Mar 13, 2013

Global Service Design Jam 13 Recap

Annie Nguyen's picture
Annie Nguyen
User Experience Designer

Two weekends ago, I participated in the Global Service Jam in New York City. This 48-hour event took place in 150 locations around the world—from Bangalore to Helsinki to San Francisco—and over 3,000 people participated. The Global Service Jam is a non-profit volunteer activity and has grown considerably from the first jam, held in 2011, which had nearly 60 participants in New York City alone. People from different disciplines, and with varying degrees of service design experience, joined together in this challenge which started Friday evening and ended Sunday afternoon. This year's theme, kept top secret until being revealed at each local jam location, was Grow. Each team had to interpret what the theme meant to them, and build a service around it.

The purpose of the design jam is not to create a real and complete working concept, but to explore and prototype what meaningful services might be possible within the theme. Our diverse team consisted of designers from graphic, industrial, interaction, service, and teaching backgrounds. Working quickly—and with strangers—can be challenging, but it can also be fun. Especially when you add a time constraint to the mix. It’s easy to get stuck when brainstorming ideas, but eliciting feedback from other teams helped us refine our thinking. We went from a very abstract level to narrowing in on a concept we wanted to explore further—growing the city's cycling community. Jumping right in, we spoke with people on the street and in nearby shops, and surveyed people online, asking them to share their experiences cycling in the city. We asked questions like:

  • Why are you riding your bike today?
  • What are some positive experiences you've had cycling?
  • What are some negative experiences you've had cycling?
  • Would you encourage other people to ride in the city?
  • How would you encourage them?

Once our research was complete, we pulled out our design tools and analyzed the information we'd gathered. Tools like value articulation proposition, storyboarding, and "The Five Ps" for designing service—people, props, places, processes, partnerships—enabled us to identify a few key areas on which to focus.

  1. What kinds of resources are important to cyclists, and what resources are missing that could improve their cycling experience?
  2. How could we leverage the data collected by cyclists to better connect, and advocate for, the cycling community?

We found that although people feel it's important to encourage others to cycle, they are not currently active in the cycling community. We saw an opportunity to facilitate activism. The mere act of cycling can inform the greater community and help build a database of information, which can ultimately help the community grow. Aggregated data from other cyclists better inform street maps and bike routes, traffic reports, weather conditions, and the locations of partnering bike shops.

By Saturday evening, we'd sketched storyboards and had our service and product defined. With only five hours left we reallyjammed on Sunday, creating a quick stop motion video of our design and presenting it to the other teams. One of the best storytelling tools is video—high or low fidelity—as it can quickly show one’s journey using a service or product, and the touch points and values being exchanged.

It's truly remarkable how many great concepts and insights can be developed when people around the world come together for an event like this. It was inspiring to see what we could do in such a short amount of time. The overall vibe was encouraging, supportive, and collaborative.

Lesson learned: stop talking and start doing.

For more information about the event and service design, check out:
Global Service Jam
Service Design Network
Local NYC Chapter

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