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Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Empathy?

Disclaimer:  These thoughts, opinions, and observations are mine, and mine alone.  They are not the thoughts of my fellow Dash team members, only myself. 

I recently had the immense pleasure of participating in the 2019 Dash Hackathon in Helsinki (organized by the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society – “Aaltoes”) which is the largest design hackathon in Europe.  In this hackathon there were over 220 participants from 40+ different nationalities that came together specifically for this event. 

https://www.dash.design

I knew that this hackathon was going to be a gigantic time commitment to squeeze into my fulltime work and student schedule.  I imagined that I would meet countless new people and possibly make a new friend or two.  As time crept closer to the event, I ruminated about the design process and wondered how the actual process of designing would unfold over the course of the event.

This was the schedule for the Dash Hackathon (there were two additional prep events the week prior to this main event)

Now that the event is over, I can reflect that the element of this hackathon which took me completely utterly by surprise was the profoundly visceral and emotional rollercoaster of a ride this journey took me on. 

For this post I do not want to focus on the specifics of the design process or what my team ultimately created.  What I am taking away from this experience is different than what I had initially imagined.  What I am left with is a list of existential questions for myself about who I am as a person, and what kind of service designer I want to be. 

As we all know, the cornerstone of service design is empathy (I realized this weekend this crucial element could be what drew me to service design in the first place).  The ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, see the world through their eyes and then walk a mile in those shoes.  All while keeping this perspective in mind as you create whatever amazing user-centered design solutions we service designers will ultimately come up with.

I think that empathizing with the user is an integral part of service design and it is very important to lay this as the foundation of everything we as service designers will do, however after this weekend I have come to realize that everything has a limit; empathy included. 

It is not possible to design a solution that suits everyone.  That is a fact of service design every designer must accept, and it is also how I am approaching this post.  This post is not for everyone.  This post is written for those of you who may have a propensity to over empathize.  For those of you who can relate, please read on.  For those of you who can’t relate, if you read on anyway, maybe you will notice this trait in a fellow designer and send them this post.

I decided when I signed up for Dash that I really wanted to be part of the challenge for Startup Refugees.  This is a Finnish NGO that has made it their mission to match refugees and immigrants with jobs here in Finland.  They were only founded three years ago, but they are already having a significantly positive impact on the employment situation of refugees and immigrants in Finland.  They currently have two offices; one in Helsinki and one in Oulu. 

If you would like to read more about them check out this link: https://startuprefugees.com/

I really wanted to be a part of this challenge more than any of the other challenges because this issue really speaks to me on a personal level.  I am a black American immigrant who has lived in Finland for the past six years.  I am very happy with where I am now in life both personally and professionally, but it was not an easy journey.  I know how hard I had to work to be where I am now, and that I did not get to where I am now on my own.  Sure, I have a good work ethic, but I also had a great network, a bit of luck, and people who were willing to take a chance on me.  I was really excited to see if I could somehow find a way to help other immigrants and refugees (whose situations coming to Finland were/are infinitely harder and more complicated than mine) find a way to become employed in Finland. 

I believe that through gainful employment an immigrant or refugee can have dignity, community, and a purpose for life in their new country of residence.  This feeling of comfort and belonging is something I genuinely wish I could give to anyone and everyone who wants it.

As I mentioned at the top of this blog, I do not want to go into specific details of the design challenge because I want to focus on my emotional journey and findings related to that.  For the sake of brevity let’s just say the challenge was related to Startup Refugees’ larger focus of helping to find refugees and immigrants employment in Finland.  This is what we in the realm of service design call a wicked problem.

In Richard Buchanan’s report “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking”, he refers to a report by Rittel (1967) that defines a wicked problem as:

“A class of social system problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values, and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing.” (1992, 15)

Wicked problems are manifested in the major issues and systemic failures of our society today.  Issues such as climate change, poverty, multicultural integration, healthcare, and so forth are problems so prolific in nature that there are no single solutions or tangible ends to their plight.

