approach a problem with a new perspective, unencumbered by the need to “get it right”. Many of the “tips” we present are simple, logical, and avoidable… and yet we see them so often, preventing us from realising great service and experience design, and from collaborating effectively. In this talk, we approach that challenge a little differently.

Published in: Design

Francis Rowland & Michele Ide-Smith - How to sabotage an organisation

  1. 1. vSabotage:
 Anti-patterns for collaborative work and getting design done Francis Rowland | Sigma Consulting Michele Ide-Smith | European Bioinformatics Institute
  2. 2. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith SABOTAGE Anti-patterns for collaborative work and getting design done #sdgc16 By Nationalmuseet - National Museum of Denmark from Denmark - Dansk Industri Syndikat i København i brandUploaded by Palnatoke, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://
  3. 3. Who we are Michele Ide-Smith @micheleidesmith
 Product Saboteur at Europe PMC European Bioinformatics Institute Francis Rowland @francisrowland
 Senior Sabotage Architect Sigma Consulting Solutions
  4. 4. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith By Unknown or not provided - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, What is sabotage? sab·o·tage (săbʹƧ-täzhʹ)
 1. The deliberate destruction of property or obstruction of normal operations, as by civilians or enemy agents in a time of war.
 2. The deliberate attempt to damage, destroy, or hinder a cause or activity.
  5. 5. General interference with organisations and production SOE - public domain
  6. 6. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Insist on doing everything through "proper channels". 
 Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.”
  7. 7. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and consideration."” “Attempt to make the committees as large as possible - never less than five.”
  8. 8. Managers and supervisors By Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library dlib/lat/display.cfm?ms=uclalat_1429_b47_N36&searchType=subject&subjectID=213944, Public Domain,
  9. 9. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Do everything possible to delay the delivery of a project. Even though parts of the project may be ready beforehand, don't deliver it until it is completely ready.”
  10. 10. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Hold meetings when there is more critical work to be done.”
  11. 11. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Multiply the procedures and clearances.” “See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.”
  12. 12. Office workers and employees By Unknown - published in Japanese newspaper Rekishi Syashin, Public Domain,
  13. 13. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Contrive as many interruptions to your work as possible”
  14. 14. Lowering morale and spreading confusion By Palestine Railways, Khoury House, Haifa, Palestine - Report of The General Manager on the Administration of the Palestine Railways and Operated Lines:1946/1947. Warhaftig's Press. Haifa, Palestine, CC0,
  15. 15. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Fill out forms illegibly so that they will have to be done over; make mistakes or omit requested information in forms.”
  16. 16. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith Perhaps you recognise some of these methods for sabotage from where you work?
  17. 17. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith Well, these tips were taken directly from a 1940 manual produced by the OSS (what later became the CIA) featured-story-archive/CleanedUOSSSimpleSabotage_sm.pdf
  18. 18. @francisrowland
  19. 19. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith Anti-patterns for service design
  20. 20. 1. Mislead customers about the purpose of the service By Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. from the Illustrated London News, 10 June 1893. Public domain, https://
  21. 21. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Provide misleading information about the service”
  22. 22. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Make false claims about the benefits that the service offers”
  23. 23. 2. Prevent people from using the service By Toni Pecoraro, 2007. Public domain:
  24. 24. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Disorientate people with confusing and contradictory signage, maps, layout and navigation”
  25. 25. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Don’t provide an overview of the steps involved and remove all guidance”
  26. 26. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Design physical spaces to be crowded, cluttered, noisy and badly lit”
  27. 27. 3. Reduce transaction completion rates Public domain:
  28. 28. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Force people to re-enter the same personal information in multiple places"
  29. 29. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Don’t notify people about what they need to do next”
  30. 30. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Make people wait several weeks in between different stages of their customer journey”
  31. 31. 4. Increase the cost per transaction By rajomo1. CC-BY:
  32. 32. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Only offer paper processes - remove access to digital channels”
  33. 33. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Require people to contact the call centre repeatedly to check progress”
  34. 34. 5. Make customers angry and frustrated By Luis Marina, “Grrr!”. CC-BY: 15547142333
  35. 35. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Train staff to be surly and rude. Encourage staff to speak a different language or use jargon”
  36. 36. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Ask customers to contact several different departments. Ensure departments do not talk to each other”
  37. 37. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Never get back to a customer enquiries, and hide contact details”
  38. 38. 6. Sabotage organisational change By unknown, Striking Serbin workers, 1955. CC-BY: kheelcenter/5279086865
  39. 39. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Don’t involve staff at any stage of the re-design”
  40. 40. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “Make processes more complex than necessary, and add manual steps”
  41. 41. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith With these tips, you too can sabotage products, services and even organisations!
  42. 42. @francisrowland
  43. 43. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith Anti-patterns Using sabotage constructively
  44. 44. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “An anti-pattern is a common response to a recurring problem that is usually ineffective and risks being highly counterproductive” Wikipedia
  45. 45. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith Anti-problem game (aka “reverse it”)
  46. 46. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “If you give someone an open-ended creative problem there is great difficulty in getting started. There is difficulty in moving at all.” – Edward de Bono
  47. 47. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith As service designers, we often co-design with people who are unfamiliar with the design process
  48. 48. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith When you’re stuck solving a problem, think about it in reverse.
  49. 49. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith Instead of: “How do we improve access to healthcare for patients in rural areas?”
  50. 50. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith The anti-problem: “How can we prevent patients in rural areas from accessing healthcare services?”
  51. 51. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith Ask teams to think of design solutions to solve the anti-problem
  52. 52. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith Then ask the teams to think of the opposite solution
  53. 53. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith When people are stuck, this approach can free creative thinking and create energy
  54. 54. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith It provides a new perspective on a problem, which was perhaps invisible before
  55. 55. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith “By disrupting the original way of looking at the situation one frees information that can come together in a new way.” – Edward de Bono
  56. 56. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith It can help teams understand what the “opposite of good” looks like
  57. 57. @francisrowland
 @micheleidesmith Sabotage manual story-archive/CleanedUOSSSimpleSabotage_sm.pdf The anti-problem Reverse it Pre-mortem Anti-Patterns that Stifle Lean UX Teams - Bill Scott
  58. 58. Thank you! Michele Ide-Smith @micheleidesmith Product Manager European Bioinformatics Institute Francis Rowland @francisrowland Senior UX Architect Sigma Consulting