Service designers: stop using templates

Service designers: stop using templates

Digital Transformation is (or should be) on most corporate agenda’s because the VUCA world is demanding to realign technology and business models in order to effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.

Nowadays Digital Transformation and Service Design go hand in hand because the transformation we are all facing goes beyond digital. Service Design starts by looking to make improvements in Policies, Assets, Culture and People.

To make these improvements, service designers love to do workshops and the internet is full of toolkits and templates like for example the business model canvas, user journey maps and persona templates. This makes people believe that service design is easy and everybody can do it with a couple of templates at hand.

But the fact is that Service Design is all about designing for the bigger picture and this also asks for soft skills!

It’s the service designers’ job to guide people from point A to B and find collaborative outcomes instead of using your precious workshop time to fill out a template.

Let’s take a step back: service design is a possible starting point to manage innovation and in order to have innovation, you need to facilitate creativity!

Facilitation is a critical soft skill that can be learned so that you know what to do before, during and after every meeting or workshop.

Research has shown that facilitators add significant value in collaborative workshops.

In these kind of workshops, there are 3 important roles to define(Isaksen 1983):

  • The Client/Designer: The person who focusses on content. Responsible for the topic upon which the tools are used. The client actively participates in both generating and focusing activities.
  • Resource group members: a group of people responsible for providing the client with options, but who may or may not have vested interest in the task at hand. They use their knowledge, previous experiences and imagination to help clients address the topic.
  • The Facilitator: The person who focusses on process. Responsible for managing the use of the tools on behalf of the client. Facilitators make decisions about what tools to apply, give instructions to their use, and manage tool application by the group. They help to create and manage an environment in which the tools are most likely to be effective. They also manage the group dynamics that emerge during the tool application.

It is important to understand which roles there are and who is in charge of what because a service designer is not a person who takes on all the roles. I intentionally put the designer in the client role because at the start of a service design track when focusing on the business the actual client is in a client role. When moving on to user insights, the designer is focused on content.

To make real impact, the facilitator needs to focus on managing group dynamics and creating an effective environment. This is what makes the real difference and aren’tpart of the template.

Service Designers, 8 tips to increase your service design impact:

  1. Make sure you get a basic facilitation training so you have a better understanding of Person, Process, Product and Context before starting to stick post-it’s on a template.
  2. Service design is a process (not a one-shot workshop!) so make sure to design a complete track of workshops, each focusing on different elements like business, the internal processes, customers, suppliers, …
  3. Take time to actually design each workshop and determine the outcome with a task summary. Creativity needs focus!
  4. As a facilitator you need to respect and respond to individual differences: diversity leads to potential for creativity, but can also result in decreased productivity if people are unable to reach common ground and shared contributions.
  5. Make sure as a facilitator you can focus on the process so don’t try to be the smartass in the group
  6. Start your workshops with a ‘brain dump’: give your resource group time to structure their thinking. Brainwriting will increase productivity.
  7. Have your UX designer in the workshop(s) as a client so he can start his creative process already and build on the input from the resource group
  8. Once the service design ideas become specific, as a facilitator you can challenge the eventual service design based on the common insights you captured during the different workshops.



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