Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A taxing read

"We have long had death and taxes as the two standards of inevitability. But there are those who believe that death is the preferable of the two. 'At least,' as one man said, 'there's one advantage about death: it doesn't get worse every time Congress meets. -- Erwin N. Griswold, 34th United States Solicitor General

I have just finished reading a paper delivered by some of the crew at Second Road on how they worked with the ATO to help the organisation rethink its relationship to law, politics, and its clientele: Aussie taxpayers.

It makes for an interesting read, and is a fascinating test case for what can happen in the most analysis-driven of organisations when a design approach to problem-solving and future-casting is adopted not for a one-off workshop, but as the persistent model of thinking.

If accountants and taxation lawyers can work this way (in a culture of co-design), anyone can. It fits with what Lietdka and Ogilvie have posited about the 'discipline of design'. Quoting Larry Keeley of Doblin: "Creating new concepts depends a lot more on discipline than on creativity. You take the ten most creative people you can find anywhere. Give me a squad of ten marines and the right protocols, and I promise we'll out-innovate you."

If you live in Australia and pay taxes (the two seem to be mutually exclusive for some people), then the paper is well worth the read -- if nothing else, it builds your empathy for those on the other end of the tax form / BAS.

If you work in an organisation where you think, "There is no way a design thinking approach could have anything to offer us or our clients", the paper is worth a read.

The story offers a nice interplay between the role of individuals (both outside and inside the ATO), the value of persistence, and the importance of good ethnographic work mated to a strong design process.

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