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.

Designing Work for Future Needs. Future Needs are Here NOW!

Last week I participated the last one of the design related discussions of the series “Enter and Encounter – A series of discussions hosted by curators” jointly organised by Design Museum and the Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo. My expectations were high due to the interesting title: “Designing Work” (more here, in Finnish) and due to the fact the previous discussion was so inspiring. (You can read from it on my previous blog-post here.)
As last time, it really was worth making my way to the Design Museum after a long and exhausting day at work.

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Public servant as a designer

I have been working for the government since 2005. We have now come to a point where we are moving from working groups, spreadsheets, data from the past to understanding the complex interconnected eco-systems. In this blog, I try to make some insights how design thinking could be applied to our governance.

Burden from the past

Finland’s public administration is built to a world which is linear, clear and predictable. We have ministries and their controlled bureaus and everybody knows what is their individual mission and responsibility. It is told that it was necessary to build Finland’s public administration this way so that Russians could not come here to bring their own governance. We are quite far from the everyday life and challenges of the citizen. The traditional way of working does not resonate the real, post-industrial world.

From numeric, logical models to emotional insights and experimental models

Design thinking (DT) gives you freedom to break down the models that are constructed in our minds and in our programme development plans for five-years. It is a toolkit for any innovation process and it combines design approach and more traditional rational problem solving. In the chart below you can see the differences in main characteristics between DT and traditional working way.

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Service designers are hot, but who are we?


Diversity is a richness

Service design is now sexy. Pretty much any enterprise or organisation flirts with hot words as “service thinking” or “service design”. As a skill on one’s CV it can employ a person. However, rare people really know what the discipline is really about. I came across service design by accident while puzzling how to help generalist graduates to employ better ( and ended to be amazed by the versatility of the discipline.

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DT – from convergent organizational thinking to changing the world


Design Thinking course led by Katja Tschimmel and Sanna Marttila was an intensive two-day package of pushing us, the new students to find the Design Thinking in ourselves. It all happens subconsciously. Creating new in a multidisciplinary team working with Design Thinking tools you suddenly realize that you start to think like a designer.

How do the designers think?

Why do designers make change while managers get stuck planning? Designer is an abductive thinker and interpreter. He is forced to prove the results of his thinking in a visual form already at a very early stage of an innovation or development process, to make a proof of the concept and to get evaluated further. Designers’ thinking is divergent: fluent, flexible, original and the results are measurable. According to Tschimmel designers have the capacity to consider at the same time:

Human needs and visions of living well

Available material and technical resource

The constraints and the opportunities of a project or a business

What business or organizational lead usually lack, is the empathetic understanding of the human needs and visions: managers get stuck with resources or constraints while designers see the opportunities in human understanding. In the non-design -oriented world entire organizations are built on false values and digitalization projects that only need to be carried out but do not even see the possibilities of changing the world.

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Get you Post Its… it’s playtime!

It truly was a great start of becoming a design thinker when we started our journey towards the new goal with intensive two-day course run by Katja Tschimmel. Afterwards I felt like rundown by bulldozer. So many new things, interacting and so much more. But wait…something felt familiar! It’s all that fearless creating, drawing, role paying, acting and being with a team. It was like back in childhood when there were no limits, not even the sky. Something that we had, but lost when growing up.

Pablo Picasso said that it took him four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. I think we haven’t lost the ability to fearlessly create, imagine, role play or draw. We just have to find it again. It’s all about practicing and getting comfortable with all these methods that have been brought back to us by Design Thinking.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games, there are rules also. Not to limit us but guide us through the creative process. Maybe they should not even be called rules but best practices, methods, tools or guide lines.

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How to think like designers do?

Empathy, experimentalism, optimism, collaboration. These are the characteristics designers have – just to name a few. During the introduction lesson lectured by Katja Tschimmel on 8 – 9 September we took an intensive dip into the world of Design thinking. And instead of just listening and learning we also got our hands on to the desing process and acted on a basis of design thinking – learning by doing. We evoked our inner designers in teams amongst the theme ”Studying a Laurea” and our guide during the project was Tschimmel’s and Mindshake’s EVOLUTION 6² model.

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What comes to the characteristics of a designer, here’s my thoughts about them and how we took an advantage of them during the study project.

Empathy – Being a very human-centered and interested in peoples lifestories, to me this is the most inspiring characteristic of a designer. What would be more invigorating than to understand the inner mind of your customer and to create a service that responses to his/her inner needs and desires? In our project we for example interviewed the potential persons from our target group and made customer journey mapping in order to understand better the fictive customer.

Experimentalism – Design thinking releases the acceptance of failures and actually is even provoking to test new ideas and creations in an early stage by prototyping. We didn’t have too much time to prepare our ideas so inevitably we were forced to accept the possibility of a total failure of our ideas. And in addition, we were encouraged to accept the fact that our idea does not work in a real life. And thus we were coached for experimentalism.

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