The limits of simple

16 September 2021

I came across this paragraph in a review of the work of Elinor Ostrom:

The better services are, as defined by professional criteria, the less satisfied the citizens are with those services’. This paradox emerges when the evaluation of the production process focuses solely on the part provided by the regular producer, ignoring the part played by the consumer-producer. Consequently, in such cases, the co-production trade-off is drifting away from its optimum and the interaction between the two parts is becoming more and more defective, despite genuine efforts to improve the service.

To give a simple example, education may become worse, despite genuine improvements in textbooks and in classroom materials, if those developments undermine student motivation in some way, perhaps by presenting material so clearly that students no longer feel the need to discuss issues with classmates and teachers.

I thought it was a nice illustration of why the design of services needs to do so much more than help people complete a task, and that there are limits to ‘simple’, however much hard work is put in by designers.