Service Design Breakfast #7, Reima Rönnholm, Palmu Inc.

Figure 1. How to Fail in Service Design, Palmu 2012

The last Service Design Breakfast was not about digital design, but more human-centric services. Reima Rönnholm started his presentation by asking everyone if they have already failed in anything this week or this day. Failing isn’t really fun, but what can we learn from failing? Reima quoted Steve Blank saying that no business plan survives first contact with a customer. Making mistakes is inevitable and the key is how to do it successfully.

The first successful example of designing a service was service design process of Helsinki Airport. Making the most painful points a pleasant experience and suggesting it to customers as a service, not something they are forced to use. What really make any service are processes, people and customers. Places and materials are always there, but the service is not unless there are people using it. You have to do lots of modeling to make an intangible service concrete. You have to try and make errors to see how to make things work.

Generating ideas with customers – the first step of any service design process, when you start realizing what is that you want to change. It’s important to identify the key elements that can make the desired change happen.

Figure 2. Generating ideas, Palmu 2012

The worse thing to do is spending time, money and efforts on solving the wrong problem. There are lots of examples of companies failing by doing that. When you find a real problem, usually the solution becomes obvious and you don’t need to spend time looking for it. Finding the right problem – learning by doing. Not trying to find 10 different things to change, but finding the core. With today’s complex design challenges the right problem is more important that the solution.

“If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions”, Albert Einstein.

Reima advises that it is important to think about everyday lives and people’s goal. How can we help them with the service that we offer to solve their problems? Customer centric approach = you need to start by asking a question “why?” instead of asking “what?” and “how?”. At the end people don’t want to use services. We just want to live happy lives and do meaningful things. If a service can help, that’s great.

Figure 3. Service design process, Palmu 2012

According to Reima, organizations can’t do radical innovation because they have too much knowledge and experience on what they do. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”, Albert Einstein. Instead of that we need more generalists with broader views, not experts in some particular field. Reima compares a service design process to a movie making process – one cannot work in silos to make it a success.

We need to learn to design for incomplete. Do a prototype, fail and be stupid in order to learn more. We learn while we go. We can’t learn without involving customers. With services co-design is the only kind of design there should be – from backstage to frontend. If you don’t measure people’s behavior, you won’t have the required information. Measuring is “an eye” for a designer.

Figure 4. Understanding the consumer behaviour, Palmu 2012

“Coming up with innovative services is easy. What’s hard is getting companies to adapt.”, Ben Reason, service designer. Get stuff done is what you need to succeed. Doing, not talking. Experimenting, not guessing.

You can find the full presentation from Reima on Slideshare here and the video on Youtube here.

SID students comments:

I really liked this SD breakfast. Reima pointed out the 3 most important factors I would take into consideration when designing new service: learn on your mistakes, real customer centricity and designing with/by the customer. I believe those are nowadays the most important things to have in mind. It is not enough that customer is just giving some inputs but it is important that customer is involved in the design as soon as possible. In addition, I have no doubts that trust is the most important things in relations with the customer. As you can find in one of the blogs from, transparency, focus on doing job well and staying vigilant over the time is the way to succeed. Business is constantly changing and if you don’t deliver what you promised you might be out of the business really fast. Daniel Augustyn

Let’s forget the technicalities and theories for a minute and embrace the fact that service design is ultimately about humans. Reima decides to open up and send an honest transparent message from his learning experiences in service design; humans are diverse and vulnerable and as such are also force to fail at some point. Embracing the fact that failing is part of the learning experience of the process to become better designer rather than stand still and wait for a miracle to solve the problem.

I found this talk very inspiring, the best talk I’ve heard in the service design, so if you’re reading this it’s worth watching the video and get the message. Hugo Molina

This talk made me think about how were the first contacts with the clients I had in the past, the many manners I have received the brief, how was the freedom that I had when I looked for solutions and how was the choice of the best solutions. During the last decade designers started to participate more on the service development processes. They normally were coadjuvants and sometimes still are and I can’t blame companies or designer or companies or educational institutions completely, they are all part of this manner of thinking. Things like the clients come with the problem and we make a proposal in couple of days looks surreal after the knowledge we are getting from Design Thinking and Co-creation processes and methods.

My friend has a design company in Brazil and one month ago she asked me how to sell service design, because she was angry with a client who had the solution for the service she was asked to develope, she wanted to look a little deeper in the goal and test other solutions. Another day our teacher at Laurea said is revolutionary a discipline as Service Design be part of a Business Administration programme.

It is really hard to sell the idea of looking deep in the problem to find the solution, because the client brings a solution instead of bringing necessities and goals. Usually there is no freedom to interfere on the client briefing, except for rare cases of clients with open mind and long time relationship. Look on the “client’s backyard” is a dangerous field, but still needed. Jane Vita

I agree with Reima that finding the right problem and focusing on improving the core is crucial for any company. As Ajaz Ahmed and Stefan Olander mention in their book “Velocity”, the priority should be enhancing the core business, not creating more stuff.  Stefan Olander, the VP of Digital Sports at Nike, explains that while designing the Nike+, the company has been reducing all the superfluous features and functionalities and focusing on simple and lean experience with a clean, purposive-driven design. The main focus was on making sure the core service was stable, and that was the key to success.

Companies need to remove friction, not add it. The future is about making what we already do much easier, simplifying our lives and solving out everyday needs in a better more intelligent way. Ekaterina Zhiteneva

One thought on “Service Design Breakfast #7, Reima Rönnholm, Palmu Inc.

  1. Pingback: Gostje potrjeni // RTO

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