Fastest Prototypers in the West (well, North actually)

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The opportunity to hone my service design skills came again when I signed up for the Fast Prototyping Competition. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even read the description, I just signed up as I knew that it would be a good experience and a great challenge. Probably because I didn’t read the description, I didn’t realise that it would be a limited event. But with about 20 people attending it was small and highly motivating. The actual name that was given on the day for this event was “Aaltoes-Fjord Service Design Challenge”. There were three guys there from Fjord to help guide us through this process- Juska Teittinen, Mox Soini, and Ville Päivätie.

Fjord’s Process

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We had just 9 hours to do ¾ of a Double Diamond (or 3/5 circles of the Fjord process) and present our work. It was fast prototyping alright! One of the greatest features for me was the fact that we were doing work for a real client. Fjord had come with a big client for the Finnish market to see if we could help them out with their service concepts. We were given the brief of a large travel company in Finland. It has identified 5 market segments and wanted an idea for as many segments as possible. So in this case, there were 4 teams and therefore 4 different segments were used. I really don’t know if we are allowed to share the client’s name, so I will not do that here.

Our team, consisting of Marjukka Rantala, Jaakko Porokuokka, Teija Hakaoja and myself, were designated the segment of Enjoy Family Fun. Which meant travel with kids. I have to say that I was really happy about this theme and we were lucky to have 3 of the four of us who were parents. And it was great to have one non-parent as this added a nice dimension to the discussions. It made us think about why. Many times, you take things as a given when you are part of the demographic you are looking at but when it came to explaining “why” to someone who wasn’t, it really helped to define what we were talking about and make sure we were understanding things the same way.

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In the end, I believe that our team came up with a new service innovation by flipping the conventional wisdom and making the children the customers of the travel company rather than the parents. Using this new perspective, we were able to define various areas where the service to these families is lacking. I really think that our creation ‘has legs’ as they say. I think that it is possibly a bit of a game changer in the industry- it would certainly be something new.  But probably everybody thinks that of their baby.

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In the end we did not win this competition. But it was a great experience and I would love to do it again soon. We got many good tips and were commended for our use of role play in our presentation and the ‘innovativeness’ of our idea.

By the end of the competition, my two daughters had shown up (after being picked up by me briefly during the last presentation – sorry Antti but I had to!). After the competition was over I took the opportunity to ask some questions to Juska and Mox. Mainly about how to transition into the Service Design industry and what are companies really looking for when they seem to only want visual designers (an overstatement but one that was understood).  And Juska pointed out that my children were one of my greatest assets in thinking like a service designer. He just said “their way of looking at life” (or something close). I went away a little puzzled needing to think more about it. And that’s exactly what I did…his comment inspired my first ever LinkedIn post “9 reasons 3 year olds are just small service designers”. I hope you like it.

Written by Pamela Spokes, SID 2014

Coming soon: Better service experience through neuroscience

It is somewhat easy to get a grasp what people want, what do they like and what they don’t shadowing them and performing contextual interviews. It is considerably harder to find out why people like what they like.

In todays world, the consumers are bombarded with more stimuli than ever. Attention spans are shorter and as Professor Luiz Moutinho says, they are doing more shopping and less choosing. Getting the consumer on the first step of a service encounter is harder than ever.

So, understanding customer’s likes and preferences in addition to ones jobs could lead to creation of ever better services.

Since early 2000 large corporations have started to utilize methods from neuroscience to peer into the consumers brain to better understand how we make decisions and attach emotions to brands.

The brain works the same way when it attaches emotions to people and brands.

Briefly, measuring ones emotion toward a person or a brand, the activation pattern of brain is compared to known regions of brain that activate or deactive during pleasure, arousal or dominance (see the PAD emotional state model).

Currently many of the studies are being done using big fMRI scanners, that require the patient to lay still on a bed watching images and clicking buttons while the magnetic scanner hums and makes loud clacking sound around the test subject.

Not very useful for decoding the service experience.

Luckily, in the near future the newer generation of neuroscience tools, like Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) caps and headbands allow the consumer to walk and experience the service first hand, while ones emotions are captured.

Think of for example testing a new product, which includes co-creation component, e.g. flat pack furniture. Since there are so many variables in the co-creation process, it is hard for the consumer to express all the feedback which one could at the end of the test.

Capturing emotions during the service encounter helps designers quicker to pinpoint the desired and unwanted features that has value to the consumer.

By peering into the consumer’s brain the corporations are able to create evermore attractive services and products for us. Hopefully they will use these new found powers responsibly.

Business owners and investors should take part in Jam events

This blog post discusses why I think that investors, clients, CIOs, CEOs, CBOs and other people who are responsible for service quality, organisation’s strategy or business should take part Jam events in future.

Did you recognise yourself? Great!

I thought You when I wrote this.

What is Global Service Jam?

From 27th of February to 1st of March in 2015 curios and open-minded people all-around the world met for fifth time in 95 different locations at the same weekend.

Global Service Jam is a yearly 48h event where ordinary people with different backgrounds meet together and solve ordinary problems people are facing in their daily lives. Simple as that.

