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Service Design Jam 2017: 48 hours of design thinking

1 March 2017 Service design
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I was recently at the Service Design Jam, in Bern, a global event taking place since 2011 in almost 90 locations worldwide, involving people passionate about service design. As service designer, could I miss this event?! Not at all!

The event is a weekend of workshops with a challenge: changing the world in 48 hours. At the Service Design Jam, I’ve lived the most exciting and funny full immersion in design thinking. It’s a small amount of time, but this experience proves that, with the right methods, it’s possible to generate outstanding ideas without spending a lot of hours of work and meetings to take a decision. I’ve always thought that design thinking is the best way to get from idea to action producing unexpected results!

The weekend starts on Friday evening with the launch of a theme and ends on Sunday at 3 pm with the publication of the results. Every year the title of the Global SDJ is a surprise in every way, first of all because the theme remains secret until Friday evening and revealed at the same time all over the world, second of all, because the first reaction would be: “really, is that all?”. And now you will understand why. This year, the title, declared with a really funny video, made by the global service jam team, was: “Hallo?lo?o?o?”. After the first moment of confusion, we realized how a so open title can inspire free and creative thinking. The good thing is that you are not alone in facing the challenge, but the entire weekend is a collaborative work in a group with the help of facilitators.

I will share with you some of the learning from this experience, that you can also bring with you in your next projects.

Facilitating the conversation playing with Lego


At the service design jam in Bern, the group building started playing with Lego...but seriously. In fact, we have used “Lego Serious Play®” a methodology in which participants build his own 3D model as an instrument to facilitate the conversation with the others about a subject. We have begun representing “yourself and innovation” and telling our story to other persons. In some minutes we have built a group model including the idea of all. This is a good “ice-melting” tool to get people together talking and sharing their ideas and building something new together.

Putting your idea out to get feedbacks


Following the principle of the design thinking, the starting point of a project is a phase of exploration and diverging thinking, in order to find the focus of the challenge and then to generate creative ideas to test and prototype. To explore a theme the best thing to start with is brainstorming using post-it and collecting keywords and ideas connected with the theme. The rule of this approach is always to think freely, without judging yourself and the others and remaining open to the unexpected. Once you have found a focus on which you would like to explore and find out more, the best thing to do is to collect feedbacks from other people. 

At the SDJ in Bern there was this charming way to give feedbacks: 

“I like…” to say what do you appreciate about an idea, 
“I give…” to share with the group useful information or building on the idea of others,
“I wish…” to ask something you would like to find out or to have in the service explained.

The challenge we have framed was:
“How can we get out of the comfort zone, to speak with other people in order to make them don’t feel themselves alone?”

Collecting information from real people

After the challenge is defined, it’s time to discover more, and the best way to find out insides is to put yourself out and to speak with real people. The real environment could be a great place for experimentation: direct interviews, observation, reaction testing, spontaneous talking, all could bring you to new intuitions and open your mind. This could be, at first, a scary moment, because, as our challenge says, it’s not easy to get out of our comfort zone and speak with strangers to collect information, but it’s most of the time a continuously surprising moment. 

Remaining open to reframe your challenge


Actually, an enlightening moment it has really happened, as matter of fact, a conversation with a person on the street has changed and redefined the direction of our challenge. We have figured out how many people, which, for many reasons, are emarginate from the society, live most of the time on the street without having a good conversation with anyone. And how most of the people are fascinating about other people’s life stories. How can we make these people meet each other?

Collaborative ideation


Because the purpose of the SDJ is to be concrete and doing more than saying, it’s time to ideate! There are some techniques that could help to be creative: putting ideas on post-it and sharing them quickly, building on ideas of others, inverse thinking, idea clustering, association using images and object or for example playing with tools as “story cube”. These are different way to diverge and to remain open to possible solutions working together.

How to communicate your idea? Prototyping!


As I’ve already said on my blog post about prototyping, this is the best way to test your idea and share it with others, because helps you to tell the story about your service. In the weekend we have tested a lot of instrument to make our progress visible. Sketches, small illustrated figure cards, or again Legos, they all could be great elements for raw prototyping, because particularly suitable to be moved and to become part of a short film. 

This is our idea in a short video!

Get in touch! Start today changing the world in your city or neighborhood!


A special thanks to our coach Angela, to the other member of my team and, the great SDJ organization and the Effinger team in Bern, for the great experience!