Approaching social problems through service design

Around the world there is a growing movement where design is used for developing social innovation. In Europe this movement is driven by service design studios like live|work, Engine, Think public and Participle in the UK but also the Desis network lead by Ezio Manzini as well as IDEO. There is also strong forces promoting that design should be used for social innovation, for example the Design Council in the UK. Service design is considered to be a useful tool for social innovation for reasons like:

holistic approach, both services and social innovation are complex systems formed by different stakeholders. Service design is a useful method to bring together different views to build a common perspective as a base for new robust solutions.

people based, as Sophia Parker says: “…Services are intangible, their value being created only in the moment of interaction between a person and a service. It is only deep immersion in this experience that service designers can capture the latent and tacit dimensions of the experience, as well as its more visible aspects…” (Parker, 2009). This knowledge that service design brings can be used to develop social innovation since it is also dependent on peoples behavior and interactions.

I also believe that service design become a good starting point for young design students that wants to make a positive change in the world. The service design community with its transparency of its tools on sights as service design tools, become a good starting point on how to tackle societies wicked human center challenges and provide tools to research and design the intangible.

With these social challenges the roles of the creative field is changing from being the exports towards working and empower people to pass on their design skills.

Don’t design for people but with people.


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Global Service Jam 2011

When I first heard about Global Service Jam (GSJ) in February I got really excited by the concept, a global event evolved around service design that anyone can sign up to. An event format that involve the participants to try out the methods and processes, transforming the new knowledge into practice directly. The field of Service innovation is a hot topic where the government launches their strategy for increased service innovation in the beginning of this year. Within the strategy there is a chapter of how service design could be used as a process for increased service innovation. The Jam came on a perfect time where we created a platform to experiment with the service design process to explore how it can be used and in what team constellation. We saw this as a great opportunity to market the service design methods and approached organizations as Almega, SVID even some people at the government. In the end we got official support from Almega, Venture Cup and Drivhuset.

With just a month to set up an event we started to scout for participants and mentors. We manage to create a well balanced working group with Ingo a PhD at Chalmers, Olle a creative process facilitator, Haris a B&D student focusing on Service Design. Due to that the majority of our participants of the Jam didn’t have any experience in the design field and service design we decided to create a work process over the weekend. In this way the participant and the different team had the opportunity to get and give feedback to each other in every stage, learning for each other and share their insights and difficulties. One week before event we prototyped the work process to see how it felt and if the time boxing felt ok.

The Global Service Jam attracted 1263 people in over 50 cities around the world the results in 203 projects! Multiplying the participants for the hours they were work together, we get about 50,000 working hours, or more than 8 years! In Gothenburg there were 17 jammers from three different countries with a wide background where only five participants had previous design experience.

We wanted to provide an environment and a process for the jammers that emphasize:

  • Iterative work process, test, refine, test, refine.
  • Thinking with your hands, quickly prototype the ideas and thoughts.
  • Human centre, start from the human needs and desires.

The process we used was:

We kick started the jam with some icebreakers for the jammers to get to know each other. After the icebreaking session and team building it was time for the GSJ opening video from the founders:

The video followed by a brainstorming session to open up the theme (super) heroes. The sessions was time boxed really tight to create lateral focus with all the team members, step by step evolving the vague ideas around (super) heroes to form a service vision, focus and target group.

We started with a brief introduction on field research where the teams worked out what they wanted to know more about, where to go and what to ask. The time on the streets was divided up in two parts, first just to try out their research approach. After some time meet up to reflect on how it was going, share insight and other general reflections on what work and don’t work.

The field research was followed by another brainstorming session to clarify the findings and to start building up the service through customer journey maps. When the service later on was more framed we started the prototype session with a 10min super quick prototype to make the service tangible. The task was risky, but all the group manage to quickly frame their service to create really simple paper prototypes. After a feedback session with the other groups another run of prototype was made. By the end of the day all the teams had their service vision, customer journey, some blueprints and service prototype.

The last day of the jam was mainly focused on the costumer journey and how to communicate and visualize the service. The intention was to make the presentations movies, send them to someone that hasn’t been involved with the jam to give some feedback for a one run of iteration.

