Future of Service Design – does it exist?

Ever thought about this? Is service design just one ism, which comes like a wave: First small, getting strong and then fading away. When reaching the end of its existing curve, the ism is so worn out that no-one even wants to hear the words “service design”.

PaneeliAalto University Executive Education arranged on the 1st of June 2017, on International Service Design Day, networking event around this very interesting theme. Speakers and panelists who game from different backgrounds looked at the topic in a versatile and detailed way. They represented front line service design expertise: Peter Barkman, Managing Director from Palmu Helsinki, Laura Franck, Client Service Director from Hellon, Ulla Jones, Business Designer from OP Financial Group and Pekka Toivonen, CEO of Muotohiomo. Next I will raise some points from the discussion to give some thoughts to this important heading.

Transformation is the point

Service design have to grow from project oriented way of doing to be way of thinking that leads to cultural change and transformation in organization. “Human” and “experience” should be taken as a part of business plan in the organization. The experts see that service design as a concepts and the term might disappear. The content itself becomes an everyday part of organizational approaches and practices. Whatever the term that is used, important is to make measurable changes with goal of creating better experiences and focus on customer.

All in – heterogeneously

Service design has changed the whole design doing. Design is done by co-creating with customers, not alone in a studio. Important in the future is to do together. Create ideas that can be shared. Create feeling of belonging. There is no individual nor group that cannot co-create. Heterogeneous people are needed in design. People with different backgrounds are an asset. Service design wants T-shaped people, who have deep skills in one discipline and broad ability to work outside core area.

More broadly – more deeply

There was also discussion that should service design know how be civic, which is already learned at school. On the other hand experts pointed out that customer understanding will be more professional in the future. Designers should keep themselves at the top of the wave in their ability to answer the needs of changing business environment. One problem that was raised was about in-house design agencies. At the moment large companies have too small design units. There is not enough impact and results remain low. IT-firms have recently bought service design agencies. This raised a question: Is there need for agencies specialized only in design in the future? Maybe maybe not.

Digitalization needs empathy and creativity

In the midst of a strong change due digitalization, human might be forgotten. Empathy skills is needed more than ever. The approach of service design may even be a necessity for organizations to survive in a changing environment. One expert pointed out that “Machine won human in chess, but machine and human won machine in chess.” Ability to communicate separates us from the machine. Human is at his best in creative processes.

Selling and buying skills are crucial

The lack of skills of selling service design to organization and management is huge problem at the moment. Problem is also that service design is hard to buy, people inside the organization do not have service design inquiry skills.  These might be the dead or alive –issues for service design.

New tools and skills are needed

Experts agreed that service design to survive, new service design tools have to be created. Tools that are inspirational and get the whole organization to realize the ongoing change.  To accept vagueness is a necessity in the whole design process. Skills to empty one’s mind, skills to concentrate on the essential even if world around is a mess, is huge asset in the future. Designer with big ears and open mind are wanted. Methods for empathy and listening are needed.

To concentrate on what happened yesterday or what is happening today is not enough. Equipment for futures thinking and foresight is needed. In the future quantitative and qualitative customer understanding are melting together. Qualitative know-how and technology together are the strongest forces for change. In the future artificial intelligence will help a lot in customer understanding. To find customer needs, customer’s own data “My data” will be utilized. Gaming is used as a method for participating and storytelling.  Service design will be more fun, human and creative.

The future exists for service design

As a conclusion, service design as a content will exists in the future. Experts agreed that need for design is endless, challenge is there all the time. There will be evolution in service design doing followed by changes in business environment and due to embedding service design in everyday practice.  Also new tools and broad range of design makers are needed. In the future service design will be heart partner with quantitative methods and technology.

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