Getting your boss to prototype customer experience (and have fun) / Adam Lawrence / Episode #7

Getting your boss to prototype customer experience (and have fun) / Adam Lawrence / Episode #7


Hello I’m Adam Lawrence and welcome to the
Service Design Show. I’m Marc Fonteijn and this the Service Design
Show the show that helps you to stay one step ahead by talking to the people that are actually
shaping the service design field. We talk about the current state of the industry
exciting new developments and challenges up ahead. Our guest in this episode is Adam Lawrence. Adam is of course a co-founder of the global
service jam and he just told me he has a background in psychology and theater. Welcome to the show Adam. Good morning Marc. Awesome that you could make some time because
we’re recording this during the weekend so. No problem. It’s great to here. Adam this is the first question I ask everyone
do you recall your very first memory of service design? I do actually. I was writing a blog years ago about theatricality
in commerce so I was looking at things about business which are theatrical obvious stuff
like costume and lighting but also less obvious stuff like timing and rhythm and dramatic
arcs and stuff like this. And some people popped up on my blog and making
comments one of them was Joe Pine who’s the author of the experience economy and other
great books. And those people sort of pointed me toward
this community called service designers. At the same time my colleague Marcus Hormes
the co-founder of my company was on a conference in India and he met the livework guys. So we sort of at the same time discovered
this community and came back from the summer when the service design could be a place we
feel at home. And what happened after that. You got in touch with the term and than? We went to some conferences and the first
one was the service design Network conference in Berlin. I met some people there I met Marc Stickdorn
there who has become a collaborator of ours and people like Birgit Mager who runs the
service design network and just really enjoy the vibe. We were outsiders coming into us we always
have been outsiders would have no design background our background is process design marketing
product design theater stuff like this. But we thought we could we could add some
some tools and some ideas these guys and certainly learn a lot from them. And so it’s sort of basically on that level
of exploring exploring each other. You know what’s going on here and recognizing
so many echoes and similarities between our work especially the theatrical background
that we have and the service design process. I still remember that you actually published
some kind of white paper of a book that where the last chapter wasn’t finished and I actually
downloaded it that was the first time that I stumbled upon your ideas. Thats right I think it was called theatrical
tools for customer experience or something like that and it was many many years ago. Great piece! Nine years now. It’s still out there actually and there was
a second chapter coming soon which is which is taken some time that I guess is coming
up at the end of this year with that with the book working on right now. Yeah this is service design doing with Marc
Stickdorn Jacob Schneider. Yes I’ll put a link up there definitely this
is service design doing. Adam whats up with this? You mean this? The rubber chicken. Yeah well. I’ve become quite famous for this rubber chicken
we have I guess though I started it’s all my fault. I’ve been using that kind of tool in my work
for a long time and people ask me what it what it means I always ask thats a very good
question what does it mean to you. But some of the things that rubber chickens
mean to people are around having permission to play you know having permission to take
your project seriously and take your customers seriously but not take yourself too seriously
because one of the dangers I always think of being a designer is the danger of starting
to believe yourself too much and start to think you’re some kind of prophet or guru
rather than a facilitator rather than someone who helps people understand their business
much more than you do get better at it and help their customers or citizens or clients
more. So one reason I carry a chicken is to remind
myself not to take myself too seriously. It’s also the perfect prop it can be anything
there is the first prototype is a phone is it a device is it a cooking pan? What is it? You can do almost anything and it encourages
people to get up and try things out and whatever it means to you. What does it mean to you? To me I think it’s mostly that permission
to play. Yeah it is. I was once in San Francisco with a colleague
I just met her and we had some time to kill before a conference. So I said lets explore the city. We walked around and she said why do you always
carry a rubber chicken? I said don’t you have one? She’s like no. I said that’s terrible you know and there
was a there was a pet store right there so we rushed in i bought her a chicken an emergency
chicken really quickly and she said what do I do that’s it. Just don’t do anything with it just carry
it you know you put it in a handbag and 10 minutes later we got on it on one of the beautiful
streets cars in San Francisco and she’s trying to pay and the tram driver he sees the chicken
