Archive by Author | Itziar Pobes

Culture & Service Design

Service design is allegedly a human-centered method for developing new services. A great effort is made for capturing users’ needs, mental models, experiences, desired outcomes… —you name it! Although this is done specifically borrowing techniques from ethnography, there’s barely no mention to cultural differences! With increasingly global companies, rising migration rates or whole sectors —such as tourism— based on making customers experiencing other countries, isn’t it time to deeply embed cross-cultural issues in service design?

My personal journey

Yes! That was my initial motivation to enroll the Cross-cultural issues in service development course. I couldn’t believe such an amazing topic was included in our Service Innovation and Design MBA.

Somehow, I’ve always been aware and curious about cultures. I come from a region shared by two, right on the border of a third one. I’ve travelled to foreign countries on my own since I was twelve. I lived abroad for some years. I’ve been living for the past thirteen in yet another culture and language. And I’m a trained translator with some five years of experience in this profession. Plus, lately I’ve signed on commuting to —a very exotic to me— Finland once a month for studying…

Nevertheless, my view was very narrow. I came to the class just thinking: “research the culture, pass the knowledge to the rest of the design team and build a great service. That’s it!”.

My journey in cross-cultural issues course

My journey during the cross-cultural issues course

Of course, that wasn’t just it. And I had to learn much more. Gain a broader view. Discover there’re theoretical frameworks that help you understand cultures. Suffer some cross-cultural issues myself while doing the cross-cultural assignments with a multi-cultural team… And only then, by the end of our term, with the help of my Chinese, Norwegian and Sudanese classmates, while attempting to solve a service challenge for the Finnish tax agency involving Estonian, Russian and Polish construction workers… —OK, this sounds totally like a joke by now— then I started to grasp how and when can you involve culture in service design!

But let’s start with the view broadening!

What do you mean by culture, anyway?

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Innovation in perspective

In our first contact session with Gijs van Wulfen and Katja Tschimmel, we experienced a lightning version of an innovation process with Design Thinking: 2 days, not even 14 hours of work. And I’ve been wondering… What about real-life innovation? Can you expect to find a great brand new solution in just a couple of days? If not, how much time and effort does the process require? I hope to draft an answer to this question by gathering information from The Innovation Expedition

Note: don’t get me wrong! I loved the approach. We could live the whole process and understand what we are supposed to do as service designers in a flash. That’s a great guidance for the rest of our studies and beyond. But I really need some perspective…

So, what did we do in class?

We solved an innovation assignment by applying a short version of the Forth innovation method structure, developed by Gijs. And completed each step with design tools —very visual and intuitive—, provided and clearly explained by Katja.

Forth method and design tools used in class

Forth method and design tools used in class

And the long version…

The structure of the method remains, but a little more time is used… About 20 weeks per project! Let’s see how much bigger this looks.

Comparison between our two-days workshop and the Forth consultancy 20 weeksprojects

Comparison between our two-days workshop and the Forth consultancy 20 weeks projects

What do they do with so much time? (And what did we do with so little?)

Full steam ahead – 5 weeks

Exploring the assignment

Exploring the assignment. Source: Visual Report. Master class. Practical Design Thinking. Laurea University 13-14 September

At the beginning of a real innovation assignment, many sensitive issues have to be decided:

  • Establish the innovation assignment and evaluation criteria.
  • Form the innovation team.
  • Plan the approach.
  • Set the total costs.

Once all of those are decided, you can:

  • Introduce the team members to each other.
  • Make the team familiar with the innovation assignment.

Those are basically the two parts we did. Only the real workshops are longer than ours.

Observe and learn – 6 weeks

Primary and secondary research combined

Primary and secondary research combined. Source: Visual Report. Master class. Practical Design Thinking. Laurea University 13-14 September

Key activities in this phase are somehow similar to ours, but much deeper. Individuals:

  • Explore trends and technology by gathering secondary information and visiting outside sources of inspiration.
  • Discover customer frictions with qualitative research.

Note one key difference: to research on customer frictions, they meet real users and talk to them.

At several stages the whole team meets to share all those findings and chooses the most promising opportunities.

Raise ideas – 2 weeks

Brainwriting

Brainwriting. Source: Visual Report. Master class. Practical Design Thinking. Laurea University 13-14 September

On the basis of the opportunities spotted in the previous phase, the team gathers in small groups to brainstorm new product or service ideas. In total, they:

  • Produce 500-750 ideas.
  • Cluster them into 30-40 idea directions.
  • Form 12 concepts.
  • And improve them with feedback from other groups.

Our process for this was similar, but we only produced about 10 times less ideas, didn’t cluster them and simply chose or formed one concept.

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JamJaming in Barcelona

Global Service Jams are these incredible and really fun events related to service design that are celebrated all over the globe. Twice a year, a bunch of experienced jammers and hosts meet to make them wilder, more fun and even more productive. Its the JamJam. Last time, it happened in Barcelona, on September 27th-29th. And, happily, I was there!

But, what  is a jam?

A jam is a 48 hours event that gathers people for designing and prototyping new services inspired by a shared theme in hundreds of cities simultaneously and… while they have a great time!

This video from the London Sustainability Jam shows the jam experience very accurately. Curious? Play it now!

So, what is jamming about?

Prototyping a video

Prototyping a video to explain the value of sharing

  • Doing (not talking). You complete the whole development process of concrete ideas that have the potential to become real.
  • Learning. You pick new ideas and working practices, you can try approaches you haven’t tested before in a cool safe environment and you get peer feedback.
  • Meeting people. You get to know pretty deeply —working side by side— a lot of people who share your interest in service design.
  • Sharing. You share the experience and you working methods with your team and the end results with the world.

Humm, doesn’t this sound pretty similar to a SID Laurea contact session? Indeed, but less structured and without grades or homework 😉

Which jams are there?

It's jam o'clock

It’s jam o’clock!

There are three jams per year:

  • The Global Service Jam, initiated in March 2011, which was celebrated in 130 cities in 2013.
  • The Global Sustainability Jam, initiated in October 2011, with already 70 cities announced and to be celebrated soon, in November 22nd-24th. Feel like trying it? These are the four venues in Finland:
  • The Global GovJam, prototyped in June 2012 and celebrated for the first time in 2013, in 36 cities.

Since 2011, more that 1,200 projects have been created and shared under a creative commons licence. Browse the latest here:

What is the JamJam, anyway?

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