Smuggling service design across the border

Two weeks ago we got a phone call from Belgium. To be more specific, from Kite Consultants based in Antwerp. The question I was asked was if we could provide a workshop on some specific aspects of service design. The first one was about the client side of organisations. Where many consultancy firms have a focus on the internal organisation, service design looks at the touchpoints where customers are in contact with the organisation or business. The second one was about the design aspect of creating new services as a way of creating new value for their existing clients.

This invitation made me realise that the things we do at 31Volts, we often take for granted. Everything design has become second nature for us. However service design is quite a new area of expertise for traditional consultancies. The great advantage for Kite Consultants was that they are very much aware about their own expertise and the opportunities that lie in the field of service design for them.

So of I went on a very early and rainy morning. I somehow missed the fact that Kite was based in Hangar 26, just along the Schelde river. I used to visit Antwerp a lot and was always curious what was going on in this old ‘hovering’ and restyled warehouse. Now I know. The spaces inside are great. But, although I still have a passion for interior design and architecture, this was not why I was in Antwerp…
Kite Workshop

I decided to split the day in two. The morning I gave a short introduction into service design. As expected there was little news under the sun for the participants. I often take some examples with me of our clients dilemma’s. I felt these were very easy to translate to within the day-to-day business at Kite. Not so long ago we at 31Volts specified our own services, design research being one of them.

The challenge I set was to develop a design research kit. Kite split up into three groups. They all worked on the same hypothetical assignment: “The department responsible for health and environment decided that a ‘healthy living environment’ was of the highest priority to cut on long term health expenses.” Every governmental or social related organisation should be called upon to create new services to reach this goal.

It was a difficult assignment. I felt the biggest challenge for the group was to move from a very analytical, left brain, way of working into a more creative, visual, non-linear and conceptual approach. However, at the end of the morning they all had some very exciting research kit. The most rewarding part for me was that they closed the saying-doing-gap. There where no questions to be found, just assignments.

Although they all had great kits the one that stood out was the “Undercover reporter kit”. This one was targeted on kids who became the undercover reporters and needed to create a special edition newspaper on the topic ‘healthy living environment’. They had to do interviews, make a photo reportage, come up with advertising and all other parts of a proper newspaper. I think we’ll be seeing this kit in one form or an other in either an Belgium or Dutch service design project of the near future…

The afternoon was dedicated to creating service scenarios. The request I got was to help Kite consultants with some design techniques. The funny thing is that these are so common for us that I had to think really hard what is was I was going to teach. Aspects like lateral thinking, working with metaphors and concepts, working visually in stead of with lists end creating within a team where the main objectives. To help not-designers on their way and into the creative mindset we introduced the designers-warming-up. This is a series of somewhat challenging and strange activities. Within minutes the somewhat insecure looking consultants turned into fun and happy designers.

The task ahead however was very serious and required hard work. In both groups their was a lot of discussion and sketching going on. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the concepts which where really thought through. It would require an extra couple of hours and perhaps some extra skills to visualize the scenario’s in all its detail. Therefor I asked to present the scenarios through storytelling. This worked really nice and helped everyone to get a clear picture of the future service.

I realize that it is not possible to train people to become a service designer in one day. And that is ok. I think that this day helped Kite with some new creative skills to make the next step.
Innovation is Served

Our own next step will be to create an standard workshop package into our own four services. These workshop will focus on helping existing consultancy firms in learning more about the client side of organizations and their touchpoints. We will also take into account that creating new services require a more creative and design driven approach. Qualities that are not always available in the more classically organized consulting firms. If you like to know more what these workshops can do for you, don’t hesitate to contact us.



At 31Volts we love people, design and innovation. Occasionally we take the time to share our thoughts on this blog. Like what you see? Let's get in touch!

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31Volts [Service Design]