in her bag. What’s that and she gets and squeaks it and
he takes it and he starts squeaking it and it gets passed down the bus and everyone is
squeaking it and playing with it you know and I say this is why I carry rubber chickens. Well everybody should carry a chicken all
the time. Well imagine you needed one didn’t and didn’t
have one what would you do? That’s a very good takeaway already from this
from this video Adam. Let’s explain the format that we are going
to do. Some people might have seen the show already
some might not. So we’re going to co-create the questions
that we’re going to talk about and I’ve sent you a set of cards. Could you show them up? I call your cards the questions starters and
I’ve got a few topics that you sent to me myself here I’ll pick a topic you’ll pick
a question starter and it’s up to you to give an answer to the question you created yourself
right. Let’s just kick it off. I’ll pick we already talked about the global
service jam and let’s just start off with this one jam in three hours what is the question
starter that goes along with this one? Yeah they’re kind of two around that one which
is when they want to ask us to help is this one. But I think the most important one might be
this. What question can you make out of that? They usually say things like OK we have an
organization a company department and how we have like three hours four hours how can
we jam in that time to find our next profit driver? You know how can we find the next big idea
in three hours? Can you give people an idea of what the jam
is probably already everybody knows it but. Most folks know what a hackathon is. And that’s a quite a similar a similar model
the idea is people come together and have a crazy short amount of time and in that time
they have the luxury of focusing on one thing. So they get some kind of theme at the beginning
and they might ideate around the theme they might form some teams those teams might do
some basic research out on the street about this thing. They might start generating some ideas picking
some ideas and then get prototyping prototyping prototyping prototyping. And at the end of the jam they have to. In our world they have to upload documentation
of a functioning interactive prototype and of the global jams we run like one on my buttons
here. That’s 48 hours maximum time that you have
so about two days is pretty typical. Like a hackathon. But it’s not quite like a hackathon we take
the word jam for music where people come together to play you know and we often say you don’t
if you’re a musician you don’t jam to record an album. That’s what a studio is for. But you jam to get to play better to learn
new techniques to motivate yourself so that I can keep up or can I keep. And also to meet new collaborators and the
jams that we foster are very much in that theme. Sometimes you get awesome some grooves out
of a jam or a great riff. You know you very rarely get a complete song
out of one and it’s the same in our world you get projects at the end them. Most of them just disappear. It doesn’t matter because the people have
learned something they’ve met new collaborators and they can move that on and occasionally
you get a project which can continue more often you get parts of project DNA if you
like which moves on. You’re increasing the chance for serendipity
basically? That’s a very good way of putting it yeah. You get you get people together have a similar
vibe often they are often very diverse but they want to explore new ways of working and
they want to do and not talk as one of the jam motto says doing not talking and we were
able to follow after they the first Gov. Jam which we set up with ProtoPartners partners
an Australian agency a great one. And the Australian Federal Government. The first Gov. Jam we were able to track many
of the participants afterwards because they were Australian Government workers federal
state or city level government workers and our colleagues in the Australian government
said that those 10 or so teams at the jam in the weeks and months after that launched
or at least scoped more than a dozen new projects. And these were things which had popped up
at the Jam often or the results of conversations at the jam. But which have not been jam projects you know
those jam projects yes some of them moved on most of them died off as we expected but
it was these conversations these these encounters the serendipity as you say which led to real
contacts honestly at a networking meeting you exchanged business cards you never ever
call that guy unless it’s a super super tight connection. But after jams after you’ve worked with someone
you’ve sweated with someone you’ve had a failure with them you know you failed at something
recovered and then had some success after that that person you do call and that’s the
difference. You know you can work together. And now let’s get back to the question can
we do it in three hours and come up with the best business idea of the year? You might be lucky is the best answer for
that one. But really I think it’s a very very you have
to very careful how you set expectations around that time. Three hours is not really time to get through
one cycle of innovation even meaningfully never never mind two or three cycles you know
which you try to aim for. So what I think you can do in a few hours
