Coffee with Geke van Dijk
Coffee with Geke van Dijk, strategy director of STBY
Geke is co-founder of STBY, a bureau specialized in design research for service innovation. This means interactive research on people’s intrinsic motivation: what drives them, what makes them really happy? In doing so, STBY works toward a solution created in collaboration with the subject.
Speaking with people in the field, brainstorming or trying out a prototype are all steps in the process of realizing a design that can lead to actual social innovation. Using people as a starting point combined with user friendly technology is what Geke calls ‘design-led customer research’. Geke: ‘This way, we work on both ends. It’s a combination of research and design. When you’re just using research, it often doesn’t transcend theory. This results in data too meager or dull to transform the traditional ways of providing a service. On the other hand, delivering a simple design or technological feature often doesn’t create a big enough impact. It doesn’t provide people with a new thinking pattern or doesn’t let them recognize themselves in the project enough to lead to actual implementation.’
As a scientist, Geke has started to lean towards design more and more. Meanwhile, her fellow designers have started incorporating interactive research into their design process. “Following the easy road, using standard tools, not giving bold ideas a chance, producing a rapport based only on an expert’s perspective or aiming solely at new and exiting technologies doesn’t work. These are not things that get people excited or that motivate them to act.”
The STBY website showcases inspiring projects that show their diversity well. There are cultural and commercial projects both in the Netherlands and internationally where they advise and train people to enhance their services in an innovative and interactive way. Examples are: dynamic boarding at Dutch railway stations (a LED screen above the platform that shows the location of the doors), showing the elderly who can’t leave their homes how they can connect with people from a distance, creating a dementia cafe in community centers and libraries or finding parking solutions for bikes in Amsterdam. Geke: ‘It’s up to us to push companies to come up with new solutions for real problems. After all, if they knew the problems and knew how to act, they would. We choose to research what is really important for people, we’re not just looking for a technology push. That’s why we meet people in the streets, at their homes and wherever they use the products. We ask our clients to think outside of their comfort zone.’
Spring House works well as a home base for STBY because people share the same principles: working together to create radical innovations. Both STBY and other Spring House members search for root causes of problems and fix those with innovative ideas. As Geke puts it: ‘It’s the combination of autonomy and working together. We are not just renters in an office space, but partners and shareholders of Spring House. The monthly program definitely has an added value for our work, but being a member at Spring House also comes with responsibilities. It’s a serious club with rules and engagements, but we share these responsibilities together.’
Interview by Kitty den Boogert