Are we service hippies?

3 November 2016
Ben Logan

Ben Logan


Passionate about improving services and experiences for the people that use them.

There’s been some really good talks and discussions at the Global Service Design Conference in Amsterdam, as well as a huge intake of coffee. There is a sense of openness in the service design community which makes it a great place to discuss what service design have become and what it might be in the future.

During the conference many fundamental questions have been raised; What is a service designer? Are we thinkers or doers? Where do we fit in?  Most of the questions remain unanswered and that’s the beauty really. Here are some of the questions that made an impact on me and some of the reflections post conference.

Is there a place for service designers in product development?

Questionable. The purpose of agile is to get products into customers’ hands quickly. It’s about iterations, MVP’s and baby steps. But we don’t do baby steps, do we? Disrupting an industry in a two-week sprint simply doesn’t work for me. User stories and backlogs doesn’t make me tick. Sorry to drop the bomb early on, it’s an emotional topic for many service desingers, as we often feel like misfits in agile teams. The thing is, we need space to explore. We’re thought leaders. Agile simply isn’t the place for us where the magic happens. It’s not the place for us to revolutionise. For us, the magic happens through a process where we don’t (exactly) know what is being delivered. I believe our place is earlier on in the process where we have the freedom to discover, explore and co-create.  The key is to engage the organisation in the process and to deliver a vision that inspires people in the organisation to take action. From here service designers hands over the torch to the next team, the product development team.

“Making things tangible and having a compelling vision is key to bring service design to implementation quickly.”
-Oliver King

The service revolution is here.   

What’s happening in the market is that companies are moving away from delivering products towards delivering services. Evidence for this is how Rolls-Royce shifted from selling engines to selling services. They started to offer aircraft companies maintenance service and started to sell parts of the engine. Today they have moved on and have convinced all their customers that they don’t even need to buy the engine, they can just rent it. 

The topic of going from a product-led to service-led organisation have brought a whole set of new questions to the community:

  • How can we support the process of bringing service design thinking into the heart of the organisation?
  • Could an entry point for service designers in a product-led organisation be in agile teams?

The wish for change have to come from within the organisation and when that mindset is established we can intervene and support the organisation through the transformation process. But, the service design capability needs to eventually sustain itself.

Services are inclusive.

Arash Aazami had a talk about thought leadership and mentioned a great example of a company that created a service out of a product. TWOBILLIONEYES provides glasses to millions of people worldwide, including rural areas where there is no electricity, for only £1 a month. Millions of people simply can’t afford to pay a ‘lump sum’ for glasses. The product (glasses) that once were exclusive is becoming accessible to everyone, only because it’s a service. Services are democratising.

Are we service hippies?

If everything is becoming a service, will products eventually become extinct? The trend is showing that service transformation will accelerate into the future and it makes me wonder; is there a future for products at all? I certainly have a sentimental connection to several products that I own, and as I’ve been moving countries quite a few times the products I have are few and essential. I believe that I’m conscious in my purchasing and tend to harvest and nurture products rather than acquire new ones though.

What would the future look like without products? Could we just rent a ‘lifestyle-package’? Is our future life’s something borrowed? Are we service hippies? But then again, does it matter what we’re called?

“Who cares what it’s called, we go out there and humanise the world.”
-Kerry Bondie
Ben Logan - Director

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