The cornerstones of service design

Markus Torkkeli

Today, the services are more important than ever. They represent majority of the GNP’s of developed countries and there is huge potential in them to be developed, digitalized, scaled and sold.

Let’s take second hand electronics as an example. In one look at one can see that there are over 5000 second hand used mobile phones in sale in Finland. Now let us go back 20 years in time: If you happened to have a mobile phone you certainly had no way to buy new or sell old one over the internet. Neither listen to music, nor do your banking or send an email with it.

What will the better future be like in the yet not so streamlined and digitalized services? What might be the key to success and better customer experience? It seems that everybody would like find ways to get a grip of that. And that was exactly what we practiced in our groupworks in SID. I will shortly try to elaborate the things we did and the concepts we used.

A mindset and a method – Design thinking

In the heart of service design is a mindset, design thinking. Design thinking is a practical, repeatable method to create new products, enable major improvements or develop completely new innovative artefacts or services. Applying design thinking into service development and innovation can be called service design.

In first day and from the books the basic concept of design thinking was clarified. But to be able to develop newideas knowledge is not enough. Learning to know each other is also essential. Mutual trust, willingness to co-operate and motivation to share ideas is important as well as shared goal. You would not get the best out of people that are strangers in a tense atmosphere.


Introduction to DT

The goal – Change and Innovation

We can define design thinking a way of thinking as well as set of methods to ensure implementing the values of design thinking into practice.

In his book “Change by Design” Tim Brown sees design thinking a source for new ideas, real innovations. An opposite view in his conceptualization is a technocentric view. Even though Brown does not give an example of technocentric view in practice, one could reason that it refers to a way of innovating or product design that is narrower, more focused on problem solving and conformation rather than change and is more focused on product than service.

The tools and recipes…

…for creativity, user centricity, knowledge sharing, experimentation and visualization, social interaction and diversity.

Now the best part – doing, socializing, creating and learning! For a “design thinker” the right mindset is important. This includes willingness to explore, bias toward action, focus on human values, collaboration, to name a few. But it is essential to have right tools to be able to create and maintain a process leading to innovative new solutions.

There seems to be numerous conceptualizations of design thinking – referring various methods. They have differences, but in all cases collaboration, prototyping and sharing of ideas in visual forms are essential. In our design thinking 2-day introduction we experienced E62 developed by Katja Tschimmel. Tools in E62 seem to be nicely put together, well thought, well designed and visually agreeable.

The reality – What to bring back home

Change rather than stability prevails in modern service organizations. Ultimately, we want to make change. But the working life of today sometimes seems to be very far away from design thinking ideals. This is not only because busyness, impatience and lack of tolerance for failures but rather due to the fact that very often the things we have learned by doing prevail: re-engineering versus change by design because we know how to re-engineer but not how to make change by design. There are, of course, many conceptualizations of design thinking that for sure will be elaborated during these two years of training.


Brown, Tim 2009. T Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Harper Collins.
Research as Design Group, What is Design Thinking?, Katja et. al 2015. Research Raport D-think. Design thinking applied to education and training.
Wikipedia, Design thinking, Service design:

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