Is 48 Hours Enough to Change the World?
Back in March, Blue Water team members lent their time and expertise in support of the DC Service Jam. The Jam brings together thousands of designers globally to join forces to solve really big challenges through the application of service design and design thinking.
What is a Service Jam?
The Global Service Jam, in its eighth year of operation, took place in more than 100 cities and assembled thousands of participants for this two-day event. The Jam is an opportunity for individuals of all experience levels to practice and hone their skills with support and guidance from industry professionals. If you’ve ever done a hackathon, it’s very similar, except that teams use service design and design thinking methodologies to create service prototypes in just 48 hours.
For a bit of context, service design looks to innovate across time and touchpoints focusing on customers, employees, and infrastructure (systems, applications, and processes). Design Thinking is a framework and a set of Human Centered Design (HCD) methods and techniques used in conjunction with service design. We’ll write more on these later, but for now, back to the jam.
Here in D.C., the Service Jam kicked off Friday, March 20th at 5:00 PM EST, at the Chinatown WeWork. After settling in and getting to know fellow jammers (participants), the event was ready to begin. The talented and wonderful Jam Organizers provided a great overview of service design and the framework that would guide teams from concept to prototype in just 48 hours.
Next up, was the revealing of the “secret global challenge.” At that moment more than a thousand designers globally received the same spark of inspiration. The theme has historically been abstract allowing for individual interpretation. This year’s theme, blue, was no different. DC Jammers broadly associated blue with issues surrounding mental health, climate change, and sustainability. Participants further defined focus areas and began to form teams around common interests and goals.
Teams took individual challenges and refined them into challenge statements. A Challenge Statement is a key step in the process and helps to frame the parameters of a project. A challenge statement of “How might we impact climate change?” may be too broad, whereas “How might we increase awareness of the environmental benefits of buying locally grown foods?” could help to guide a team’s efforts. A well-written challenge statement can make the difference between frustration and success, particularly given a short time frame.
By Saturday morning–don’t worry, everyone slept–challenge statements are forming and plans for research are cooking. At this point, teams also meet their knowledgeable coaches who will help guide and support them in the activities to follow.
The Jam places a great emphasis on research and teams are encouraged to “hit the streets” to build empathy and uncover actionable insights. It was great to see teams going out and conducting interviews and studies yielding amazing results. I appreciated the teams’ willingness to be creative in their efforts to bring the voice of the customer into their work given the constraints of time and resources.
Informed by these research activities, teams began to formulate service concepts. This came in the form of sketching, prototyping, and stickies abounding, as teams converged on their final concepts. Teams retired Saturday evening around 9:00 or 10:00 PM with a good handle on how they would proceed the following morning.
The final presentation of teams’ service design concepts could take any form, but teams were encouraged to act them out in skits. This may not align with what “prototype” conjures in the mind, but it’s a highly effective technique for communicating a service model. It helps bring focus to what we call Halo Moments–key moments that shape our overall perception. If we think of a well-known service model like Uber, we could imagine a skit in which people act out key moments like (1) calling for the car, (2) entering a vehicle with a trusted driver, and (3) exiting without reaching for cash or card. Prototyping can take on many forms, but in essence, it is a way of making concepts concrete and visible to elicit feedback.
The last hour or so leading up to the 2:00 PM EST deadline is filled with designers running, acting, building, and a healthy dose of excitement–it’s a beautiful site. Skits are planned, refined, and rehearsed leading directly up to the big moment when teams revealed their service design concepts to a room of more than a hundred of their peers from across the DC design community.
The ideas that came out of this event were extraordinary. Many of the concepts created in this short time have great potential to deliver tremendous impact in the areas of mental health, climate change, and sustainability. In events following the jam, team members–many steeped in the DC social and political landscapes–have been meeting, discussing, and planning ways to keep the momentum going. I would not be surprised to hear that a few of these concepts are being piloted in the months to come.
It’s a wonderful event and a lot of fun. The folks involved are passionate and very generous with their time and talents. I would strongly encourage everyone to attend and lend their time and support in this effort to make the world a better place.
The Blue Water team is passionate about Service Design and Design Thinking and has found them to provide great impact in the services and products we create. If you’re interested in talking more about how these practices can impact your organization, we’re happy to talk.
If you’re interested in learning more about service design, I recommend the book Service Design: From Insight to Implementation by Andy Polaine, Lavrans Løvlie, and Ben Reason. Another great resource for regular inspiration is the podcast Service Design Show hosted by Marc Fonteijn.
About the Author
Chris Hodowanec is Design Director at Blue Water in Washington DC where he leads Service Design, Interaction Design, and Visual Design disciplines in the creation and delivery of innovative service and product solutions. Chris spends his free time chasing his kids, looking for new hiking spots, and eating copious amounts of ramen.