(There is a short presentation over the different projects by me at 6:20)

By the end of the day all the teams had made their presentation videos and it was time for the local prize ceremony.
The local winner of Global Service Jam Gothenburg was a close call and went to SuperHero app team with the motivation:

”Thoroughly and generally impressed with the work you have done during the weekend. It’s a very simple idea, and the team has taken this idea from an idea stage and has come really far over these few hours. It’s a meaningful service that could be used for a lot of different purposes.Venture Cup

The prize was sponsor by Drivhuset and will provide the winning team with office space and courses to further develop the service. As a bonus they also got a wonderful picture of the stars.


Now the weekend is over and the response from the jammers was really positive and constructive.  The jam also provided us with a platform to try out design thinking and service design processes and tools with an audience that hasn’t been exposed to the theme before. It showed that the tools are really effective as platforms to visualize and share ideas, insights and information in multidisciplinary teams, tools and processes that facilitates the communication within the team.

I learned a lot of working with people with totally different backgrounds, how it can change the process and how you have to change yourself”

I learned the difference between product design process and service design process”

”I learned that people can do amazing things together under pressure”

I learned to become quick and dirty”

Early, quick and simple testing of ideas speed up the process and make the ideas tangible for constructive feedback that creates a momentum for the project to go forward in leaps.

“I liked that it came so many different people…”

I liked the creative environment that it wasn’t a clean office environment where you aren’t allowed to put your feet in the sofa”

I wish we could have gone even further with the process designing business models around the services”


This year Global Service Jam is now over, but the work continues to inform and spread the word of service design.

The next event in line is global sustainability jam in October 2011, so if you are interested to know more, participate or support the event contact us for further information.


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Drinks that kept me healthy!

On today’s news they brought up the positive effect on nitrate-rich food and how it lowers the blood pressure and improve performance. One glass of beetroot juice or a plate of spinach will do the trick. The scientists have now started to look into how nitrate-rich food can help diabetes and heart patients. For fun I have been looking into some ingredients and there effects on us, so far I haven’t found that much scientific proof, but noted down some theories. My family has always been trying to consume fruits and vegetables, but some days just become too hectic. So as a compliment we have been trying out our blender lately and it makes it so much easier to sustain the daily intake. We have been drinking these drinks for some time now and I have to say that they have been a notable component that have kept us healthier and given us the extra energy that we all need during a busy day.

Red drinks for a kick start in the morning:

  • Some of your favorite barrier: blueberries, cranberries (purifying effect) buckthorn and/or raspberries. (contains a lot of antioxidants)
  • Grapefruit, draws out toxins and prevent strokes
  • Apple antioxidant properties, lowers cholesterol
  • Banana, prevent high blood pressure and protects against atherosclerosis, also said to make us happy )
  • Orange, lowers blood cholesterol
  • Lemon

Green drink for an energy boost in the afternoon:

  • Spinach, nitrate-rich and protects the brain against oxidative stress.
  • Celery, cleanses the digestive system
  • Cucumber,
  • Grapefruit, draws out toxins and prevent strokes
  • Apple, antioxidant properties, lowers cholesterol
  • Apple juice
  • Ginger, strengthens the immune system with its antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties;

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Business beyond products

During my study at the Industrial design education I was always a bit suspicious about the role designers have to create better and nicer products, to grow sales in our consumption driven society. The thought took me early in to sustainability with design theories as cradle to cradle, great concept but I still felt that this is not the answer I was looking for. Lately service design has been an area that I could apply my sustainability and system thinking thoughts on. Zooming out from the product and focus on what the customer want to accomplish, providing the right solution to fulfill their desires with product services or experiences.

“People don’t want a quarter-inch drill. They hire a quarter-inch drill because they want a quarter-inch hole” (Theodore Levitt, Harvar Business School)

When I saw Prof Dr Roland van Dierdonck presentation at the Business beyond Products seminar on Servitization organized by Exser & Philips Design some pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place.

Servitization for the product manufacturing industry is to see the product much broader than as a piece of hardware, zooming out with a customer awareness to grasp the opportunities to integrate intangible elements to the product ecosystem. Questioning what the products actually provide to users:

“Full screen or life stream”
“Auto or mobility”

Redefining the “product offering” from hardware to solving the customer problem by asking yourself the questions of:

  • What business are we in?
  • What business should we be in?
  • What business do we want to be in?

We can see cases of companies that have gone through this transformation as ABB, a company that where selling engines to e.g. chemical companies, but has changed their approach and asked themselves what they really were selling; a peaceful mind for the plant operators.

