building a community of interest and practice in service design
There's been a bit of an on-going heated debate by some SD network members about their impressions of SD Jams. Its started with an e-mail conversation which we thought would be better to make public and to have a good discussion. Here's some bite-size quotes from some of the members. What are your thoughts? If we continue hosting Jams, how can they be improved?
Harriet Wakelam said,
"I find the Jam's a bit frustrating personally - just being honest - I find it's very hard to give up an entire weekend without a project owner sponsor- I'm think there IS value in the mentoring side of Jam's, on the other hand, I think there's a degree of 'bastardisation' of the tools we use, which then get taken out and propogated without people really understanding their power. I also think that if a Jam is really to work, there needs to be a project owner who can comit to taking the concepts and devleoping them - otherwise they're a lot of good ideas, with not real process for evaluating, synthesising and using....
I also worry about the portrayal of Service Design as something that can be done in a weekend.
Sorry to be so negative here. It's very much a personal opinion...... *ducks for cover*"
Tania Ivanka said,
"I actually completely agree. I wouldn't do one again unless there was a specific project to work on that could actually be implemented, eg like for a NFP etc... and for which there was some serious research (eg ethnography etc) completed before hand to really inform the design development during the jam. otherwise I felt like I was not producing or contributing to anything of lasting value."
Yoko Akama said,
"So, isn't this the kind of stuff we need to say to the organisers [of the Jam] and the community too? Aren't we, as knowledgeable practitioners have a responsibility to offer our feedback and opinion?
I say so!
Lets ask them to take this feedback on board. Lets also make it a bit of a public debate on the SDNM site, so as a community, we create the events we want to have, rather than be obliged to participate in things that we don't."
Harriet Wakelam said,
"Sounds great! I'd love to see us work with a c[o]uple of corporates to 'sponsor' the development on an idea... Use the jams as ideation/synthesis, using blended teams from the corporates, service designers, interested parties, but with say key facilitators to support the work.... Demonstrate how design supports the innovation process, then build teams to work with the corporates to bring concepts to life.... Learning all round and outcomes."
Hi Patti, again, I don't think anyone is talking about failing, I really don't see this in the conversation - the discussion started around different perceptions of Jams
I think it's about applying one of design's most powerful tools - conversation and synthesis and seeing how Jam's are part of the design journey - it worries me that as a community we're liable to jump into our corners - academic/practitioner/jammer - rather than do what we do all day every day which is have great conversations and identify patterns which result in great outcomes. .
To me the joy would be to look at Jam's and look at what's going on in our community and go how can we get the power out of what happens in Jams and feed into what else is happening - so that the effect is magnified....
Patti hunt said:
I volunteered to organise the Melbourne Service Jam last year and found the experience to be mixed. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the positive energy that most people bought along, the sense of fun and the open-ness to possibility - that something magical could happen.
On the other hand, those that took themselves and design theory and practice seriously bought the event down. It became bit of a battle between the 'purists' (i.e. there is a right way and a wrong way) and the 'experimenters' (i.e. let's see what happens when...).
I think it depends on what you are looking for and what kind of person you are. Some people will be attracted to a highly structured, heavily engineered event with specific goals, objectives and outcomes (not a jam). Others will be more interested in playing with and exploring ideas, tools and techniques in a less structured way (a jam).
I don't think Jam event organisers need to be told how they are "failing" by people who are not really interested in jamming. I think the Global Service Jam is one of the most successful events I have seen - in one year, it has been able to promote and engage people with service design on such a massive scale. This year, it's likely over 100 locations will be involved - hardly a failure.
I think as a community, we should be supporting such initiatives while they are in their infancy and not criticise them too early (constructive or not). Why not see what happens, let them evolve, improve and iterate. Participate if you want to, create alternatives if you don't.
Hi Stefanie - I don't think that anyone is actually criticising Jam's here. This is a design community and surely as such we should be able to discuss and debate the role of different things we do in ways that allow us to find hidden nuggets, pain points and opportunities. I don't hear anyone saying that they should run for 2 months - I also don't hear anything except interest in what and how our emerging discipline is..... My only interest in my original comments - which I'm kind of regretting making (a shame in itself, as if we can't have honest debate how can we have discovery)... was saying that for ME - with 2 kids and a full time job - it's not possible to really jam...... but, perhaps with my job I could take the outputs of a Jam and use them... so how does it fit...... Yes I have concerns, but to me, concerns are a legitimate part of discovery - and rather than killing that concern, how about we look at it honestly.....openly and in the interest of uncovering new information...
Why do i feel like that the problem here is amongst the theorists/researchers than the general public....
