Bench of Awkward Conversations – Global Service Jam 2018

9th to 11th March 2018 teams around the world were jamming it up on six continents on the Global Service Jam.


In Helsinki, around 30 participants and a mentor/organiser team met up on Friday 9th after a hard week’s work to immerse in a weekend of ideating, prototyping, and having fun. With some intros to the ways of jamming and getting to know our newly-formed teams we dived straight into the process.

Talk about a fuzzy front-end…

IMG_0788 The theme for this year’s Jam, revealed to us in the form of a video, was a little vague and mysterious to say the least. After the initial slight panic and confusion (disclaimer: speaking for myself here only) over the ambiguous theme, we set out for the first ideation session. From there we kept building on the ideas and moved on to grouping the generated post-it storm under a few headlines.

The ideation ran around themes that divide people, ranging from immigration to lonely people’s funerals. Despite, or perhaps because of, the somewhat morbid themes, right from the start our team had a few laughs and it felt surprisingly effortless working together. However a good night’s sleep was definitely necessary, so we had to call it a day to return the next morning.

Dragging a bench down the road

On Saturday morning we continued working on our ideas and moved on to some online and field research. With a strict deadline of having to submit and present a prototype on the following day, we had to move fast. Our idea started to formulate around reducing loneliness, potentially in the context of also facilitating easier immigration. One idea was a physical meeting place, a bench or so, where people previously unknown to each other could meet and have flash cards on funny or easy conversation topics. IMG_0791
Soon we were building our first prototype, The Bench, and taking it to the test – in the process carrying a physical bench from the Think Company to Esplanadi to observe and interview the people who were passing and perhaps connected with it. The results guided us to make some adjustments and modifications, with some more testing and iterating also left for the following day.

As in any old Design process, iteration did take a fair bit of our Jam time. Adjusting our prototype and validating our ideas or letting some go were a central part of the process, and although sometimes hard, it was good practise in letting the testing and users guide the results instead of the ideas of the designers themselves. This seems like a continuous lesson that one can’t think about too much!

Presenting: Bench of Awkward Conversations

IMG_0801On Sunday we kept improving our prototype and preparing for presenting it to the judges. The day ended with each team presenting their idea and prototype, all in their own way clever and unique. The judges’ feedback helped us to finalise our idea and change the ideas’s name back to the original working name, Bench of Awkward Conversations. The feeling at the end of the weekend was that of euphoria and exhaustion. Many left this Jam already looking forward to the next one, me included!


The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.

Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design, by and +Acumen

Late last year I felt I could use a little recap on some of the things learned on the very first courses of the Service Design Masters degree. At the same time I was longing for some fresh thoughts and a push to jump start my thesis – a way to get creative and actually do some design stuff instead of just planning it. The free Human-Centered Design course by and +Acumen, mixing online and in-person teamwork, seemed like a good way to do that.

Described as an “intensive, hands-on learning experience“, the course description promised the participants would “leave this experience equipped and energized to apply the human-centered design process to challenges across industries, sectors, and geographies to generate breakthrough ideas.” Well, that sounds great, but would someone with quite some earlier knowledge and experience in Service Design and in general human-centered design projects get something out of it too, besides a repetition of things already known? I was also wondering how the theme and topics would feel, as the focus seemed largely to be in humanitarian and social welfare – a hugely important topic, however sadly not my forte previously.

Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation

IDEO mini challenge 1The course started in January and, thanks to all sorts of online groups and forums, it was fairly easy to find a team to do the meet-ups with. We ended up being 5 in our group, all previously unknown to each other. The course platform provided us with instructions on the different phases, “classes”, we were to go through to complete the course. The first meet-up went in a bit of a haze, getting to know each other while trying to follow the guidelines from the somewhat confusing set of material piles (for each “class” there being 2 separate packs of materials). Lucky we had a group leader of sorts in our group, making sure we had agreed on specific days for our future meetings so we could keep up with the course deadlines.

The course followed a set structure and timeline, with the design process following the steps Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation. The second group meeting was missed by a couple of us, but the ones attending divided the research between us all and we all managed to do our parts before the following meeting. And on the third meeting we finally got to a classic – you guessed it – post-it party!


Latest at this stage it was fairly clear the methods and principles of the course were very familiar to a Service Design student, but doing research and ideating was in any case tons of fun and not at all that easy. It was great to work together with a group of people not previously familiar with each other, building on each other’s ideas and hearing about new ways to look at the same things.





In the following meeting we moved on to How Might We questions – this brought us another interesting conversation, as some in the group had somewhat unknowingly used a similar approach to problem-solving. After that it was time for creating a story board and moving on to prototyping.

The course finished with an energising afternoon over brunch, making a pitch for our solution, followed by reflection and discussion on our learning.