is learn a couple of tools and you might introduce these people to each other but they’re not
going to get the depth that they need to really connect and if you do find your next big idea
it’s a question of chance rather than strategy or system that does it you know. So I always say at least a day if you can
and two days is something magical about two days is that overnight sleep you know it is
letting things settle in your head its the sort of revelations that come to you in the
shower in the morning that really makes a difference. I call the time the incubation time. Yeah that makes absolutely sense yeah. Yeah you need to give it some attention without
giving it attention. Yeah. Like it. What is your common answer to that can we,
besides saying that we need more time? Yeah I mean we do do events which are sort
of four hours five hours something like that and we can get results out of them but I have
to say you really have to be clear on what you expect out of this. You know as a way of giving someone a taste
of let’s say pressure cooker formats a taste of some of the tools of design thinking service
design whatever you prefer to call it. They can be effective and they can be a great
sort of warm up kickoff. I did one for example with an organization
where they looked at their world 10 years in the future and thought how are we going
to be working 10 years from now and they they were supposed to reach into the future and
bring back an artifact. Some meeting notes or a platform whatever
it was and try to make a creative. Make a prototype of that. And then the new management team went around
and said I found this project especially inspiring because in the next few years I’m going to
be pushing this thing. I found this project especially interesting
because in the next years I hope this will happen. So it was a good way to sort of get a shared
view of the future. And also a beginning of the understanding
of how difficult it is to build the future. And so for that kind of thing it can be very
very good. I wouldn’t rely on it as a very very earth
changing thing if it’s just a morning. All right. Where can people find more information about
the global service jam or the jams in general? Jams in general you can go to any of our Facebook
pages or to websites. The three Jams are global service jam global
sustainability jam and global gov jam and if you put a dot org after most of those names
you’ll find the website the one is coming up next. Here we have the advertising message. The global Gov. Jam. That’s the hash tag #ggovjam which is coming
up in about a month from now. On the 1st and 2nd of June some countries
choose start on the thirty first of June or even earlier if their weekend is different
that’s a weekday event unlike the other two jams a bit more professional lots of government
workers public servants come to that one. For them it’s work time so I think it’s fair
they get paid for it and we try and work on public services there. I think is the most exciting jam personally. All right so if people want to work on public
services and general public services check out the website and just collaborate with
your local jam community right? Or start your own jam all you need is an open
mind. Really you can use your own techniques. All you do is you have a common global theme
and you have a time slot you have to fit inside that time slot. You can be shorter but you can be longer and
if you want to do that anybody can jam. We have done it here in Utrecht and I can
I really recommend it to everyone it’s a great experience. Adam let’s move on. There are so much to discuss and I know this
is a topic that is very close to your heart maybe it’s it is you this topic.So work and
play. What is the question starter that goes along
with that one? Let’s try. The classic. Why work and play? And I’ll put a dot dot dot after it as well
because people find it really hard to combine those two ideas in their head which I think
is a real shame. Yeah. Why are we always so happy to finish work
why do we look forward to retirement you know why do you want to win the lottery and never
work again. Where work is supposed we create value where
we actually where we change the world were we in many ways give that part of our life
meaning you know and I think it’s really really tragic that people think work has to be horrible. You know I’m lucky but I’ve had jobs I don’t
enjoy. And what we often hear after the jams again
is people come out of a jam and they say you know I just did three weeks work in a weekend
and I had a great time. And it’s a shame that those things seem to
be sort of opposites for people. I really enjoy Jane McGonigals work she’s
also supported that some of the jams. And she wrote a book called Reality is Broken
where she talks about the power of play. And she points out that basically something
like World of Warcraft is a job if you play that game you’re given a task. Your character goes off and does the task
you come back you get paid and next task and so on you’re basically working for free. People invest millions of hours into this
and they are totally engaged and their love it and they can’t wait to finish their real
job to get into this job where they’re often doing basically the same thing just with orcs
you know. So why is that. And she points out that work and play are
not an opposite. And I find it very hard to get people to understand
