As experience design consultants, we have a penchant for identifying with self-important descriptions like visionary, innovator, and the next Steve Jobs.
Some of these descriptions may be accurate in rare cases, but in reality designers have more in common with a restaurant waiter than we do Mr. Jobs.
At Think Brownstone, we acknowledge this commonality with our sixth and final core company value: Be of service.
One of the many ways we manifest this value is by pursuing altruistic activities with our two paid volunteer days each year. Other ways include organizing company-wide volunteer opportunities, helping out at local design workshops and schools, donating money to worthy causes like the Neema Project, or carrying a box of seltzer up the stairs for a coworker.
Be of service.
We give more than is expected of us—to our coworkers and clients, to people that need help, and toward the advancement of our profession.
All of these activities are great ways to serve others, but at Think Brownstone “service” means more than volunteering time. Each of our core values carries many possible interpretations, and I think this one appears last in the list for a reason; to be of service is to pull a bit from each of Think Brownstone’s other core values.
I mean, we are a for-profit company. The generally accepted idea of service seems antithetical to a capitalistic mindset. But service is foundational to our company and to the very field in which we’ve staked our expertise.
A service mentality is the engine that drives our growth and success on a daily basis. As Brian described in his “Be Excellent” post, we have a rigorous system of support built into our workplace. It’s why our other core values are so critical. To be excellent, we must continuously improve. To improve, we need honest feedback—which is always best delivered kindly. We all work together to achieve our individual and organizational goals. To be of service is to holistically embody the rest of our core values—something we trust our coworkers to do every day.
Put another way, we believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. And we believe that better things happen when we’re on the same page internally and with our clients. (This is one reason why many of us are fans of the “Conscious Capitalism” movement and the organizations involved.)
If you work with Think Brownstone, we will work as partners. We will communicate readily and honestly, ask questions constantly, and get your team to our offices for Think Sessions. You will be actively involved in our process—we won’t disappear for a few weeks and come back to unveil one more thing.
As Phil put it in an email exchange on this topic, we work closely with our clients “…not because we expect them to be designers. We want them to understand how we do what we do so we can be better partners. Part of our job is to learn their business quickly—if they learn ours, it makes for a better outcome. Our work isn’t magic. We don’t have tricks or secrets.”
This philosophy trickles down to our deliverables. We’ll give you something that’s beautiful and works, but we’ll also include carefully annotated documentation so you can recreate and riff on our efforts in new ways. We believe strongly in teaching our clients to fish instead of just throwing the occasional trout over the wall.
At Think Brownstone, we talk a lot about empathy. When done right, service is the act of practicing a special brand of empathy. As service workers and designers, we help our clients find what Erik Stolterman and Harold Nelson call “the expected unexpected outcome.”
That may sound a little nonsensical. To return to the waiter comparison, Think Brownstone is the server that will help you find that wine pairing you never would have tried but ends up bringing the entire meal together.