Service Design on Methadone

May 20, 2021

The term 'service design' came, saw, and conquered in the Norwegian innovative customer orientation and is now both well known and used. The term was introduced to Norway more than 10 years ago, when the first projects were established. Liveworkstudios with Lavrans Løvlie, John Holager, and Anders Kjeseth Valdersnes put an amazing effort into elevating user-centricity, the service perspective, and innovation to new heights in both the public and private sectors.

Organizations and companies needed to meet their clients in a better and more comprehensive way, which led the attention to service design. Service design is not a protected title - there are many different concepts and methodologies, but it has become a standard part of the service offers at most design and consulting companies in Norway. There's still a growth in demand, indicating that it's done right - but also an opportunity to question the use of the method.

1. Service design seems to be the answer regardless of the problem: In a public sector that still needs a lot of help with user orientation, it may seem as if the solution has become the method, regardless of the problem. Instead of attacking the issue with an open mind - digging and trying to figure out which methodology is best suited to create solutions, it seems like the joy of post-it workshops and endless user journeys trumps the focus on the result that is desirable. In a public sector with limited resources, should the issue drive solution methodology, rather than let solution methodology dictate the issue?

2. Limited valuable deliveries don't live up to the method's own requirements: Standard service design methodology is often described as the Double Diamond (DOGA ref), developed by the British Design Council. There are four phases in the Double Diamond: 1) Understanding/ Insight, 2) Defining the problem, 3) Developing ideas and 4) Delivering. One of the biggest challenges with service design nowadays is that workshops and PowerPoint presentations are considered deliveries. Only a few service design projects go beyond very low- resolution tests of ideas that are summarized in rich and illustrative presentations. Instead, they're stored away in a Sharepoint folder somewhere. It is rare that phase 3 and 4 are a part of an actual service design process. The budget has been used up, the expertise is not enough, and now it's starting to become really difficult.

3. Insight is important, but not everything: As previously mentioned, a lot of energy is put into the early stages, and especially at insight. You will always find more, but it's not always that the cost/benefit of one interview gives sufficient value. And "the user wants it easy" is not an insight that can be much used when the actual product has yet to be built. Prototype earlier, or rather, use the interview objects to confirm/disprove hypotheses.

4. The scope of the problem is always up for negotiation, and often too big: Many Service Designers have, for better or worse, a desire to change the whole world (in all projects), resulting in post-its overload. It's not necessarily wrong - but the visiting hours must be correct, and it has to be realistic to create actual results with the framework provided.

5. Lack of self-awareness: There are many skilled Service Designers out there, and the best of them know their own limits. The challenge is that the Service Designers are getting too eager and their measurements aren't always limited. However, even though you learned a lot in an insight phase, you're not always the best one suited to design how the service of the future will be delivered. Maybe others will take the responsibility and lead the delivery to the finish line, so it's done with a steady professional hand.

Some of these questions can be addressed simply:

  • Focus on creating a valuable final delivery, and ensure that there is a bigger budget for more than just exciting rounds of insight and summary presentations.
  • 80% (qualified guess) of all solutions are digital, so ensure that you have digital expertise from the start. Then you can quickly go straight to the production of digital service (often much earlier than the Service Designer wants).
  • Move more of your budget from insight to prototyping. Good prototyping is effective learning and a foundation for the (further) development of the service.