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!”.
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!