To summarise the experience, here’s a little list based purely on my personal thoughts:

+ Nice and easy way to recap a human-centric design process

+ Practical and structured guidelines and tasks

+ Basic background info and examples on methods and process

+ Great to work in a new team and learn from others!

– 2 separate material packs for each class didn’t feel like the best way to go

– No new methods or insights for someone already familiar with Service Design

– End result and experience would depend a lot on the team: in my case it was wonderful but it could have been totally different if e.g. there was someone really bossy or other characters that can make ideation etc. difficult.

All in all, I was very happy with my experience. And the team proved to be so good that some of us have already met at a couple of other Service Design events, and we plan to meet with the whole group again soon!


The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.

Lessons from the Master: Forget the Titles, Facilitation is Key

After a decent amount of lobbying we had the pleasure to have the Service Design guru Marc Stickdorn as our guest speaker at the Finnish language Service Design program.

Stickdorn has just published the new book This is Service Design Doing. He talked about what he thought Service Design was and what the crucial skills for doing it were.


Marc Stickdorn

According to Stickdorn the reasoning for Service Design is simple. Experiences stick to customers, not products.

“Organisations lose money because of bad customer experience. Customers trust the stories of other customers and less what companies tell them”, he stated.

Therefore customers will pay more for better customer experience. And that’s what Service Design is for.

All this has to be explained to the managers. There is a business reason for better customer service and it has to be shown with money. One way of explaining new services are storyboards.

“Products can be made into mockups, but services are not tangible. We need to make it tangible to talk about exactly the same thing”, Stickdorn said.

Service Design, UX Design, Business Design…

In the cover of Stickdorn’s new book there is a quip to all the disciplines that have popped up but are doing essentially the same thing.


Stickdorn thinks that Service Design is going to become a common language.

“Many disciplines are not trained to take little steps. Managers are often afraid to take decisions to start. Service Designers should create a safe space to come up with ideas”, Stickdorn said.

Therefore they key skill for Service Designers is facilitation. How can I create a safe space so that people are not ashamed to come up with really shitty first drafts?

Stickdorn gave us tips about how to be a good facilitator. First we need to have a huge toolbox of small warmups. If there is a hurdle, we should be able to take a method and apply it and see how the group changes.

“What makes a difference is experience. Don’t try to copy somebody else. There are a thousand different styles to facilitate”, Stickdorn said.

According to Stickdorn Service Design is not a silver bullet that can fix everything.

“Be open to other stuff. There is no clear boundary where Service Design ends and other stuff starts. It allows us to use methods from other disciplines. There is not one tool or method coming from Service Design. Personas are from UX, journey maps are from branding, etc.”

For me Stickdorn’s talk gave a bit more clarity about what we are aiming to as Service Designers. It is important to talk a common language and teach the language to the managers and others in the company. In order to facilitate the change into Service Design way of thinking, we need good facilitation skills.

The author Noora Penttinen is a journalist and a Service Design student who believes in creative chaos and thinks that best ideas appear at four in the morning.

Transform your business with Service Design

I had a pleasure to attend Elisa Corporate Customers Digital Customer Service event last week, where Elisa and their partner eGain were representing how they see the world changing in the customer service side.  eGain’s CEO was describing how customer service is seen to be evolving as generations are changing rapidly. For example, Generation Z has different learning habits, consumption habits and view as how they relate to work and world around them. They consume on the spot as they were born digital, are not loyal and don’t want to be drudges. Therefore, businesses need to change, change dramatically.

Elisa -eGain

The old way of doing business doesn’t work for Generation Z anymore, transformation is required and the ones who are capable of fast and agile transformation are the winners. What was striking to me personally is the part where eGain’s CEO was claiming that in the future, the old business models don’t work anymore, old companies have to think about their offering through new business models. When thinking about the different business models, service design tools and methods serve a good basis for building a new and fresh approach, as the customers are heavily involved designing and co-creating the services together with relevant stakeholders. This is a huge task to be done with many companies, some of them don’t even realize the change is going to be huge. Once company has awaken to the need of change, still the path is long and pretty cumbersome, but it needs to be taken. Once, service and business model have been tested vigorously and seen to fly on a level that is satisfying the customer’s and company owners, the legacy process have to be adapted to the new business model, not the other way around.  That means that many companies need to think about their future business models, their processes and their legacy systems, how to change them and transform them around to support new business models and new ways of doing business. That’s good news as us future service designers are needed heavily in the future business transformation. 



Showcasing Nordic Service Design – Collaboration and Empathy as Strengths

How is Nordic Service Design different from other Service Design? This was a question that was answered at the premiere of the Nordic Service Design documentary hosted by OP, a Finnish banking and insurance company.

In addition to the documentary there were several presentations from leading Finnish Service Design firms. Tim Hall from Fjord brought in an outsider’s perspective and explained how he thought Nordic Service Design differed from that done in other countries.

