This week I facilitated an intoductory session to Service Design for staff from Universities across the UK. This was the first time I have ever delivered a workshop from the other side of a screen and I must say it worked surprisingly well! Of course, being there in person is the ultimate preference but with the help of the organisers and some brilliant technology we made it work!

We started off with some playful tools around story boarding and journey mapping. It was clear the audience were very good with words but felt uncomfortable drawing! Once I reinforced the reason behind drawing and they understood why they were drawing and what the value was – they got it.

This session was a chance for people to start thinking about how Service Design is relevant to higher education. It was a chance for them to play with techniques and ultimately realise that this approach is very beneficial. A big chunk of the audience were from an IT background and the concept of visualising was new to them. Of course a change in mindset doesn’t happen over night and the screen was definitely a barrier but the participants were keen to see the social side of Service Design and the practical examples of services Snook have designed.

The participants left the event asking “Who do I need to talk to?” “Who should I be listening to?” There was a real buzz in the room and lots of story telling happening. Service Design offered them a fresh lens to look at their projects, they had never considered engaging a diagonal slice of their organisation – experts like janitors, dinner ladies and receptionists.

I was fascinated by the questions that were raised around building personas and the value they bring. The level of detail some of the groups went into was truly brilliant but some struggled to see the value at first. The audience have realised although they used to think they understood their audience they actually do not!  – so in their minds it made no sense for them to create personas! “How can we create an empathic persona when we don’t know the students well enough?” “How can you possibly create personas that cover everyone who will use the service?” I explained the value of creating personas is about viewing services and scenarios from someone elses perspective. They are about training your mind to become empathic very quickly and putting your self in the shoes of people who live a very different life to you.

“I was at the other side of this video link watching Lauren’s presentation from Nottingham, it was totally engaging and I learned so much, until the fire alarm went off that is! Otherwise I left feeling very inspired by Snooks approach to service design” Laura Henaghan, University of Glasgow

We had to cut the session short due to a very loud fire alarm but it did spark off a discussion around the use and detail of personas.  Many people in the audience had never tried this approach before and were uncertain about the level of detail to go into and when to use them at first.

“I think the introductory presentation worked really well as it put the practical uses of service design into context, using real-life examples.  Up until now, apart from last year’s projects, most of the people in the audience who’d heard of service design (never mind actually use it) had not seen it put into practice. The practical sessions were well thought through and gently led people through from one stage to the next.  It certainly got people talking (in fact they didn’t want to stop!) and whilst they found it hard to actually put pen to paper and draw (it’s hard to get academics to do this!), once they got the hang of it, there was no stopping them.” Sharon Perry, Learning Technology Advisor, JISC CETIS

One of the participants sent the organisers an e-mail to say “[they] have returned to work brimming with ideas” after the service design session.  So it looks like we got people thinking!

Snook are one of five critical friends involved in this program. The others have expertise in CRM (Customer Relationship Management), SLRM (Student Lifecycle Relationship Management), information management systems and social media, and one still be appointed with expertise in alumni.

Service Design is gathering momentum in the higher education sector and we are very excited to be part of it!