Source: https://transitiondesignseminarcmu.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Wicked-problems-flower.png

That being said, with this challenge being quintessentially wicked, there was no way we would possibly be able to fix this challenge in a 48-hour hackathon session.  To be fair and very clear, this is not what the challenge was asking of us.  It was asking for ways to help improve a small part of the issue so that they could more successfully match their clients with work or help immigrants and refugees better understand the foreign job market in which they are attempting to enter. 

However, with an issue this complex where do you even begin?

As a team, on that first day (Friday) we began the hackathon creative, upbeat, and ready to tackle the world.  On the second day (Saturday) that emotional rollercoaster shot full speed out of the launch bay.  The day started well, but by the middle of the day that upbeat and playful attitude was all but dead.  Our mentor repeatedly asked us where our playful attitude had gone and eventually encouraged us to go get some air together outside the venue to try to regain the spirit from the day before.  We got a bit more playful after that, but something personally inside me had shifted that I never could quite reset.  By later that night we had a working solution concept, and after starting again early Sunday morning we were able to finalize our idea and proudly present it later that afternoon as a possible solution to their challenge. 

I was very proud of the solution we came up with as a team and although some people may have thought that my closing lines of the pitch were sappy and maybe just for show, I honestly meant every word I wrote, rehearsed, and delivered as a closing.  The event ended later that night and I went home feeling happy, physically tired (this I understood- the hackathon was long), but also incredibly emotionally exhausted.  I felt like my inner child had just run an ultra-marathon through a mine field.  I felt acutely emotional and I wanted to figure out why.  I had been emotional since the second day of the challenge and those feelings just kept compounding until the challenge was over and I could finally go home.  Would I have felt this way if I worked on any of the other non-wicked problem challenges? Was I too close to the subject? Probably.

I began a search where all great internet searches begin (google) and stumbled across a blog that pretty much summed up the personal issue I faced during this challenge.  It is post is titled “The Dilemma of Designers’ Empathy Delusions” by Jason Mesut (2018).  In it he states:

“I have three challenges to the importance of empathy. To strengthen designer performance by battling what I feel is an ideal that is often delusional and misguided.

Two of my challenges are likely to be unpopular, and the third will probably be appreciated by many:

1.Most designers are not actually that empathic to end users

2.Empathy isn’t that valuable and unique a quality for designers

3.We should care more about people beyond users”

I will link the entire article because I think it is a really good read. However, I would like to focus on the 2nd and 3rd points he makes in this article.  In his second point that questions the value of empathy, and he gives a good example of the dangers of over empathizing with the following example:

“Imagine a doctor.  Imagine if she had high empathy.  She would struggle to make decisions for the population she helps.  If one of her patient(s) suffered, she would suffer.  The pain would impede the process of resolution.  It’s why many healthcare professionals build up barriers to the emotions and the pain of the patients they serve.  It helps them make better judgement calls. 

I’m not saying a designer shouldn’t care.  Often, they should.  But I’m not sure that empathizing over every user they meet can really be that productive or helpful.”

Now I know this for some people may sound a little over the top, but I think that this is a real danger for some designers that work specifically with wicked problems, or any other issues that are highly emotional, in which putting yourself into the shoes of others may elicit extremely deep feelings of empathy and compassion that are much deeper than what is productively necessary for the purposes of service design.

The article goes on to talk about what happens when your over empathizing can cause you to lose sight of the larger picture.  In your compassion driven quest to create real change for the end user you run the risk of losing empathy and sight of the other players in the game; the other clients and stakeholders in the relevant network who are all a part of the challenge you are hoping to solve.

The author proposes a framework for an empathy map where you consciously adjust your feelings up or down as necessary while also keeping in mind other players besides the end user:

Source: Jason Mesut https://medium.com/shapingdesign/the-dilemma-of-designers-empathy-delusions-a61f0663deaf
Source: Jason Mesut https://medium.com/shapingdesign/the-dilemma-of-designers-empathy-delusions-a61f0663deaf

You can read the whole post here: https://medium.com/shapingdesign/the-dilemma-of-designers-empathy-delusions-a61f0663deaf

I wholeheartedly believe that empathy must exist for great service design.  However, I now believe there is a spectrum.  A spectrum of levels of conscious empathy every designer must have, and this spectrum should be personally re-evaluated during all phases of the design process to ensure it is evenly distributed across all people the new design will affect; users, clients, and stakeholders alike. 