So why should a company start thinking about servitization:

  • Customers are more demanding
  • Servitization helps differentiation and build up entry barriers

I believe there is a lot of power in the last point on building up entry barriers, or as Hugo and Mark is talking about with the limited amount of value spaces on the market e.g. Apple more or less own the value space of enjoying music. Link to presentation:

This thinking of reframing what the value the company provide to the consumer make me thinking about brand driven innovation and blue ocean strategies, but would like to continue on another path.

Besides hardware manufacturers looking in to servitization due to new consumer demands. So a big question appears, what will this industry change lead to, if product oriented companies start to reply to the high demand of the customer, start looking into what the customers actually looking for while purchasing the products and adapting their services to new and growing behavioral trends?

One trend that we can observe in consumer behavior is how our purchasing patterns have started to change. For a long time consumers have adapted there purchasing patterns on the supply from companies. But with the power of the internet revolution and the raising eco-awareness have created new purchasing and owner behaviors. Rachel Botsman brings up this issue on her inspiring TED talk on: The case for collaborative consumption.

She has identified four key drivers that are shaping our new behaviors:

  1. A renewable belief in the importance of community.
  2. A torrent of peer-to-peer social networks and real time technologies
  3. Pressing unresolved environmental concerns
  4. A global recession that has fundamentally shocked consumer behaviors.

These drivers are shifting many consumer from hyperconsumption to a more fulfilling, sustainable peer economy. Rachel is pointing out that these drivers have led to three Collaborative Consumption systems.

  1. PRODUCT SERVICE SYSTEM: based on a ‘usage mindset’ whereby you pay to share a product so you can use it without needing to own the product outright e.g. car sharing.
  2. REDISTRIBUTION MARKETS: used or pre-owned goods are redistributed from where they are needed to somewhere or someone where they are e.g. eBay.
  3. COLLABORATIVE LIFESTYLES: sharing and exchange of resources and assets such as time, food, space, skills and money e.g. peer-to-peer social lending (LendingClub).

The shift is rapid, this is a timeline over the last eight years in the mobility industry.

All of the new systems and services require a degree of trust between the users where the cornerstone is reputation. In the old consumer system our reputation didn’t matter that much because our credit history was far more important. But now we leave a trail on the web providing a track history whether or not we can be trusted, creating our reputation capital. The capital for collaborative consumption, are we seeing the sprouts of a new economic system here?

Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer in their article; The Big Idea: Creating Shared Value writes about how businesses have to reconnect the corporations to the society. Recall Rachel insight on the shifting consumer behavior we can start to see that there is a huge shift on both sides. But how can organizations face these changes, how can we develop better services and products that can embrace these changes.

I have to say I’m thrilled to see what will happen and how quick product manufacturers will rethink the traditional company customer relationship to a broader community and purpose approach.

With this thought I’m also curious about what will happen next in services, if we look at Pine and Gilmore ladder next step for services will be to encourage and guide people’s transformation. Something I believe we can start seeing in the services where the users change their behavior patterns towards mobility.

Design is evolving into the skill of controlling the immaterial, evoking experiences and establishing identities. (Droog)


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Western and Eastern medicine

Western diet has started to generate unhealthy and unsustainable eating habits, increasing the pressure on our health system. These trends have lately triggered my interest in other ways and philosophies toward food and health. Looking upon the differences between eastern and western viewpoints on health systems both has pros and cons. What we have started to see in medical schools across Europe is a mix between traditional western medicine and alternative ways as eastern is starting to become more common in the practice. With the eastern philosophy that you can eat yourself healthy, looking on our body as a system. According to practitioner of Chinese traditional medicine, Western medicine is good for emergency conditions and surgery, while the Chinese medicine is better for chronic diseases.

In the episode of Kinas mat the Chinese doctor Li Tianyi possess the four thousand year old art of Chinese medicine. With hundreds of different herbs Li examine and interview the patients before create the medicine that fits the patient need and habits, a service and relation that in the western medicine with its advances have faded away. Some of the ingredients he often subscribes are:

  • Almonds: reduces cough and sputum production.
  • Ginger: cures common cold, cough and reducing mucus, it is also good against motion sickness.

For many of us in the western world the Chinese traditional medicine can feel like mumbo jumbo. But in China it is seen as a highly regarded art which is used as a supplement for the western medicine. It is considered as good alternative especially for chronic diseases. According to the Chinese medicine, the way to eat yourself healthy is to first identify the imbalance in order to later compensate for it by eating the right things preventing and cure disease.