'"bastardisation' of the tools we use, which then get taken out and propogated without people really understanding their power."
I speak on behalf of the holy gods of design methodology (being a disciple myself) and beg for mercy that we allow the community to bask in the power that we know and grasp within our mighty hands!! /endsarcasm
I have to echo Kristin that the jam is more of a fun event to expose others to 'design thinking' which encompasses design methodologies- specifically related to service design. I also agree with Harriet and Zaana that an entire weekend is something not all of us are capable of devoting ourselves to...
But, having said that...if the jam went over a month or two- it would be less likely that individuals like yourself would devote their time to such a commitment, am i wrong? Yes, there is potential for a 'real' outcome, but there is also equal potential things can fizzle out. And of course, if we had the jam in a day, it wouldnt really allow participants (assumedly most with no knowledge of design methods/service design) to fully get a 'feel' of this way of thinking, doing, creating, etc.
Feeling and doing, I have to say is the key word. It offers the community to get a 'feel' for it. Also, it is contradictory to say jams could be bastardising the industry as people 'dont fully understand their power'...yet, could be 'used to help create long term sustainable change' (??)
Most jams do have facilitators and mentors, who specialise in specific areas of knowledge that guide project teams throughout the weekend. "otherwise they're a lot of good ideas, with not real process for evaluating, synthesising and using."
I cant speak for all jam hosts but having helped organise the global sustainability jam, we were aware of this and created a toolkit to accommodate a rapid weekend. It covered brainstorming, ideating, evaluating, prototyping and realising, etc.
Sorry to sound a bit snarky, but if i heard the general public complain or make these sorts of comments i would take them a bit more seriously. Sometimes designers need to let go a little and build bridges between research and practice AND (*gasp*) the community! Sharing is caring ! :)
I think everyone here's definitely open to discussion. Perhaps the issue i had with the initial posting was there was just an opinion and no constructive criticism to support it...
As you are feeling some pain points about the jam/its process, perhaps pitch some possible alterations you think could potentially resolve this problem? We are all open to ideas and its the idea i am looking for amongst this thread...
After one hour traveling back home thought about something... A few months ago there was a Interior design event and I didn't like it, or saw any value in it. I work with interior design and I know it can be much better.
So I can understand the frustration of people that know how interesting service design can be, having to squeeze it into 48 hours, among others...
But as said Kristin, "The key word here is “jam.”
There is room for improvement, but that shows the other value... testing! Isn't prototyping and testing all about failing better? :) I really hope the jam continues for many years, so when we have the right receipt, we can play and squeeze as many themes and tools as possible!
@Yoko No worries!
@Stef I am sure your toolkit will still be used... :)
I was thinking on my train back home too (snap Marina!) reflecting on this whirlwind discussion, seeing if there had been some shortfalls in what I said or what I'd done. As an academic, this self-reflection and critique is something I naturally do - I never assume what I do is ever 'right' (and being surrounded by people with brains the capacity of a miniature galaxies quickly makes you realise this!). Foolishly, I tend to assume that others would also be open to self-reflection and critique as well, or at least discuss things openly by listening to eachother's opinions. And so, in trying to genuinely promote open discussion about the Jam, I am truly sorry that it has caused some of you to take the comments put here as an 'attack' personally, and that you'd felt compelled to defend your positions. And I see that in being defensive, its hard to listen and take on board the other's point of view.
In trying to work out what exactly is going on, I then realised that some of the comments made in defense of the Jam - that it shouldn't be about a research project (by Marina); that it shouldn't be taken too seriously (by Kristin); too much design theory spoils the event (by Patti), is all in framing the expectation of the event. Correct me if I'm wrong in my impressions but Jam events seems to say its open to everyone. It makes a bit of a promise to those who come along, that it will be a productive, educational experience (and fun etc). So, if those who come along are disappointed in some of the outcome (like Tania's permaculture friend who went, or someone who knows a bit more about SD) could they be really at fault? And would it be wrong to try and work out why (hence my observation of its shortfalls) by those like myself who have more of a stake in thinking about this a little (dare I say) seriously? (my excuse also is that I get paid to think!)
This is the point I was trying to make in my earlier posts - that often, there is a mis-match of expectations. So, Perhaps the next Jam could try and make clear what those expectations might be. I think there's also been other plenty of constructive points being made as well (and not just criticism), if we take care to listen.