But Global Service Jam is by no means the only one of its kinds. Global Sustainability Jam and Global GovJam focuses more in social responsibility issues. Watch also a video about Jams in general.

Now you may wonder “what’s in it for me in Jams”? Next, I give you several reasons why I think that you should get in.

Adopt the design process and rapid prototyping skills

One of the most interesting elements in Jams comes in the form of rapid prototyping. New service concepts are tested and evaluated numerous times at a rapid succession. This is something that rarely occurs in traditional business setting.

The design process in Jams goes like this:

  1. People quickly share their views and insights about problems worth solving
  2. They team up with other people who have passion to solve a shared problem
  3. Teams learn quickly about the true nature of the chosen problem in real-life
  4. Teams ideate how the problem could be solved
  5. The most important thing… aside the process, teams create very early plausible prototypes, test and improve them, until they have found a minimum viable, desirable and feasible solution.
  6. When time is up, audience can experience or interact each teams’ service prototype. No PowerPoints or bullet points.

All in 48 hours.

Instead of explaining here more deeply what is Design Thinking, Lean Startup Process or what is a Minimum Viable Product, I suggest you to go next Jam and live the process. Bill Moggridge from IDEO have crystallized the nature of human experiences very well: “You can’t experience the experience until you experience it”. Thus, you know then what you mean, when you find yourself explaining the previous design processes for your colleagues or clients. Also, you have a proper starting point to improve your new practical hands-on design skills.

Now you may think: How long it takes to play and test a service prototype with a user or a stakeholder?

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Co-Designing Open Innovation activities with Samlink

On 10th of February 2015, a Finnish IT Service Provider Samlink asked external help, ideas and insights by involving multidisciplinary professionals into Designing Open Innovation Activities mini workshop. The event was organised and hosted together with the Service Design Network Finland. The purpose was to ideate what different kind of Open Innovation models, frameworks and activities Samlink could provide in future. Samlink, the company that I work myself too, also wanted to share knowledge for the community.

Visualising who we all are

Visualising who we all are

About thirty participants entered the event from Aalto University, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, start-ups, bigger ICT-companies, freelancers, entrepreneurs, etc. People with diverse backgrounds attended the event: service & systems architects, developers and service designers, innovation managers, and so on.

CEO of Samlink, Pentti Unkuri, opened the event by presenting some facts about Samlink and trends that are affecting in financial services. Security director of Samlink, Jari Pirhonen, discussed how information security should taken care when designing services.

Next, Mahnoush Mojtabaei from Aalto University explained Open Innovation in her speech ‘The Brave New World of Open Innovation’.

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The Inspirational New Children’s Hospital 2017

I am glad to have participated in The Service Day 2015 on the 18th of March. As a new student in the field of service design and innovation it really made me open my eyes to how much service design has already spread into the health sector. I saw a lot of commonalities in the projects, which were presented. All of these projects included a great holistic view of the all the parts tied with the service and even better, an innovative fresh way of organizing them in a new customer centric and efficient way. This holistic view of customer insight was a part of all of the projects.

What impressed me was how these projects really had people believing in them. In their minds there was little space for pessimism, a bit of sanity and a huge believe in the idea and a great deal of professionalism. What comes out when all these talented people with a different background are put in the same room, are these incredible service design projects.

People need other people, and what all these projects had in common was an impressive amount of collaboration. Good service design is creating together. This is where I emphasize the word co-creation! The best sand castles are built with many hands and ideas.

Children have the best imagination together, so why not adults? One raising castle is the new pediatric hospital, which has been largely discussed in the media and a lot of debate (e.g. 1a, 1b) has been going on about the funding of the project, which hasn’t followed the traditional norms of building public buildings. A foundation for building a new children’s public hospital was founded in 2012 and the hospital is going to be ready in 2017.


Anne Berner presenting the  Children's Hospital 2017 project

Anne Berner presenting the Children’s Hospital 2017 project

Anne Berner had the first presentation in the Service Day 2015. As her presentation really impressed me, this blog post is devoted to her project. Among many other duties Anne Berner is the Chairman of the board of the Association and Foundation New Children’s hospital 2017. She pointed out that in the beginning of the project it wasn’t known who owns the project and who is in charge of it. She says that this was not easy as it wasn’t clear if it is the county of Helsinki or the state paying the bill. The solution was an open fundraising campaign, so that everyone anywhere could partake in the project. But … especially the media and part of the Finnish public seemed to think this was wrong. Happily not everyone. The funding is based on donations which some people think is begging.

The way Anne Berner talked during the Service Day made me believe that this project is in the right hands. She has a humble and an iterative attitude towards the project which characterizes a good service design. She is very well aware of the critics and sees even the negative discussion around the hospital as positive. She takes critique in a constructive and strengthening way, which is necessary in service design. She also says that the more there is discussion, the more important the campaign becomes. According to her, best innovations are built only with criticism. Myself, I think this project is revolutionary and shakes the traditional thoughts of service into a new service design way of thinking. She pointed out that there has always been a lot of community effort in Finland, especially during and after the wars. Hospitals have been built using fundraisers before, so why should it be different now?