Native of the UK, Hall had experienced the UK as the center of the world. After arriving in Finland he realized that the difference was that the Nordics were smaller countries with smaller populations that were eager to co-operate with each other and others. The command of English also comes to play.

Hall told that Fjord often gets asked for a Nordic Service Designer for projects. He said it’s not really about nationality but about perspective. There is more empathy in the Nordics.

According to Hall, at the moment people are starting to get the need for Service Design, because companies are struggling to connect with customers. Service Design has risen from the micro level to macro level – designing business.

Threats are the push for speed and the proliferation of Service Design.

“The less educated have a design thinking workshop and they think that’s the design done. That’s wrong”, Hall said.

Proliferation of Service Design is a threat because it might become a management fad.  Therefore we need to fight for craft.

“Underlying need and curiosity will prevail. We are bridging the gap of the digital and the physical world.”

For more about Nordic Service Design, watch the documentary below. The documentary was made by the Nordic chapter of the Service Design Network.

The author Noora Penttinen is a journalist and a recent Service Design student who believes in creative chaos and thinks that best ideas appear at four in the morning.

Facilitation for 100 people? How to cope that?


Photo by M. Jakubowska

Facilitation is the key of service design projects. According to Schein (1990) facilitation is a process of HELPING, putting more emphasize on inquiry of the problem, and combining methods that will help facilitator be enabler, not a leader of the process with the approach of owning the problem. In the last project I became a part of (with team of 7 other facilitators) I tried to follow this rule. Continue reading

Digital trends: Will 2018 be the year of Virtual reality?


Is 2018 going to be the year of Virtual Reality? Jeremy Dalton, the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Lead for PWC, wants to believe, but doesn’t think the public is ready yet.

Last week I attended a series of lectures in London about Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (VR) and how companies are using them at the moment and in the future to develop their services. The key speakers were Jeremy Dalton (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Lead for PQC) and Sylvain Reiter (Cyber-Duck).

How are Virtual and Augmented Reality being used?

According to Dalton and Reiter, Virtual and Augmented Reality are quickly becoming effectives way of offering unbelievable customer experiences, but also for companies to develop their services. The speakers talked about many how VR and AR are being used by companies from the auto industry to journalism and movies. Brands like IKEA, Barclays, Star Wars and Volvo are already using them in creative and experimental ways.

Virtual and Augmented Reality elements are being used in production line testing and to drive consumer sales, for example with mobile apps that let users put furniture in the own homes in the right scare or in real estate projects for visualization of not yet built houses. However in the USA Walmart is also using Virtual Reality for training purposes by giving their employees the possibility to learn in real life situations, and a UK based company used it in high court to illustrate how a traffic accident had occurred.

Virtual and Augmented reality can also be a force for social change. In the UK it is used to fight racial biases by making the user by giving them a change to experience bodyswapping or dealing with people from different countries. Virtual reality has also been called “The Great Empathy Machine“. United Nations has used it to put people in the shoes of immigrants for them to understand their experiences in a completely new way.

Taking VR and AR to the next level?

Even with all the new VR and AR experiences the public is receiving from different players in the field, the speakers reminded us that there are still many barriers for people adapting this new technology. At the moment they list four main areas for further development.

  1. The Cost

According to the speakers at the moment there are three different ways of users getting the VR and AR experience: home based technology, VR headset units such as Oculus Go and portable smartphone based technology. Dalton and Reiter however believe that the cost of using and developing VR and AR needs to be brought down. The technology is complex and in order to receive a high quality VR experience one must have a high quality headset, which is still expensive.

  1. The User experience

At the moment the speakers feel that the user experience hasn’t been optimized in terms of the technical delivery.  Especially with Virtual Reality, the technology is still complicated to use, when is should be easy and intuitive. Moving in the virtual world doesn’t always work in the best possible way, and in order to get a high quality optical experience, one might need a large and heavy headset.

  1. Content

Since VR and AR are still new technologies, there is a limited amount of good content out there. Companies are developing more and creating new experiences, but lack of user base means lack of content which doesn’t drive commercial sales. This leads to companies not adapting this technology in the services.

  1. Education

Adapting to new technologies takes time. According to the speakers, even though Virtual and Augmented Reality have been around as concepts for years (you might have seen it in Star Trek when you were younger), it was 2012 when they really began to catch on. However, there are still many misconception and misunderstandings about the technologies. People might think VR is only for gamers, or that in order to enjoy AR you need expensive smartphones and other technology. This is why most of the public hasn’t really had a high quality experience with these technologies yet, and educating people about the wonders of VR and AR is the next step that needs to be taken.

So do the speakers think that the year 2018 will be the year Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality really become a huge trend? The less expensive and more easily adaptable AR is already being utilized by more and more companies, but Dalton still believes that the public might not be ready for Virtual Reality yet. Give it a few more years, he says…

Written by;
Leena Salo
SID student