I also think, which gives a little warm feeling in my heart, that this discussion is a sign of the SD community maturing in Melbourne. I think some of the 'conflict', are necessary 'growing pains'. And I think some of us are genuinely interested in creating a different kind of workshop experience to extending the field/knowledge of service design - and that's a natural extension of a maturing community. I feel like we're working out what that is - and what is clear to me now after this discussion, that the Jam event can't be made into something that satisfies everyone. Like Patti said, 'create alternatives if you don't want to participate', and as one of the facilitators of this network, I hope I am trying my best to work out what those alternatives might be. But lets not see that as a negative 'split' that has come out of conflict - but an acknowledgement that there are different sub-groups growing out of this community that require different needs and have different expectations. And that's a good thing, I hope!
Yoko, have you hosted a jam? I ask that from reading the opening...
"If we continue hosting Jams, how can they be improved?"
My god - its past my bedtime - I really ought to go to bed!
The 'we' was meant as a Royal we - I guess as a community.
I haven't hosted a GSDJ, was asked to be involved but declined due to my reservations... and those reservations were based on speaking with others who have either taken part in those Jams or facilitated them before.
But I have run similar kinds of things like it, like during the Melbourne Knowledge Week for example - and have always found it tricky to run. I am still learning...!
Does that answer your question..?
I'm Adam, and I'm one of the initiators of the Global Service Jam and the Global Sustainability Jam. When I talk about Jams with a capital J, I mean these events.
First I'd like to say that we welcome this discussion! Thank you for taking your time to share your thoughts and ideas. That can only make the Jams better. So far, Australia and Melbourne in particular has given us wonderful Jams and we are massively grateful for what the local Hosts and Jammers have contributed. This "global" event has a staff of 0 and a budget of "nearly nothing", so we are completely reliant on volunteers all round the world to make it happen. They are our heroes.
I'd like to reply to some of the points made in two ways. I'll start by talking about the word "Jam", and building on what Kristin and others have already said. This is from the Jam homepage:
Imagine a Jam session in music. You come together, bringing your instruments, your skills, your open mind. Someone sets up a theme, and you start to Jam around it. You don't overanalyse it, you don't discuss it to death, you Jam. You bounce your ideas off other people, and play around with what comes back. Together, you build something which none of you could have built alone. And at the same time, you are learning new ideas, discovering more about how you work and whom you best work with, sharpening your skills, and having a great time. And who knows, maybe there are one or two ideas there which might make it to the next album. Or maybe you Jammed so well, you decide to form a band...
The Global Service Jam works in just the same way. But it's not music you are Jamming - it's ideas. You'll be working with people you might never have met before, bouncing ideas off one another and building on what bounces back. And it's not just talking - you are here to turn your ideas into a concrete design, prototype and plan of action which you or somebody else might want to make real. Can you prototype and plan it in a way that someone could go out and make it real, knowing what resources they would need, what they should do, and who they should talk to? That's the challenge of the Jam.
(More on this, and on what a Jam isn't, here)
It's become almost a cliche to say of the Jams, "If you want to record an album, go into the studio. Don't go to a Jam". But what does that mean in service design terms?
It might mean that the Jam is there to serve as an introduction. Thousands (tens of thousands?) of people have encountered service design or design thinking for the first time through the Jams. Most Jammers do not consider themselves designers; indeed a growing number of Hosts are initially unfamiliar with service design. And Marina is right, it does seem to cause an appetite for more.
It might mean, if you like project-speke, that the Jam is firmly at the start of the innovation funnel. But for me, that puts the tangible outputs too much in the limelight.
In my view - and others would disagree - it means the main "output" of the Jam is not the project outcomes. They are quick sketches or first prototypes and many of them could not survive in the real world. The "output" (and for me a more important purpose) of the Jam lies elsewhere. It is in new collaborations and companies which form out of the Jam; it is in the people who take jamming ideas and service design ideas back into their workplaces, or add service design courses to their academic curricula; it is in the often novel experience of even having a structured way to approaching a task or problem. And it is in having what many describe as a magical, transformative weekend.
We do realise that some people wish more would happen with the projects and ideas generated by the Jam. the trite answer would be "help yourself" - all the projects are published under a non-commercial Creative Commons license and are free for the world to adopt. But there could and should be more - we would welcome and have often discussed a structure to pick up some of those ideas and take them through the next iterations. To make that easier, we are encouraging the Jammers to move beyond "ideas" and produce prototypes which can be taken into a further stage of development. It seems to be working - but we don't want to go further than that just now, and here is why.
Go along to that music jam and set up some professional recording equipment. Tell the musicians you need a few tracks for an album, maybe a catchy little single... and watch them dry up. See how many of the shining-eyed guys in the first row clutching cheap guitars now start edging out of the room. See how the experienced guys on stage revert to familiar chords, safe blues patterns and chorus-verse-chorus "moon in June, maybe baby" song structures.