I could not imagine being as deeply emotionally connected to an issue that I would be working with for a prolonged period of time without emotionally burning myself out.  Though I did not appear to be overly emotional or stressed during the event (and I did have a lot of fun too), I took mental note of how exhausting this challenge was, and wondered how I would deal with this kind of problem if it was my everyday job.  That is what lead me on this introspective journey and critical evaluation of the weight of empathy in service design.

I am fully aware that had I done a different challenge, I would not have had the emotional response I did. However, I am glad I experienced everything exactly as I did.  It gave me time to reflect on my emotions and myself.    

I had an amazing time at Dash and would like to thank the organizers for the opportunity to be a part of this great event.  I would also like to give my deepest thanks to Startup Refugees for all of the great work they do and wish them nothing but the best in the future.  Most of all, I would like to thank my amazing team members for all of their hard work, and I am very happy for the new friendships I have made. 

Dash Hackathon 2019 Team #39!!!

 By: Johanna Johnson

Sources

Buchanan, Richard 1996. Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. In Margolin, V. & Buchanan, R. The Idea of Design. A Design Issues Reader. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 

Mesut, J. 2018. The Dilemma of Designers Empathy Delusions. Posted 9 December. https://medium.com/shapingdesign/the-dilemma-of-designers-empathy-delusions-a61f0663deaf

Participation, participation, participation!

Conference: People-Driven City 2019
27th of September, in Dipoli Aalto University, Otaniemi Espoo

In the end of September, I had an opportunity to participate in an interesting conference, People-Driven City 2019. It was the main conference of Lähiöfest – festival of neighborhoods and this was the second time the conference has been arranged. Conference gathers together actors from different sectors of society – for example cities, companies, NGO’s – to discuss current urban topics. The purpose of the conference is to emphasize the local perspective and participation of local actors in urban planning and in solving different kind of urban challenges. Themes of this year’s conference were sustainability, participation, learning and democracy.

As a Service Design student with an interest in Economic Geography, I was very eager to hear how and with what kind of methods people are enabled to participate in urban planning and innovation processes. From this point of view the following presentations of the conference were in specific interest to me: Päivi Sutinen from City of Espoo, Amin Khosravi from urbz and Kristian Koreman from ZUS.

City as a Service

As an opening for the day, Päivi Sutinen, Services Development Director in the City of Espoo, gave an introduction about how to enable different actors to participate in the development and innovation processes of the city. From this perspective, Espoo is an interesting case because for many years it has invested into people-driven innovation and has also been awarded for its accomplishments. Last year, the city of Espoo won the international Intelligent Community Awards 2018 for ‘humanizing data’, which refers to the use of data for people-oriented service development. In addition, just recently on September 2019, Espoo was chosen as one of the top six cities in the European Capital of Innovation (iCapital) Awards contest organised by the European Commission.

From a perspective of Service Design student, this opening presentation offered an interesting introduction to how a city applies Service-dominant logic (explained more thoroughly in Lusch & Vargo 2014) in practice. Presentation introduced many concrete examples how Espoo accelerates City as a Service development locally: for example, Data, AI, Software & technology, platforms, networks, Living Labs, Experiments, Tools and methods and Financial resources. Based on Service-dominant logic, Espoo wants to enable co-creation in innovation, as presented in a video ‘The Zero Friction City – Dynamics of Innovation Ecosystems’.

Participation is a process

Amin Khosravi, urban strategist, presented the framework for participation of urbz in his presentation “How do we create truly participatory planning processes?”. Urbz is an international company which works with issues related to urban development and planning and is specialized in participatory planning and design.

For Urbz ‘residents are experts of their neighborhoods’ – and this was also the basis of Khosravi’s presentation. He emphasized the importance of locality and human scale in urban planning and sees participatory planning as a good opportunity to gain deep understanding of cities.

For me, the main takeaway from Khosravi’s presentation was that participation is a continuous process. In fact, the first step in a participatory process is “recognition” – which means that in the beginning of the participatory planning process, one must explore the current situation and everything that already exists, because the participatory process is already going on, it happens all the time among people. And, on the other hand, the last step in the participatory planning process is “participatory governance” – which means that the participation actually continues after the planning process, for example by activating neighborhoods in the matter.

