A Manifesto for Mini Service Design

The first time you read a book about Service Design you usually think: oh shit. That’s going to be some pretty complex stuff. Service Design has a systematic and systemic view of the problems. Usually, Service Designer do not solve the problems people ask them to solve. They dig deeper, wider to find out the causes of the problem and so solve the real problem. That seems pretty complex. I know. The first weeks that I studied Service Design at the HSLU, I saw the complexity. I decided that I would embrace the complexity, but act with simplicity. That is what I love to call Mini Service Design. The idea builds on the fact that sometimes problems are too complex. Systems are too wide. And if you dig too deep then you can lose yourself.  When this is the case, we should act on a small scale and put in place little seeds of change.

Mini Service Design aims to free ourselves of this idealistic Service Designer image. This guy maps a whole ecosystem. He speaks about weird things like stakeholders, backstage, touchpoints, etc. The great Service Designer is the guy who takes years of research. He makes you feel lost in the amount of data. On the other side, Mini Service Design uses the same tools and methods but in a quick manner. Mini Service is tangible. Mini Service Design shows simple solutions, simple hacks to create dialogue. Mini Service Design doesn’t produce only maps, blueprints or prototypes. It builds tiny artifacts. These tiny artifact build then trust in the community. The will see that change is possible. That it hasn’t to be disruptive and disturbing. Change can be little, discreet and still have impact. I have sometimes with the traditional and academic approach to Service Design. It’s high level and quite abstract for the communities or clients. Mini Service Design through mini artifacts makes the abstract tangible.

I see Mini Service Design as the 101 of Service Design. The introduction focused on showing results and building trust. Then when you have gained trust from the communities we can bring them in. We can show them the value of thinking a bite more wider. We can show them the value of iterative processes. We can show them that the tiny things solve a tiny part. We can show them that maybe we need many tiny elements that are all linked together. This would then be Service Design as we practice usually. But, I’m today in the opinion that we should start with Mini Service Design first.

Mini examples

Some case studies of Mini Service Design

Mini Service Design isn’t something new; there are already plenty of examples. There are examples of tiny solutions that bring change. Let’s see some of these solutions.

Improving the parking experience

Parkings are super practical spaces. Park, your care, enjoy the restaurant or movie. Go back to the parking and the drive home. The one pain point we all have lived is in the last phase. You enter in the parking and, wait… On which floor did I park the car? Once you remember the floor, you have too found the right parking spot. And of course, you forgot the parking number. 
There are two simple and tiny innovation that have improved this problem. The first one is the modern car key. You press a button, and your car lights blink, and there is a little sound coming from the car. That helps to find the car on a floor. The second solution, tiny innovation is about finding the right floor. Many parking uses colors and pictograms to help you remember your floor with ease. Floor 3 or Floor E with the Pink Elephant pictogram is something different. - 

From 20% dropout to 0% 

An event organizer usually had 20% of dropout. People subscribed for the event, but when the day came, they never showed off. The attendees paid the subscription fee at the event location. They always did it this, so everyone thought it was okay. The next year participants had to pay the event fee in advance, and every attendee came. This solution generated unexpected results. When an attendee was sick and couldn’t come, he told the organizers that it was okay that they kept the money. By making the payment in advance, attendee understood that the event preparation had costs. They understood that the event organizers needed the money to make a great event. Simple change, but a huge improvement for the event organizers and the general atmosphere.

Creating a cleaner city

Motivating people to throw out rubbish not on the street but in the public trash bin is hard. It has to do with culture, politics and behavior. In Sweden, innovators added a simple device to a trash bin. Every time you put something in the trash you have a funny falling sound. The sounds mimics an object that is falling in a deep cavern. In the end, the sound feels as if the object crashes loudly on the ground. The innovators called it the «The World’s Deepest Bin». That seems innocent. But in one day such a bin had 41 kilograms more trash in it. It motivated people to pick up the trash they found around the bin and put it in. People did it just to hear the funny sound again. The city of Lausanne in Switzerland reused this principle at much larger scale

These examples are stupid simple things that people have changed in their services. But these stupid simple things improved the customer experience. They even simplified the lives of the services owners.