that one until they’ve tried it. The thing is when we’re playing. My background is psychology so I’m quite interested
in this stuff. When we’re playing. We are measurably more creatively we are measurably
better in the breadth and number of ideas that we have. That’s a great thing to have. You know we seem to be less likely to hurt
ourselves physically and mentally if we’re being playful which is great I mean think
about the problems of lost workdays through illness through stress and so and also we
seem to get a whole lot more done I mean look at those World of Warcraft players all that
hard work they’re doing for free and paying to do you know. So those are the ideal situations for a worker
productive not likely to hurt themselves and creative. So it’s interesting to me how to bring playfulness
into work. And that doesn’t mean you’re not being serious. Yeah plays also for me not the opposite of
serious because you can play seriously without wanting to on Legos trademark there. Yeah. You can be focused when you play and that’s
the difficulty for many people is finding that focus we use time limits to make people
focus when they play for example at the jams. But if you can be focused with your playfulness
we find all kinds of benefits come out of that. People are much less worried about ownership
of ideas if they are being playful. They’re much less worried about protecting
their corner and arguing for ideas whose time has passed if they’re being playful. It’s much easier to try something out give
it a go build a quick prototype if you’re in a playful mindset and things like this
come back to the chicken again that’s one more thing this thing can do. Mindsets are sets of behaviour that we have
a certain response to a certain stimulus in a different mindset I respond differently
to different stimulus. I think a lot of people would agree with you
and this is sort of like the dream scenario for a lot of people but what needs to happen
to get there? I think it’s easiest for people to try it
out in a sort of a safe environment. I talk all about safe space in my work and
a short time frame like a jam for example or a workshop or a project. You can kind of separate it from the rest
of the world in your head and you can say look let’s let’s behave differently in this
limited area and see what it does and then decide after that for ourselves. How much of that we want to let reach out
into the rest of our work. It’s impossible to change the way our work
overnight especially if somebody external is motivating them to do that. So let’s not even try. Yeah let’s not say your world is broken as
Jane implies in the in the title of the book but let’s say you know there are other ways. Why don’t we try some other ways to work and
see if we are more productive more creative by doing that and if we’re not okay. Is it like just basically practicing in sports
you need to do it on a pitch and put some hours in it and probably. I think it’s more like practicing a disco
dance you know you might want to do it at home in front of the bathroom mirror first
of all and see if you look like a fool. But you need some people around to do that
so what’s the kind of situation you can be in where you’re not worried about looking
foolish because everyone is trying something new and setting up those kind of situations
and then transferring the learning out of that into everyday life. That’s what I find fascinating. What is your biggest aspiration when you look
to work and play? That’s a really good question. I think the inspiration is out of the people
I see doing it. You know when I see people who started a workshop
in a very skeptical sort of position and that’s great I welcome that because you need to be
challenged but who are able to say I’ll give this I’ll give this morning of my life or
I’ll give this a day of my life and see where it takes me. And then to see those people first of all
start to enjoy themselves feel a little guilty about enjoying themselves sometimes then start
to see results and stop feeling guilty about enjoying their work and then really start
to to rock n roll as we say and produce amazing results because they figure out they can focus
their energy of playing and get tremendous results out of that. It’s not the only way to work. Yeah and these very creative phases you need
to have a reflective phase after that. You know when you look back on it and say
what was useful wasn’t useful. And that’s that’s important too. But I enjoy watching people open up. That’s inspiring. Work and play. We need to have more fun in general and I
maybe we should send out a chicken and ask United Nation to hand out chickens to all
the companies all over the world. I always say you have to reach for your chicken
it shouldn’t be given to you you have to see it there and take it until you’re ready to
reach for it maybe you’re not ready for your chicken yet whatever your chicken might be. Interesting. OK we’ve got a third one that we also want
to discuss and time is flying by so I’m just going to introduce this one and this is theater
as a toolset. Yeah. I just picked a random one what if theater
were a toolset? So what if we were looking at the theater
differently you know. Now I come from a theater background so my
the picture in my head of the theater is probably different to most people’s. When most people think of a theater they see