Eat yourself healthy is about rebalance yourself.

The philosophy and demand that you can eat yourself healthy have developed a full-fledged cuisine. Restaurants are popping up all over the world where you can order meals based on your ailments. If it works I can’t say, but I believe eating healthy based on your need can prevent many disease we encounter.

There is many in China that prefer to eat them self healthy instead of taking chemical medicines. I believe that if there is a possibility to eat yourself healthy it ought to be better not just for yourself but for the environment. We have heard so many stories how our over consumption of pills have taken a negative effect on our nature.

Tips from Doctor Li to stay healthy is:

  • Eat just until you are three-fourths full up.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Have an even temper.
  • Eat more vegetables than fatty food.

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Influence, a tool for behavior change

The book Influencer opened my mind on how the power of influence can enrich different design efforts. Unfortunately many make the mistake by trying to change people’s behavior through verbal means as persuasion instead of changing the attitude so that in the end the person want to change. Persuasion has short term effect, while influence is about long term impact and requires changing minds, hearts, and actions. Just have a look at some of the statistics, most change efforts fail because we have unrealistic expectations while looking to one simple solution.

  • Dieters spend $40 billion a year and 19 out of 20 lose nothing but their money.
  • Eighty-five percent of corporate change efforts fail – Arthur D. Little
  • Two years after receiving coronary bypass surgery to save their lives, 90 percent of patients are back to old behaviors – Dr. Edward Miller, John Hopkins University.

You can’t motivate anyone directly, but you can help people create a personal experience that helps them connect to project goals. Influence is about changing hearts, minds, and behavior to produce meaningful, sustainable results.

Turning off the tap instead of constantly trying to clean up the mess.

The authors provide the reader with numbers intriguing stories from around the world how influencers have changed peoples attitude towards healthier behaviors. Such as the eradication of guinea worm diseasee in sub-saharan Africa, controlling AIDS in Thailand, and the work of Mimi Silbert of Delancy Street with “substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom”.

The key to successful influence lies in three powerful principles:

  1. Identify a handful of high-leverage behaviors that lead to rapid and profound change.
  2. Use personal and vicarious experience to change thoughts and actions.
  3. Marshall multiple sources of influence to make change inevitable.

The method has numeral points that are similar to human centre design research tools. The influencer method can shift the mindset away from the tangible assets towards behavior patterns and touch points (crucial moments), opening up design efforts to embedding influencers in products, services and experiences to enrich the user interaction. But I believe the influencer has a bigger message to transcend. Many of today’s environmental and health issues we are facing today can be prevented by a change in our daily patterns and routines. The book provides us with a powerful tool to embrace these issues facing them with new behaviors towards better tomorrow. I strongly believe we can learn from this to fight against health issues as diabetes that is quickly becoming one of our society’s biggest problems.


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Design thinking for business success

Here is a story about a designer and her effort to learn and adapt her business to the market using design thinking. When Tian Tang Design got the opportunity to sell her products at HDK Christmas market the initial thought was to earn some extra cash. After the first day with a lot of positive feedback of the product but with none sold she knew something have to be change.
Over a beer we started talking about what it mean to sell product, pricing and marketing. We knew that the product was really easy to make at home, to conquer the threshold of the “it’s so simple I can make it at home” we had to figure something out to make the costumer ask themselves the question, are you really going to do it?
We also start thinking on why we were selling, what is the purpose, profit or exposure. Should money be the initial incentive to establish a new business we asked? Should stores be to look as platform to sell products or a platform to promote the brand and its products? While asking us this question we started to look on the Christmas market as a fair show. If we sold something it would be the extra topping.

For the second day she provided three alternatives:

  1. Free blueprint of the product to make it for yourself at home.
  2. The paper swing without the paper.
  3. The paper swing with the paper.

Even that the day before many said it was too expensive and that they could do it for them self,  no one bought the cheaper alternative or took the blueprint. We provided the blueprint to awake the thought that a lot of times we say we can do it but in the end we never do it. Providing the customers with options and a reality check that we think in the end made more people to purchase the product.

Tian had an immediate response selling half of her stock by the end of the second day. By being receptive to the costumer thoughts and concerns she fine tuned her business, price and marketing strategy. Looking upon her businesses as a prototype, testing, interviewing and changing, the business is taking shape step by step attracting loyal and interested costumers.

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