From Instant Urbanism to Permanent Temporality

Kristian Koreman is an Architect and a Founder of ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles), which is a design office that works with projects related to architecture, urban planning and landscape design. He gave an inspiring presentation, which offered interesting perspectives especially from Design Thinking point of view: a holistic, human-scale approach and an experimental and participatory method to urban planning.

The main theme in Koreman’s presentation was that traditionally the perspective in urban planning and architecture tends to be too narrow, there is too much ‘top-down’ planning which takes poorly into account the human perspective. Thus, too often the results of this kind of planning, which is called Instant Urbanism are buildings and infrastructures that do not serve people’s needs in real life: too big infrastructures and too big offices that no one uses. Instead, more holistic and human-scale approach is preferred, which is called Permanent Temporality, which seems to have a lot in common with Design Thinking. This approach always starts from city’s existing forms and takes into account the whole context and city’s evolutionary character. Koreman summarized this idea simply: “keep the local, add the global later”. Also, Permanent Temporality includes experimental and participatory method of working: “plan, test, adapt”. In short, this means observing people’s behavior in the city, doing experiments based on that and then observing the reactions to the experiments and modifying it according to the feedback.

Koreman presented interesting cases from Rotterdam where ZUS has initiated or been a part of projects that have created a new image for Rotterdam: for example Luchtsingel, which is a 400-meter-long pedestrian bridge connecting different districts in the centre of Rotterdam and it is the world’s first crowdfunded piece of public infrastructure; and Schieblock, the old and vacant office building in Rotterdam which was transformed into a vital “city laboratory”.

Based on this conference I am happy to notice the increasing importance of human centricity in urban planning and development. It seems to me, that in addition to the old mantra of important things in Economic Geography, “location, location, location”, we are nowadays also able to acknowledge the importance of “participation, participation, participation”.

Author: Erika Niemi-Vanala

REFERENCES:
Lusch, R. F. & Vargo, S. L. 2014. Service-dominant logic: Premises, perspectives, possibilities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sustainable Development Goals: this is the Service Design we need!

Event: Global Goals JAM Berlin, organized by 2030Cabinet, powered by SDG Investments and hosted by Fjord Berlin. In collaboration with: Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Digital Society School, Global Goals Jam, UNDP.

In middle September I took part at the Global Goals JAM Berlin, a 2-day series of small design sprints where attendees were asked to work on local challenges – co-created with local community and industries – related to one or more of the the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

History pills – What are these Global Goals?

Let’s take a quick step back in 2015 when the Heads of State and Government and High Representatives, met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and have decided on new global Sustainable Development Goals, known now as the Global Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.

The UN set to achieve each Goal and target by 2030.

Back to present

The aim of this event was to create interventions aimed at short term targets in support of the long term goals. The themes of this year were:

  • Water and Climate Change (SDG 4, SDG 13)
  • Migration (SDG 10, SDG 16)
  • Electronic Waste (SDG 12)
  • Sustainable Development for People and Planet (SDG 1, SDG 8)

Deep dive into the Migration Theme

My Team was composed by Nataly Ramirez Arteaga, Muhammad Sumon Molla Selim and Michael Lausberg, facilitated by Güzin Goçer and we were supporting the local Sponsor “Asylum Advice”, a soon-to-be platform where refugees could seek legal advice.

We mapped out the cause and effects of Migration on a general level by using the Problem Solving Tree, we interviewed 2 refugees and a social worker with 10 year experience in the field.

The big lessons learned by using the Service Design Tools were:

  • asylum seekers tend to trust more what other refugees, that have been in their shoes before, would tell them.
  • there are a lot of services for migrants already existing but nobody knows them
  • fragmented information & lack of digitalized bureaucratic processes
  • migrants that succeeded in their first steps in a new country feel the need to help others.

Here we envisioned a need of trust and better information and at the same time the desire to offer help.

Therefore we decided to prototype a platform to connect different already existing resources and services for migrants, to collect official information from authorities but most importantly a platform to get in touch with other migrants that have gone through the same experience and to share help and knowledge to ultimately build community and trust.

