On 4th April a group of service designers and service design enthusiasts met up after work to play the service co-creation game ATLAS. The game was made as part of the research project ATLAS, a project executed in 2012-2014 by Aalto University and funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes. The goal was understanding, facilitating and planning co-creation. The game was introduced to us both by two of its makers, Päivi Pöyry-Lassila and Anna Salmi, as well as by the host of the evening Laura Virkki from city of Vantaa.
From a map to a game
According to Päivi and Anna, at the start of the ATLAS project the vision was not actually to create a game but something of a map to gather together co-creation theories and practices to facilitate co-creation projects. During the project the group had worked on bringing multiple information co-creation theories together, hence the game is heavily based on information co-creation theories. However it was noted that knowledge of these theories was not essential for playing.
The end result of the research project became a game instead of a map as the result of the iterative and thorough research/design process including several Sprints. The game could be described as one that helps people understand and learn about co-creation and, to some extent, service design. The goal was also to help anyone have open access to the game and tailoring it to one’s own needs e.g. by translations to different languages is encouraged – so long as credit is given to the original game when variations are made. The city of Vantaa had done exactly that and had both translated the game from English to Finnish as well as modified it slightly to better suit their user needs. The version we tried out was this modified one in Finnish.
Playing it out
After the intros we were divided into small groups and started to ponder on the topic to set as the theme of the game. Our group’s one was how to make service design as way of working in an organization. The game was then built around this topic and included discussing various aspects of the theme with the help of the game cards: motivation, project definition, participants, tools & methods, and so on. The cards facilitated discussion nicely, helping shape out the various aspects of the theme and arrive at an at least somewhat shared understanding of how one might continue working on this topic.
At the end after testing out the game we had a brief discussion across all the groups present. Each group introduced their theme and some findings and discussions they had experienced while playing. We also discussed the various possible uses for the game and what would work better than other uses. City of Vantaa had used the game as a tool to make a project plan. This had suited their needs and as far as we heard was successful. However, one of the makers of the game mentioned that in their opinion it was not exactly made as a tool for project planning. Based on our game groups’ different themes around which we played the game, it seemed it could indeed also help as a project planning tool, perhaps more as a kick-off session for starting a project and getting everyone on the same page about it than as actual detailed planning tool. It was also discussed that another game session after this initial kick-off one could then again maybe yield different, more detailed or deeper results if there was an actual project in the horizon – in this session all but one team were working around a more or less vague theme not tied to e.g. a specific organization or setting making it hard to be concrete on a project planning level. The consensus seemed to be that the game was well suited for facilitating discussion around co-creation, and one of its strengths seemed to be that it was not heavy on jargon or did not require prior experience of knowledge on service design – therefore making it a great tool to be used also with people who might be doubtful about service design in general.
The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.