Then again, the maddening thing about designing for service is the intangibility. People have trouble getting their heads round it. How will service interact with users? How will it meet their needs? The solid is so much more familiar.
To re-tie the frayed ends of this creative tension, I’ve found myself using a technique that deliberately introduces a physical actor into the process, a service avatar to stand in for the stuff we can’t see.
The Lost Robot Manoeuvre emerged by accident when Marc Fabri asked me to run a service design workshop for students as part of Leeds Met’s Futures Fest. The ever-inspiring Emma Bearman suggested that we link it with her March of the Robots series.
At first the robot felt like a cuckoo in the nest; I still wanted to talk about intangibles. But as I developed the workshop plan I realised it could be a powerful thought experiment.
Put simply, the method goes like this…
- Quick, draw a robot, a robot to help people. Work out what problems it solves. Maybe write some user stories.
- Take your robot out of the building. It’s a great conversation starter for some guerilla research. Re-write the user stories based on what you learned. Re-draw the robot.
- Now pivot. Lose the robot. It never existed anyway. But what if you met those needs with service instead?
My guinea pig participants rose admirably to the challenge. One group created a robot to help their fellow students de-stress at exam times, The other focused on exercise and encouraging people to be active. In both cases the robot was the starting point, but not the end.
I put the workshop outline up on Speakerdeck. I’d love to run it again some time if anyone will let me…