Personal reflection – What can we do as Service Designer practitioners?

As a student of the Service Innovation & Design Master program I felt the urge to participate and contribute to the challenges of this year.

“Is there anything better than combining our own expertise in Service Design to serve people, planet and prosperity by helping achieving these SDGs?”

We, as Service Designers know best how important is to empathize with the user – in this case People and Planet –  and create that shift of mindset in society where Government and Businesses should sit together with citizens to co-create solution for our people and for the environment.

Here an invitation to reflect and perhaps to start spread the Service Design tools to our local Communities and give help for the cause that we feel more related to.

It takes tons of small initiatives, iterations (and failures too!) before we can see a visible impact on a larger scale.

But this means we have to start now. We have to care, share and Dare!   

And you? Are you ready to Design 2030 now?

Author: Francesca A. Frisicale, October 2019

References & Links

https://globalgoalsjam.org/

https://www.globalgoalsberlin.com/

https://twitter.com/2030Cabinet

https://twitter.com/GlobalGoalsBER/

https://sdg-investments.com/en/

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgsummit

https://asylumadvice.org/#!

Data Gives Insights, Design Gives Solutions

Service Design Network Finland

The New Buzz Word

“Data driven design” has become some what of a buzz word because data is considered to be the new oil. However, many companies struggle to figure out how to take advantage of data and so to speak “strike gold”. At the Service Design Network event: Data Driven Design, two companies K Group and Sanoma Media Finland shared how they have been able to develop successful services thanks to data.

Data Is a Compass

Interestingly both K Group and Sanoma Media Finland referred to data as a compass. Data is seen as a compass for a person who is lost. It gives a starting point where to start to look from. Data also acts as validator to see whether the adjustments made to the service have had a positive or negative effect or perhaps no effect at all. However, K Group noted that for them to say that data acts as a compass for them, it requires a lot of work.  

Collaboration Is Key

Both companies emphasized the important of collaboration. Sanoma Media Finland described well the challenge of a designer, an analyst and a developer working together (see picture below). All three have very different working styles and practices and yet all three are essential to develop the best service possible. To solve this issue, Sanoma Media Finland decided to change their way of working and started to follow Futurice’s Lean Service Creation process. It is not all smooth sailing yet, but they feel that they are on the right path.

Data Driven Services

K Group has great amount of data about their customer as they have 3,5 million loyalty members and 5 million customer encounters daily. Thanks to their rich source of data they have been able to create customer driven services such as K-Ostokset (K-Ruoka mobile app): “A service, that gives the user an overview of his/her grocery purchases and a better understanding of the impacts of the purchase decisions.” The other customers for K Group are their K store merchants. K Group has developed a service for the merchants that collects data about the merchant’s K store customers, the market and the area and puts the information in such a format that the merchants can make educated decisions on how to improve their store’s profitability and customer experience. Evidently, as shown by these two examples, data has become an essential part of service development.

K-Ruoka mobile app

Written by Lyydia Pertovaraa

Links:

https://www.kesko.fi/en/

https://www.k-ruoka.fi/artikkelit/k-kaupassa/mobiilisovellus

https://www.leanservicecreation.com/

https://sanoma.fi/en/

https://www.service-design-network.org/chapters/finland

Service Development at Finavia

Last Monday I participated in a company visit to Finavia organized by Ompeluseuran palvelumuotoilijat, a networking group for people who identify themselves as women. The event was hosted by Katariina Kovanen-Piippo, Digital Service Designer, the first and currently only service designer at Finavia and Terhi Aho, Ecommerce Manager, Digitalisation Program. Kovanen-Piippo and Aho shared how services are developed at Finavia and at the end of the visit all the participants got to workshop around a current Finavia case: “How to solve the transfer passengers’ problem using digital and physical channels?”. All in all, it was a very insightful visit and it was great to get to workshop for a short moment around a real Finavia case.