red curtains you know they see the stage. But that’s just the front end of the theater
and behind that stays literally behind it. There are rooms and rooms and rooms full of
people working. And there’s the State Theatre here in Nuremberg
the excellent one here. They have about 50 people on stage not counting
all the choir. About 500 working backstage and a lot of those
are admin and ticketing and stuff like this but many of them have been basically involved
in the handiwork in the craftsmanship of innovation. They’re trying to create an experience every
six weeks on time in budget that people who want to pay for. Tickets despite this the help from the government
are not cheap. So they’re very very pragmatic innovation
factory and I think theater can teach us a lot about ways of working. It’s also a prototyping method. Theatre is a way of prototyping any human
human exchange or even human machine exchange which has been tried and tested for about
two and a half thousand years in the West now that beats desktop walkthroughs you know. What if more companies were saying let’s get
up and try things out you know we do lots here on papers with little lines and so on
that’s really good when we’re we may be simulating using computers and so on workflows what if
we just got up and tried it out and what they find when they do that is one it’s really
quick it’s unbelievably fast how how quickly you can iterate when you’re doing theaters
stop trying again stop trying again you know and also you start to prototype emotion. And that’s that’s a big step. Business people are scared of emotion because
they find it very very slippery. You know they say I can’t quantify it I can’t
I can predict it so I’m not sure if I want to be thinking about too much is not really
a key business theme. They talk about delight they talk about satisfaction. Those are emotions but with theater you got
a worked a set of tools which can cope with emotion pretty robustly and have been doing
it for thousands of years. You know so you start to move through space
you start to try things out. You iterate you iterate and you start to feel
this feels weird this feels wrong this feels good you know. Of course you need to base it on research
of course you need to prototype it with real customers and so on but it’s a great great
tool to experiment and what if people were experimenting more by getting up and trying
things out and building things rather than just thinking it through in their heads. The problem with my head is everything in
my head works the way I want it to ideas are brilliant in idea land idea land is nearly
as good PowerPoint land. Everything works in PowerPoint land everything
works in idea land. Do you think that there is an opportunity
for theater schools here business schools or design schools where where are we looking
for the connection? I don’t think you really need much training
in this stuff honestly because you know when we’re kids we do it all the time. You know we play it through. We just get up and try it. And my colleague Marcus when he introduces
the tool desktop walk through and he’s showing people how they draw out the locations on
a piece of paper and they take their LEGO pieces all Playmobil whatever it is or pieces
of paper and they walk through a process on a table to do a kind of very primitive but
robust process simulation he says you know if you were kids I would need to explain this
and I think theater is often the same way. Just try it out. You know I’m not asking anybody to act I’m
not asking anybody to be somebody else. I’m asking them just be yourself you know
what would you do if this customer came in. I can be a customer. I’m a customer every day. You work here every day let’s just try it. Do you have have a favorite example of a company
or organisation that is really doing this well. I know that McDonald’s worked well in this
way. Byron Stewart from dramatic diversity in Chicago
presented this with McDonald’s at a conference and he showed how they develop some of their
offerings. And I know this team work for example on the
McCafe not sure if they use this tool for the McCafe so don’t quote me on that one too
much but that those kind of people in McDonald’s they have a four step process which Byron
talked about. They start off in an empty room so nothing
you know just people and they give you a bag of hamburger and there’s nothing in my hands. Then they move to a sort of a low fi prototyping
level where they cut things out of cardboard there’s lots of carbon prototyping there I’ve
seen great examples in the Victorian Civil Service I’ve seen examples from all kinds
of companies right now using cardboard prototyping to make spaces. So now I got a window that I can give you
an empty bags through you know. Then they have a technical prototyping restaurant
where they can move everything around on wheels and now I’m working with hot food and giving
you real hot hamburger in a bag and then they try it in local restaurants. Yeah. So there’s a real progression there of investment
from nothing just the people. Through some sheets of cardboard through to
a fairly expensive prototyping space through to real restaurants and real customers and
the risks involved in that. And I find that fascinating. It’s so good to fail early on where it’s just
you and me in a room. And it’s cheap and it’s fast. So I find that very inspiring. Lufthansa just did a great project with IDEO