If the Jam is anything, it is an invitation to play. You tried something new and messed up? Big deal, it's only a Jam. You worked for a day on a so-so idea? Never mind, note what you learned and try again! The more we focus on "must" outcomes, the more expensive failure becomes, the less creative the work, and the less fun people have. It ain't jammin'.
This is getting faaar too long, so I'll let some Jammers say a few words. I think these quotes support what I say above - well, they would, I chose them. :) Perhaps they at least make my points more tangible - I'm not great with words. These are all Jammer quotes from the last events:
The Jams are not for everyone, and that is OK. We hope though, that everyone might consider giving it a shot.
Thanks for reading, and we'd love to see you at a Jam.
PS 48 hours too long? Hold a shorter jam! All we specify is an earliest time to release the theme, and a latest time to upload results. Jams are totally free to start later and finish earlier... a 60 minute Jam would be completely within our (few) rules. :)
Yoko Akama said:
So, if those who come along are disappointed in some of the outcome (like Tania's permaculture friend who went, or someone who knows a bit more about SD) could they be really at fault?
Not at fault, no. But we have very, very few rules for participants, and one of them is "don't bring an idea, don't bring a team". I think coming with the expectation to work on a particular theme is hard to reconcile with this rule. :(
Perhaps we should work on communicating those rules better - the challenge is how to do that without emphasising restrictions over possibilities...
I do lots of serious work, have lots of serious meetings, do a lot of deep serious thinking, have a lot of seriously tight deadlines and have seriously heaps of things I’m accountable and responsible for.
I’ve been to lots of serious professional seminars and conferences and participated, facilitated and lead many workshops, brainstorming and ideation sessions.
I’ve also sat in a lot of serious lectures, and deprived students of their sanity by delivering a couple of seriously boring lectures of my own.
There is plenty of information, people, networks, conferences, courses, books and journals that delve deeply into the serious nature of service design and into various design practices, methods, process, tools and mindsets/thinking etc,.
After delivering one of my serious lectures on service design to a group of industrial design students last semester I learnt a very important lesson.
Standing in front of those students and seeing how bored they where and how bored I was, I decided that none of my classes going forwared, was going to take itself so seriously anymore.
I turned every class into a game or an activity that would stimulate conversation and interaction and it worked.
We have an entire life time to do what ever we want and we choose to fill it with seriously boring content, interactions and experiences, which we take way too seriously for no good reason.
With this global service jam you guys have the opportunity to do something that isn’t serious work, isn’t boring, that tries to be fun and engaging.
The jam and events like it give you all the opportunity to throw away your serious facade and play, explore, experience, socialise and god forbid fail and actually enjoy the experience because it was fun!
We all know that we must do serious work and study, whether its academic or professional to pay the bills and advance in our careers.
For me its taken a while to learn and understand that fun and play is just as important in the practice of design as is all the other serious work that we do that we assume justify and validates our existence and designers.
So I ask some question:
1. Do you think that you could possibly learn something valuable as a design practitioner by just having fun and being playful with the design process, rather then relying on tried and true processes, methods and tools?
2. What would happen if you threw everything that you have been taught and practiced as a designer out the window and tried something different or new?
3. What if you broke all the rules and simply started from scratch?
4. What if OMG.... you let a non designer come up with a brand new design process for you?
5. Or even worse you collaborated with a non designer to come up with a new design process, new methods and tools?
I guess what I’m getting at, is that if you want to participate in an event like the global service jam you should at least try to participate in keeping with the true spirit of the event and not try to change it because it doesn’t suite your agenda, your objectives, your ambitions and definitely not your schedule!
If individuals have got specific interests then I’m sure you are all more then capable enough to start a brand new event that caters your every whim, just leave the fun and play focus in this one where it is please!
So I think what we've learnt from this is that;
a) jams are amazing
b) there are people out there that don't suit jams. for whatever reason. that's great!
what can we do then?! do we want to do something? do we want to implement? take the leap, make change happen for real. With messy red tape and funding and long processes and comprehensive research... because that what it takes! I'm keen.
I put my hand up to being one of the first Post Jam doers...
lets take jam ideas and use them...? or lets make a serious jam with a real world problem presented to us by the person that problem is affecting? make it a one day thing.. so not too long for those with families?
I not sure exactly what's needed but I'm throwing around ideas... it could be and event held by the SDM committee members...? we should compile a list of what has been mentioned here that we DO like but that wont fit into a jam...
. real tangible problem
. good comprehensive use of tools with background ethnography work pre done
. adjustable/flexible time frame and location for those with families... (online)
. make it happen