A Little Bit about Finavia

Helsinki-Vantaa Airport

Finavia is a Finnish airport operator with a network of 21 airports across Finland. The Helsinki-Vantaa airport is the main airport which is a transit hub with over 50 000 passengers passing through it every day. Finavia’s customer promise is: “For Smooth Travelling.”  meaning that Finavia will do anything to satisfy their customers. This is because one third of passengers choose their flight route according to the reputation of the transfer airport. Finavia has recognized three points through which they can influence customer experience: processes, premises and customer encounters. Their four pillars of customer experience guide the development of the airports: sense of time, security, refreshment and Finnish experiences. The aimed outcome is that the customer should feel energetic and relaxed instead of stressed and irritated after visiting the airport.  

Developing Services Together with Customers

Finavia’s Digital Channels and Services

The great advantage of developing new or existing services at Finavia is that the customers are always in easy reach. The only thing that is left for the service designer to do is to define what they want to do and who should they ask. According to Kovanen-Piippo, the travelers have been more than happy to test ideas and answer questions. Furthermore, Finavia aims to have the necessary information where it is easily available for the customer. They don’t need to develop their own Finavia app just for the sake of it. If the customer is better reached through the Finnair airline’s app, then that is where the information should be.

Data Sets the Premises for Service Development

Finavia Target Groups

Data gained from research has helped Finavia to develop services that cater to their different user personas and customer segments. For example, Finavia has identified six basic customer groups amongst their travelers such as the price sensitive shopper (12% of travelers) and decisive performer (17% of travelers). Additionally, they have recognized that Estonian, Russian and Chinese travelers are a strategically important customer segments for them. When a tender is initiated for a new restaurant for example, it is always done in mind to cater to a certain customer segment.

Measuring the Success of Services

ASQ Customer Journey

Finavia follows the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) survey monthly. It is a benchmarking program used by many airports to measure passengers’ satisfaction whilst they are traveling through an airport. If some touch point/service seems to be getting a lot of negative feedback, instant action will be taken to find out what might be causing it and how can it be improved. Finavia focuses more on customer touch points rather than customer journeys as there can be several different paths that end up leading to the same touch point.

Written by Lyydia Pertovaara

Links:

https://www.finavia.fi/en

https://duunitori.fi/tyoelama/ompeluseura-upea-ura (about Ompeluseura in Finnish)

https://aci.aero/customer-experience-asq/

Habitare must listen to its users

Habitare 2019 is an interesting convention, but overall it could be so much more. A convention is a service and I approached this furniture, interiors, and product design event with a service design perspective. I was actively looking out for mentions of service design and observing what the experience of being a participant at the convention was like. I must note: I myself am not specifically a connoisseur of interior design. From a partially foreign perspective, when one thinks about Finnish design it is furniture and interior design which come to mind first and foremost. Finland is one of the leaders of elegant, minimal, and functional interiors. Whichever Finnish design field comes after interior design is surely a more distant second place. However, within the much smaller world of service design, Finland also shines. Finnish governmental, health and digital services are known within the inner circle of the service design community. Knowing this, I was keen to see if there was any possible overlap of service and interior design at Habitare 2019.

Admittedly, as I had predicted, there wasn’t much overlap between the fields. Or at least, the overlap was below the surface and one that if elevated could make the convention an overall better experience. There were interesting moments which could’ve been improved through the use of service design: through adding more interactivity into the convention and perhaps researching their potential convention attendees to see what exactly they would like from such a convention.

Upon first walking into the main convention I was greeted by a pleasant surprise: a slide going downstairs! What a wonderfully playful way to begin! In service journeys, just like job interviews or dates, first impressions really matter. There were other such moments of playful interaction occasionally scattered through the experience and they broke the overall passive experience joyously. My favorite example was the small table which allowed the creation of moodboards using different textures, props, materials and fauna. Moodboards are used by some designers to literally set or depict a rough atmosphere they are striving towards when creating a piece of furniture or an interior. This moodboard table allowed participants to experience a fun glimpse of a designer’s work in an accessible and (importantly for today’s Instagram generation) shareable fashion.

Personally, I would’ve liked to see even more of these moments. Habitare should strive to be more than just a large version of a Finnish design shop – it should involve its participants more. Many participants come to browse the beautiful interiors, yet fully knowing that the life on display in front of them is if not out-of-reach then at least overpriced. Assuming this, they should be provided a means to attain at least a hint of redesigning their own interiors through, for example, active co-learning of what a designer does or how to design.

