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Shaping physical, social and imaginary spaces in healthcare design labs

The use of service design to support healthcare innovation has increased over the past decade. Recently, a growing number of design labs have been established to facilitate service design processes inside healthcare organizations. There is a growing need to gain a deeper understanding of how to set up and work within these spaces so that they live up to their promise of healthcare innovation and do not become a hype that fades out over time.

Despite a growing body of literature on design labs, little attention has been given to the role of the lab space and how space may be ‘made use of’ to support healthcare service design. To examine the practice of making use of space, action research was conducted by embedding a design lab inside a hospital.

Through empirical observations, we unpack three spatial dimensions that are made use of inside healthcare service design labs: (1) physical spaces supporting sensemaking and promoting innovation as culture; (2) social spaces facilitating and encouraging interactions among stakeholders; and (3) imaginary spaces challenging mental models and shaping propositions collaboratively. This extended understanding of lab space challenges existing research priorities, suggesting practical implications for using space more purposefully within design labs.

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