Working together on a business model canvas for a 'micro-help' exchange service
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Breakthrough thinking at a service design workshop

Working together on a business model canvas for a 'micro-help' exchange service

This week has been a week of breakthrough thinking, thanks to a fantastic service design workshop I attended. Not only breakthrough thinking for me, but learning more about bringing out breakthrough thinking in others.

So I went to a 3-day service design workshop, conducted by the venerable Mr Marc Stickdorn (he kind of knows a lot about this stuff) and hosted at the University of NSW (thanks Selena!). I could go on a lot about some of the awesome people I met, or the specific techniques, but instead I wanted to focus on the thinking shift it showed me. I thought it was a short course about the process and techniques of service design, i.e. designing the whole experience around interacting with a particular product and/or service, rather than just a product.

It (happily) turned out to be much more. It was very much a train-the-trainer approach, for us designers to equip clients to do these processes and techniques for themselves.

This has two big impacts on what I do for a living:

Workshops are the end, not just the means

I’m very familiar with conducting workshops with clients, using a variety of fun collaborative activities to draw out ideas and insights. Everyone comes away feeling enriched and empowered, but I then have to process all those ideas and insights into a user experience strategy, and then design whatever it is that needs designing.

Filling out a stakeholder value map

Filling out a stakeholder value map

But the difference with service design workshops is that they’re not just a means to an end (i.e. the strategy and design); they are the end. The strategy and design are captured in the workshops themselves, and embodied as prototypes. Clients are not just buying a designer’s time and skill to come up with something; they’re buying the workshops to come up with something.

This is exciting. It’s also confronting for any designer who favours the smoke-and-mirrors-then-big-reveal approach. I embrace collaboration, I really do, but this has shown me that there’s more I can achieve with those moments of enrichment and empowerment that clients experience within the workshops.

Workshop activities are to iterate, not innovate

Another professional habit I’m in is to conduct research workshops to draw out the business intelligence, ideas and insights from a client, and then conduct concept-testing workshops to test the designs I’ve come up with. And these two types of workshops have different types of activities.

But what Marc has shown me is that these service design activities and techniques are to iterate, not innovate. Rather than doing them once, they can be done over and over again, to model different ideas, and refine service prototypes.

Working on a storyboard of a 'micro-help' exchange service

Working on a storyboard of a 'micro-help' exchange service

Rather than just using the Business Model Canvas to draw out a client’s business model, for example, we can use it over and over again to draw out, model and refine different concepts. What would happen if Energy Australia viewed their customers as co-generators of their product? What impact would that have on the experience of getting and paying bills?

Or what would happen if your petrol was cheaper if you loaned your car for short stints to others when you weren’t using it?

Do more, talk less

End game? For me it points to project relationships with clients where we all do more, and talk less. Clients get to do more, and we all know the positive benefits of learning by doing. They get to experience breakthrough thinking in ways they can’t do through conventional means. For me it means I get to take them there, and equip them to keep taking themselves there. It also means less report writing and more time with clients iterating on solutions.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Special mention

As well as ups to Marc Stickdorn, I can’t go past mentioning — and profusely thanking — Markus Edgar Hormeß and Adam StJohn Lawrence for their time over Skype answering our questions and sharing some great insights and experience. When I grow up I want to be them!

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Selling your UX approach with storyboarding

Example colour storyboard of someone wanting to book a holidayStoryboarding is one of those cross-disciplinary techniques that is catching on more and more in UX and service design.

I find storyboarding really effective, both as part of internal process and as a deliverable for clients. But the most potential I’ve seen it have is in winning clients and stakeholders over to a particular solution, idea or approach. People are naturally drawn to more visual means of communication, and there’s nothing like framing (pardon the pun) your UX or service design solution as – well – a comic.

I recently did some articles to show how this can be done, for Johnny Holland:

…and UXMatters:

Enjoy, and give it a go yourself!