There was one specific mention of service design, which took place at a talk given on Friday. Unfortunately, due to it being a talk in the middle of the day, I was not able to attend. It was a talk given by Virve Penttilä and Sini Ala-Nikula, who work at Rune & Berg. After a little research I was able to find Virve’s thesis from 2016 discussing the design of physical service environments and its effects on service delivery. Having looked at Rune & Berg’s work on their website, the thesis, and the title of the talk I can assume that service design was represented at Habitare – albeit for a very brief moment.

The talk’s title, Have you listened to your user? The importance of service design in the design of environments is a good generalism on my thoughts about Habitare. I was also surprised to see what I would call a lack of understanding of the participants of Habitare. To describe what I mean I’ll take sitting as an example. As is to be expected with Nordic design, there were plenty of elegant chairs with minimal lines and ergonomic curves in naturally reserved colours. These seats were pleasing to both my eyes and (from having walked around the convention so long) my feet. As I sat, I pondered: Who are these convention attendees who browse pricey furniture? What do they do? Well, the ones who can occasionally afford to buy into this lifestyle are most likely office workers of some kind who want to come home to a beautiful and comfortable home and rest. If that is the case, where do they spend much of their day sitting? Many do not work from home – most work at the office. And yet, at Habitare I barely saw any office chairs – or much office furniture in general. Where were the beautiful desks or elegant workstations? Where were the office chairs or where was the Nordic designed version of those big bouncy ball seats which your colleague persuades you will solve all your problems but you never end up using? Where, in short, was the office?

Perhaps the lack of a dedicated “office” furniture section should not come as a surprise, the name Habitare is derived from habitat or a place where one calls home and where one lives. Work, however, is an integral part of life. Working life was simply ignored at the convention. This omission underlines my fundamental issue with Habitare. For a convention dedicated to designing the interiors of our lives it takes a too narrow approach to what interiors, and perhaps even our lives, can be.

The Four Joys of Taking Part in a Book Club

Organizer: Service Design Network Finland
Time and Place: 11.9.2019, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Pasila Campus
Book: Palvelumuotoilun Bisneskirja, 2019, by Mikko Koivisto, Johanna Säynäjäkangas and Sofia Forsberg (only available in Finnish)

1. Join a Book Club and Actually Finish Reading a Book on Your Reading List

Case in point: Ever since I heard about the much buzzed about Palvelumuotoilun bisneskirja (The Service Design Business Book), I was eager to get my hands on it. Needless to say, I never got around it. It wasn’t until I saw the advertisement for the Service Design Network’s Book Club featuring the book, that I decided to finally read it. There is nothing like a set deadline to boost your motivation.

2. Discuss with Interesting Participants in a Relaxed Setting

It was great to exchange views about the book with other service design enthusiasts. The consensus was that the book outlines well why a business should invest in service design. Several recent business cases were featured in the book to help comprehend how service design is implemented in practice. The book also described the different stages that a company goes through when transforming to a service design-led organization. One of the participants said it well: “It is easier for a company that is born now to be inherently customer driven than for a company that has a long history to transform its well-established processes and ways to be more customer centric.” The book was also really reader friendly, thanks to the clear illustrations and jargon free writing. It is now on my recommendations list for anyone who wants to learn about service design especially from a business perspective.

3. Gain Fascinating Insights from One of the Authors

One of the book’s authors, Mikko Koivisto (pictured in the middle), took part in the book club. Koivisto shared that the cover and the title of the book were decided even before any content was written. This was because the publisher wanted to start promoting the book straight away. And even though there has been interest for an English version of the book, Koivisto said that it will have to wait for now. All the authors are quite busy at the moment and translating the book into English would require also updating the content to better serve an international audience.

4. Host the Next Book Club

Naturally the next step is to host the next book club. Yep, I got asked to host the next one and I gladly accepted the challenge. So, get your calendars out and mark yourself busy for the 2nd of December from 5pm to 7pm. The next book club will take place in the Helsinki Central Library Oodi. Details of the book will follow. Stay tuned and I will see you there!

Written by Lyydia Pertovaara

Links:

https://www.palvelumuotoilunbisneskirja.fi/

https://www.service-design-network.org/chapters/finland