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SDN 2018: 8 Key Lessons for Moving Service Design to the Mainstream

Looking back on this year’s SDN Annual Conference, Mormedi VPs Juliane Trummer and Jan Newel-Lewis pick out the 8 key themes that are shaping the future of service design as it becomes part of the mainstream.

Tailor to avoid failure

Cork City Council, Adidas, OP Financial Group, Lloyds Bank and Musgrave Retail Partners were among the organizations that discussed how they are successfully integrating service design and innovation practices into their way of working, and are reaping considerable benefits from doing so – both qualitative and quantitative.  One big lesson from these organisations is the importance to develop tailored approaches that resonate with the culture, structure, and their innovation readiness.

Defining service design

As business challenges evolve, “newer” disciplines such as service design have emerged, which in some cases creates a certain amount of confusion and leads to questions such as: “How is service design different from design thinking?” This is especially relevant in the corporate context, where clients might not be familiar with any of these new approaches to start with. Although many approaches share a common ground centred around a point of view that considers the user, technology, and business lens, there are clear differences.

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As practitioners, we must clearly articulate what we do and help our clients understand how these different approaches can complement each other.

Culture eats design for breakfast

Culture is fundamental for any organization, especially for those trying to innovate and transform themselves. Within that there is a common understanding that culture cannot be delegated and needs to be modelled and led from the highest leadership level. From the importance of creating free space for critical thinking, and “random coffee moments”, to cultivating employee authenticity in customer interactions, culture is an omnipresent theme when talking about service design.

Service design can cross borders

Throughout the year we have seen examples of how service design is being applied in different corporate and geographic settings. Within corporations it is often applied to drive organizational and cultural change, establish more agile and customer-relevant products, and service development and innovation cycles. At the SDN conference in Dublin, Marcel Stephan presented an interesting case in which service design is being applied to an entire city in Saudi Arabia and how they have been able to establish a powerful success mechanism. Diego Mazo and Lina Antolinez shared experiences of leveraging service design in Colombia where “life is a continuous succession of opportunities to survive,” and where they are applying service design as a way to connect agencies, academia, and industry.

Practice and theory

Several speakers stressed the need for scalable tools that allow the integration and sharing of points of views in a collaborative fashion. While our aspiration might be to dialogue with technical implementation teams early in the process, in the future we will be working with them through a shared platform in real time. Driven by the transformational nature of our time that challenges the wits of service designers on a daily basis, practice is evolving faster than academia. Therefore, as a community we should proactively foment cross-pollination between professionals in practice and scholars in academia and ensure that design curricula stay up to date and relevant.

If you can measure it, you can manage it

The importance of measuring results has been an ongoing topic at SDN conferences in recent years. Whilst we are definitely getting better at it, Birgit Mager and Tina Weisser interestingly pointed out that only 4% of service design tools focus on implementation and stressed that:  “Implementation is not an add-on.” Take this as an invitation to the community to explore how we can make implementation more solid from a methodological point of view.

AI will be the new UI

One of the more future-facing themes that has clearly surfaced in the field of service design is the role of the design disciplines in the face of fundamental shifts driven by new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. In a context in which technology and science are leading by default because the changes that are affected by them are rapid and unstoppable, design and designers are critical for unlocking the transformative potential of technology from a human point of view and for attempting to keep it ethically sound. In a world where “AI will be the new UI” unconventional thinking, pioneering and exploration will be key.

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