with their business class where they ran I think 50 or so transatlantic flights without
leaving the ground and have tried tried different ways of having business class without changing
the seating without changing the plane at all but different ways for their employees
to interpret the role of a flight attendant. That’s fascinating as well. In a previous episode talk with Erik Roscam
Abbing and he talk about experience prototyping and what they did just by prototyping ten
new concepts and just take one day for each concept and it’s really powerful. Our conclusion back then was that within the
service design well there are there’s a bit of a gap or a lack of knowledge on how to
do this and you say it’s within us but I guess. I think it is within us. If you want people worry about this. They are scared of making a fool themselves
and I talk all about safe space and how you set that up. The kind of mindset the physical and mental
space in which is OK to fail. Things like giving ourselves crazy short deadlines
can help out. Things like closing the door really can help
that things like not having any observers in the room can help that you know sort of
fairly basic rules of theater if you want to have some technical assistance in this. Go and do some amateur theatricals you know
or look out look for a group of people called the applied improvisation people there is
a great network called AIM applied improvisation network. They are people who use the philosophies and
skills of improvisation offstage. So they’re helping people learn change and
solve conflicts and so on using the concepts of theater without trying to act without trying
to reform something and that’s fascinating as well. But I think it’s in us. Just do it. I’m only asking to do your job in an imaginary
situation. Imagine how you would do this job in this
situation. You don’t need to be Hannibal Lechter. You don’t need to be Henry the Fourth you
know. Would be nice if you are. Adam the next thing I want to ask you is you
talk to a lot of people in workshops that are maybe new to service design. If you had to give them a beginners tip the
most important tip if you want to get started with service design what would that be? Well one I often say to people is if you’re
doing service design and apart from all the usual things like trust the process and so
on iterate but the one I often say is if you only do two things do research and prototyping. And if you only do one thing do research. I think we all trust our own assumptions much
too much. I see this over and over again where very
very experienced people do a little bit of research and find their assumptions are wrong
about their customers they know really well. So get out there get out on the streets get
off your seat get on the street. Talk to your customers observe your customs
possibly more important talking to them. Put yourself in their shoes use your own service
but get out of your headspace and get into the real world. Get into the real world that’s something I
can strongly relate to. Adam. This is your opportunity to ask the people
who are listening and viewing this episode a question what would you like to ask the
people? I would like to ask the people the next time
they’re working with colleagues or with customers especially with colleagues. How can I find a way to do this task which
relies less on the use of words. So how can I be less verbal or less written
about this whatever the task is. If it is a meeting. If it’s an innovation process if it’s a coaching
session whatever it is how can I do this using fewer words. That’s my challenge for everyone. It’s up to you people who are listening or
watching give us your comments. Love to hear what people are thinking about
this. Less words. Adam, thank you for making the time in Nuremberg. Thank you for having this session. I enjoyed the topics a lot because these are
the topics we haven’t discussed yet in any previous episode so I thank you again for
sharing. Thanks for having me. And have a great day in Utrecht. What are your thoughts about the topics we’ve
just discussed with Adam. Do work on play go together? Let us know down below in the comments. Also we’d love to hear if you have any suggestions
on who we should invite next on the show. If you enjoyed this episode and like to see
more interviews with service design pioneers be sure to check out some of the past episodes
and subscribe to the channel. With the Service Design Show we help you to
stay one step ahead in service design by talking to the people that are shaping the service
design field. For now thanks for watching.

2 thoughts on “Getting your boss to prototype customer experience (and have fun) / Adam Lawrence / Episode #7

  1. Good Episode! My two biggest take aways are: 1. Carry a chicken. 2. A good riff comes from a jam but rarely a whole song. That makes the expectation much more inline with the process. IMHO

    Also, when I was in the classroom, we called "incubation time" "soaking time". I agree there is something magical about two days that gives people time to create comfortable schemas to then move ahead with new ideas.

  2. I have a rubber alligator on my dashboard – I think I'll start carrying my gator, at least until I can find my own squeaky chicken.

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