Written by Akanksha Gupta, Service design intern at T-Labs.
Global Service Jam 2019
On 29–31st March, more than 100 cities around the world organised the ‘Global Service Jam’ — from — New Delhi to Riyadh to Brazil to Melbourne to Rome. I was particularly excited to be a part of the Service Jam in Berlin.
But, what is a service jam?
A service jam is like a 48-hour jam session where like-minded people, interested in design thinking, service design, user experience design, human-centred design (and all those buzz words, you know) come together to address some problems and generate crazy ideas following a universal theme worldwide.
The Service Jam Berlin was hosted at IXDS, a service design studio, by a team of 5 amazing organisers (Adam, Dee, Mela, Matias, Nich), 7 inspirational coaches, 50 creative design geeks and 10000 bottles of beer (just kidding, or am I?)
The universal theme
The theme for the jam this year was — “Blue”. Not just your regular colour, the simple-sounding theme was encrypted in a yellow background and black typeface.
As the theme was quite broad, there was a lot of room for imagination and interpretation. The jammers took it as water, trust, magic and even crystal meth.
So, what went down?
On Friday, 29th March, we kicked off the jam and were divided into 9 teams of about 5–6 person each, with people you have never met before, coming from different backgrounds, and expectations. Each team had a coach who was experienced with service jams and could mentor them.
I, personally, had an amazing team ‘Sunny side up’ with — Juan, Saaya, Michèle, Falk and our coach — Luca.
I must say, it was the most democratic and easy teamwork, I have experienced. We warmed up to working with each other in a very short period of time.
Was it just a bunch of people playing around with post its?
Saturday morning, after a nice breakfast altogether, we were all geared up, active, excited to start the process.
We started with some fun warm-up activities like the Australian handshake, rock paper scissors, and also tried to evolve from a chicken to god. (Some really crazy stuff there, thanks Adam)
The interesting addition to the jam schedule was “tool time”, where all the organisers gave us a sneak peek into different tools — user research, prototyping, kick-starting teams, presentation and pitching etc. Everyone could choose the tool they were interested to learn about and use that knowledge while working with their teams.
After the morning activities, it was time to get real and go back in our teams to figure out the ‘big’ problem that we want to address. After a few rounds of brainstorming and crazy 8 ideas, we found us interested in exploring the commute of an average Berliner in the morning.
We quickly prepared a list of questions to help us go deep into the topic. We went out ‘in the wild’ on a super sunny Saturday to talk to people and gather some insights.
After having interviewed around 10 people, and a nice lunch at the street market in Kreuzberg, we sat down to business. (Wow, so fancy!) From all the interviews and a reflection on our daily routines, we realised that every individual wants to have an ‘efficient’ commute; listen to an inspirational podcast about mindfulness perhaps. Which represents the irony! We feel guilty if we have ‘wasted our time’ being ‘unproductive’.
And this was the start point of our problem definition i.e. What if we could just ‘pause’.
It’s interesting how our direction completely changed after user interviews. It’s important to be open to all the possibilities in the beginning.
The “Big” Idea
We started developing a persona of ‘Julia Müller’ (as German as it gets) who is overworked, trying to squeeze out every minute of her day, not having enough time to relax (If you think, you‘re Julia too, don‘t worry, we all are!)
And the question that we asked ourselves was — How might we make Julia pause? How might we make her do NOTHING?
“Everything promises something, we wanted to experience the nothing.”
We knew we were touching an important aspect of people’s lives there. It was the start of something big. (Okay, maybe a bit too dramatic!)
Once we had this problem statement, we went into brainstorming for ideation phase and coming up with some tangible, intangible and extremely futuristic solutions.
One of the challenges of this phase is — Talking, discussing and debating too much. But we were pushed to prototype our vague idea with all possible options for an ‘idea bazaar‘ in the evening.
All groups displayed the prototypes and everyone had a chance to test their ideas and experience other projects.
The key is constructive criticism and feedback, which helps all the groups gather more insights to build up on.
Experience the Nothing
Our prototype was quite fun. We got to shove flowers and oranges and chirping birds music into people’s face. (not kidding)
We had prototyped the ‘before’ where people could select the weapon that tells them that perhaps they need to stop, pause, reset; for example, a colour changing bracelet, an electrocuting band, a hologram of their favourite actor, a pattern changing tattoo, or a micro-chip installed inside them.
And then the ‘during’, how people can “experience the nothing” i.e. which senses help them to relax — sight, smell, sound or touch.
There were a lot of interesting prototypes — a decision making box with your life priorities, a give bag with sustainable products for your travels, and a lot of meet-up(or dating) apps to save the world!
After the feedback, we had a lot of ideas to work on, look back at our problem from various perspectives and explore different directions.
But, it was time for the surprise dinner!
The Jam Team organised this beautiful and delicious dinner where everyone had a chance to relax after the long intense day.
It’s not over yet!
Sunday morning, after having one hour less in our lives (daylight savings), we all gathered for what was already the usual morning breakfast, tool time, and warm-ups.
And then it was — Go time! We had around 3 hours to finalise our ideas and get ready for the final demonstrations — 5-minute presentation.
We talked and talked about if ‘nothing’ was ‘something’ like a band, bracelet, necklace, headgear etc. And in the end, after having settled on it being a shape-shifter (wear it where you want) and choosing the sense of smell, sound and touch to calm oneself down, we decided to work on the narrative of the story.
For a jam format, it’s not important to come up with the most polished idea or product. It’s not going to end up in an elevator pitch. But, it’s important to be able to identify a real problem statement and start a discussion on the same.
We quickly prepared all the material, designated different roles, developed the script, backdrops and we were ready to go!
The adrenaline rush in these moments is absolutely crazy!
Instead of a regular presentation, all the groups went for role-playing, which made these demonstrations so much more fun! From pink hair grandma to hippy Kreuzberg Berliner, to Jessie Pinkman (from Breaking Bad), we had a room full of Oscar-winning performances.
After all the fun and group pictures, it was time to say goodbye. It’s funny how you get so used to the place and the people in just two days, and goodbyes become harder.
I am so glad to have met all these amazing souls, getting to know the service design community in Berlin, interacting with some of the best in their fields, working on a really fun project and experiencing the ‘Nothing’.
Can’t wait for the next Jam!