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Design Thinking for Business Innovation

I participated recently to a web course by Darden School of Business at Virginia University. Professor Jeanne Liedtka led us students to a four-week journey into the world of service design and innovation. The course included short video lectures by professor Liedtka and her colleagues (e.g. Daniel Pink and Jeremy Alexis). Several business examples were used to highlight the issues at hand. I really enjoyed having a recap to SD practices I have learnt at Laurea. I want to share my insights during the course by describing service designer’s mindset and Liedtka’s SD process. At the end I describe some qualities for a dream team.






Broaden your mindset

The starting point was to break the Moses myth of innovation being a miracle that takes special gifts – and instead make it a process for problem solving. Organizations make it sometimes a bit hard to innovate as they love big ideas, are obsessed with analyses and the managers might get trapped in growth gridlock. However, as data on the future does not exist, we need to encourage physics of innovation by having a prepared mind. That means broadening mindset by

  • Reflection in order to recognize fixed mindset
  • Learning something new every day
  • Asking questions more than giving answers (coaching approach)
  • Stretching current capabilities each week (e.g. job rotation)
  • Aiming for becoming growth oriented.


A four phase SD process

An easy to relate to SD process was discussed during the course. The same process has also been introduced in Liedtka’s and Ogilvie’s book “Designing for Growth”:

1. What is? The aim is to get insights from the customers about the status as is. Deep exploration into the lives and problems of customers is needed before generating solutions. Look at what the customers are trying to accomplish, not what they say they want. Stay in the question, don’t rush; try to understand first. Journey mapping and value chain analysis are good tools during this first phase.

2. What if? What if anything was possible to make the future differ from today? The aim is to find unarticulated customer needs, to search for higher ground. It is important to be possibility-driven and options-focused. It is wise to have multiple irons on the fire, i.e. to produce a portfolio of new ideas. Brainstorming sessions help to think out of the box; the expectation is not to get it right the first time but instead expect to iterate for success.

3. What wows? Assumptions produced during “What if” are based on guesses and need to be tested. Drill down to the essence by testing and evaluating the initial business concepts. As the aim is to fail fast to succeed sooner, we sometimes need to leave things unfinished. That is one of the hardest things for a manager but also one of the most important.

4. What works? This is the phase when customer co-creation takes place: feedback from customers is essential in order to move towards a sustainable offering: customers want it, we can do it and the economics can sustain it. The purpose is to solve customer pains and thus learn, improve and remove barriers.

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I, Roadblock of Innovation

IMG_3885Creating new service in a established organisation is hard, very hard if you take the word for the speakers of last weeks breakfast seminar, Perkele! held at the Tennispalatsi movie theatre.

Unsurprisingly, the big two challenges are the onboarding of fellow employees and fighting the rigid organisational structures that are built to support the existing businesses.

When one is creating something new, one is bound to step on somebody’s toes, bend the rules, or work on the gray area, which all are likely to cause friction in the organisation. According to a speaker, the best indicator that one is doing something great is the amount of negative phone calls one gets from ones colleagues, saying that something one does is impossible or shouldn’t be attempted at all.

But why do we become such roadblocks of innovation and not embrace the change?

Having worked for more than fifteen years in the ict services industry, I’ve already witnessed first-hand the shifting priorities of co-workers from eager and opionated to playing it safe at the workplace.

The older we grow, the more time we’ve had to explore and refine our taste. Our life may focus more around the family. All this leads to the fact that we are spending less time discovering new things and more doing the things we love.

DiffusionofideasMy perception is that we all move in the Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovatios scale from innovators to laggards almost unknowingly, if we do not put conscious effort into exposing ourselves to new ideas. The less we are exposed, the more the new ideas start to frighten us and more likely we are to hold on to the facts and working patterns we already are familiar with.

So then, how to get colleagues out of their shells?

According to one of the Service design thinking luminaries, Marc Stickdorn, the best way to get people involved and cheer for the project is to create a safe place, where everybody can participate and fail without fear of losing face.

To create a safe environment the colleagues need to be led to forget rank, job description or competence and get to know the others personally. This might take time, but luckily there are plenty of methods that help to set the tone of the workshop or a meeting where new business is being innovated.

The simplest thing one can do is to hold a meeting standing up. This might not sound a big of a change, but standing up people are using their bodies more to communicate and it prevents them checking email or computer, making them present in the meeting. Better yet, hold the meeting walking outside. Some people even go as far as in Helsinki, where employees bring their colleagues to their homes to work for a day.

Another good tip from Mr Stickdorn is to start a workshop with a pair discussion, where either of the pair starts with a phrase “Let’s go on a trip together, I’d like to travel to X” and the another responds “Yes, but Y”. The original person counters “Yes, but Z”. After two minutes, do the exercise again, but this time, instead of “but”, say “and”. It is remarkable how the tone is different in these two discussions.

When ones colleagues get to know each other well, they are less likely to frown and reject new ideas.

And if there are something that have been proven time and time again, an enthusiastic person with an idea is way more powerful than any organisational hurdle, which is there only to keep the business standing still.