What I have learned at the Global Service Jam

Photo taken by Jam Berlin at the Service Jam Berlin 2016

If you have heard of the Global Service Jam, you probably know it is happening this weekend (26–28.02.2016) all over the globe.

The Jam Berlin invited me to share some of my learning and give some hints to the Jammers on “how to Jam”. This text is a summary of my talk on 26.02.2016.

Jamming is quite an exciting experience. However, if you think rationally, the concept itself is quite absurd: you are dedicating valuable 48h of your weekend to work with people that you have never seen before (a.k.a. Strangers), into a project that probably won’t be implemented and will not look shining enough to put in your portfolio. Besides, no one will teach you anything (this is not a workshop).

So why would you join such kind of event?

Believe me, it will be one of the most memorable days of your life, you will be part of a global movement, make friends for good and learn more than you would in your time at the office or university.

The Jam is a really interesting Learning Environments that one can experience. Although it might not be framed (like a workshop), the learning happens via the constant sharing in the Planet Jam, Twitter and Skype/Hangout amongst the locations.

So keep calm and I will give you 7 easy steps on how to make the best out of this bad choice you made for yourself.

1- Understand that YOJO

You Only Jam Once.

You can come to the Jam as much as you want, but the first time is unforgettable. If it is your first time, remember to embrace it. Try not to question what is offered for you as experience, try to approach everything with a “yes and” attitude.

Don’t spoil this irreplaceable moment with your own agenda or the willing to make the project on the “right way”. That is the beauty of the Jam, the project itself is secondary to the experience.

The other times you join it, you probably will assume a different role (coach, helper, speaker) or join a different location. It will still be cool, but not as astonishing as the first time.

2- Get lost from your friends

I know you might be a popular person and the design community is so small that half of the people in the Jams are probably cousins. But bear the challenge of not mingling with your own friends. The jam is one of the mightiest opportunities to get to know people in a qualitative way.

I usually have a hard time with small talk, that is why I like the jam: you get to know people by doing what you love without having to go through “where are you from/where you work/are you single” conversation.

3- Stop asking “how can I apply it in my daily job”

That is an usual demand. And I really don’t like people who ask that. Sorry, but unless you are paying me specifically to teach you something (like in a workshop), I usually would answer this question with another question: how old are you?

You will experience a lot of different activities, methods, tools, processes and if you are clever enough, as I believe you are, you will find ways to transport and translate what you learn in the Jam to your job. Some activities only exist for the sake of keeping the mood up, to make this weekend fun, others to help the design process and the team work. Look at them with curious eyes and enjoy the ride.

Service Design Jam Berlin 2013 — Photo by Elias Barrasch

4- The team is the must

I learned a lot about teamwork and about myself. And maybe it is one of the most valuable learnings I took to my daily business life. Specially if you are a freelancer, you will ended up in Jam like situations: you have 48 hours to finish a project with people you don’t know.

In this point it is not about being passive and saying “Amen” to everything that comes, but actually it is about to learn which role it is needed in this moment in the team and playing it.

It is also about embracing an idea that you sometimes don’t believe and making the best bad project ever.

5- Make it tangible

Another concept that is the core of the Jam is the “MVE+MIT” — Minimum Viable Experience and Make it Tangible. Since you only have 3 minutes presentation and some files uploaded in the Jam page, you have to keep things crispy and shining.

Specially in Service Design, it is quite easy to slide into the “big concepts” pitfall so focusing on the Minimum Viable Experience is a must. The whole exercise of going from a big concept to finding out the real value proposition and how to render it to the user is a basic part of the Jam. It has had a huge impact on my daily work as a digital product designer.

Service Design Jam Berlin 2013 — Photo by Elias Barrasch

6- Tools from other disciplines

How many of you here are designers? I mean, the classical ones, pixel pushers, that knows the difference between RGB and CMYK. In the Jam you will learn a lot. From specific vocabulary that are being used now in the business context till frames, tools and methods to work your projects in a strategic level.

On the other hand, for the non-designers and developers, it is a great chance to understand how babies are made and products are build.

The chance to learn a new professional repertory does not come from the coaches or the talks. But from the awesome smart people in your team. Whenever someone says: “I have an idea! Why don’t we use…” Don’t interrupt this person and enjoy the magic.

7- The Jam is a door to heavier stuff

After you Jam, you probably gonna get seduced to heavier stuff. You gonna start attending the Service Design Drinks, UX Camps and the Service Experience Camp . Some people start to get addicted to Jobs-to-be-done Meetups and some others go all the way down the road and start producing themselves. Like these awesome guys here.

I hope to see you on the next Jam.

Mauro Rego is Co-Founder and Designer at Boana, Design Studio for Software. He also organised 3 Service Design Global Conferences and supported/co-organised 4 Jams. Currently he is co-organising the Service Experience Camp (that is coming in November … uuuuh! Surprise).