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Random thoughts on Service Jam - from organiser

I was quite lucky to co-host the Global Service Jam at London with a group of brilliant people from LBi and outside LBi. It is a 48 hour event bringing people from different backgrounds together to design and develop services under a global theme – and this year’s theme is ‘(super)hero’. We had around 70 participants at London jamming away in two different venues. To find out jam stories put together by LBi experience designers, look here.

The event was a big success and I believe most people had fun and learned a bit about service design and about themselves as well. As for me, I learned a number of rather practical things in terms of organising, but also here are bits that caught my thoughts.

Ice break

Ice break must be wild and bold to get around 100 multi-disciplinary strangers into (semi)functional teams. Luckly we have brilliant Ian Bach who put on a wonderful show to get everyone warmed up – literally.  

Key for ice-break: be stupid and ridiculous to start with, getting people running, leave enough time to talk in pairs or small groups, and throw in enough booze!

Team dynamics

To kick off and get work done with a group of people you only got to know for 2 hours isn’t easy. It requires not only professionalism but also a bit of magic for personality blending. Despite the fact that most people are happy to jump in and just have a good time with others (well, work hard as well), we did came across participants who are not flexible enough to embraces the open spirit of jam.

So what do we do about it? Looking back, it seemed responsible for organisers to keep an eye on team dynamics and even suggest split (in very nice and polite ways) to rescue the people who were stuck with team mate who might not be the best choice for their project. Unfortunately we failed to do that for this jam and really learned a lesson from it, but thankfully most of the London jammers are wonderful and really get the jam going with enthusiasm and professionalism.

Must have mentors

I can’t tell you how important mentors are to events like this! A brilliant and experienced team of mentors are absolutely necessary. Jam of this size is full of unexpected surprises. It is simply not possible to plan for everything, so if you can get helping hands from professional mentor to help adjust your plan on the go, it is priceless.

Absent client and stakeholders

One thing really concerns me is the absence of client and proper stakeholders in the project – many might think this is the best bit of jam as they can do whatever they want to the project. But again, if we agree that co-creation lies at the heart of service design, then we are obviously short of the necessary inputs here. Looking at the cause studies I have done with my research, the engagement of user are important but they are just a beginning point of entering a wider network of stakeholders in a service system. We did manage to push jammers to get out on the street to talk to the user, but how about delivery staff? How about admin staff in backstage of the system? How is it possible to nudge the whole business model to look at service delivery from new perspectives? The absence of a client left us with unanswered questions and lack of necessary critical review on design ideas.

How to engage key stakeholder and preserve knowledge created with them is what designer really should learn to achieve real co-creation. Empowering different parts of an organisation to engage with service user is the only way to sustain a service system. But I understand the fact that this is definitely not possible to achieve in a 2-day jam session. I am afraid that some of us who came to the event would bring home the idea of service design = user-centred design, while this is obviously not telling the whole story.

Having said that, I guess the jam as a form of event itself has its limits, and I maybe simply too critical on what I’d like to expect from it. Overall, I am grateful to be able to link to an active and enthusiastic network of people who are willing to give up their weekend to rock up some service design – what is better than finding people of your own kind?

Thank you all for coming, jammers, mentors, my dearest organisors and guys and girls on the internet (especially Adam and Markus)!

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