Product Development / Product Innovation

What the Global Service Jam Teaches You About Designing for People

After being part of the crew at so many ideation workshops and interviews, it was a rather strange —yet surprisingly rewarding— feeling to sit on the other side of the table at the Barcelona Service Jam and work on ideas as a team member.

The event was part of the Global Service Jam series, dedicated to designing services around an enigmatic annual theme: “Hello!lo!o!o”. Sometimes you learn the most by playing, and a friendly competition like this can teach you a lot about customer-centric innovation.

Here’s a toast to the Global Service Jam. (Pun intended.)

Your weekend getaway — Destination: innovation

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is probably worth three blog posts.

Therefore, I won’t go into detail about how well-organized the workshop was, and how friendly and inspiring all the participants, mentors, and hosts were, which they were, indeed.

Instead, I encourage you to watch this 3-minute video to get a feel for the event and pencil it in your calendar ahead of 2018.

[Video: Barcelona Service Jam 2017 from Claro Partners.]

What can you learn from a boot camp like Global Service Jam?

I admit, “boot camp” is a slightly misleading word when talking about the Global Service Jam. While you now probably imagine military rigor, blood, sweat, and tears, the ambiance rather resembled that of a fun summer camp with friends and singing by the bonfire.

Still, it was an intensive training program for creative and business thinkers.

It taught them that stepping out of their comfort zone, working under time pressure and channeling —sometimes contradictory— feedback into ideas can actually help them become more empathetic and agile.

Here’s some advice that you can start applying to your own projects.

1. Your users should be at the heart of everything you plan and design.

As one of the local organizers summed up the Jam’s philosophy in his event recap:

“[People] should never forget who they are creating their service for: without customer relevance, it will be hard to create true impact.”

Whether you design for business purposes or as part of non-profit initiatives, having a “great idea” is worth absolutely nothing if it’s not aligned with your users’ problems and needs.

Always take the time to explore the context. Who are you designing for? What are the existing habits of these people? What’s their mindset like? Do they find anything problematic; do they have any pain points? Does the pain seem big enough?

Don’t get stuck in generalization, start drafting potential “personas” and archetypes early on, then compare the recurring patterns that you have found in each group.


The humble beginnings. Move from stickmen to flesh and blood as soon as you can.

For example, as you will see in our project diary below, upon talking to travelers of different age groups, we found that young tourists seem confident and self-sufficient when it comes to finding the ways of getting around in a foreign city.

On the other hand, we saw a huge generation gap between them and their parents. Hence we turned our attention to how we could make it easier for senior citizens to enjoy a more confident, autonomous travel experience, empowering a more inclusive global travel market.

2. It is actually easier to talk to potential users than you might think.

Based on your target segments, you might find people for face-to-face interviews in your close proximity.

In our case, we just had to walk along Paseig de Gracia in the heart of Barcelona on a Saturday morning, and in one hour, we managed to do about 5-6 short interviews.

In other cases, it may be trickier to engage with your users. For example, you may try to tackle a highly sensitive topic, see some health-related issues or sexual orientation depending on the cultural context, or target a secluded ethnic group that is more difficult to reach even via remote communication methods.


Talking to Asian tourists about problems and habits when traveling abroad. On a sunny day, a confident “Hi” and a friendly intro was enough to engage potential users in a quick conversation.

If you don’t manage to meet people in real life —think parks, community centers, schools, stores, and so on— you may try to contact interest groups in Social Media, or reach out to authorities or international organizations to help you.

Generally speaking, don’t give up on talking to users without giving it a try.

3. One hour spent “outside the building” is worth 5 hours of tiki-taka with team members.

Instead of having endless debates on what you guys believe your users think or want, write down your assumptions and translate them into questions. (Here is a SlideShare including tips on how to ask good questions when doing problem-oriented interviews.)

Grab a pen, some sheets of paper, a stack of post-it, and maybe a mobile device to record the conversations, and get out of your ivory tower to talk to real people, whether via remote communication or in real life.


Prompting travelers to talk about how they usually resolved typical challenges while being abroad, we gained important insights about what solutions these people already used and how.

4. Building a prototype doesn’t need to take days, let alone weeks.

Or, as the Jammers’ guidebook says: you should create a prototype as soon as possible as part of the process. Then, you should keep on testing and iterating it, based on interactions with users with a co-design approach.

Obviously, this is just a rule of thumb. It is mainly intended for cases where you have constant and convenient access to your users (and/or the actors involved in the context), and whenever continuous iteration and experimentation is not posing challenges in a fragile social environment.


Drafting a paper prototype inspired by insights and users’ mental model of visual symbols.

Remember: this is not about usability testing. At this stage, you should use visual and physical assets to explore a specific problem and the mental model of your users.

Let them show how they feel and act, not just talk. There’s so much meaning lost when translated into words.

From insights to idea: building a prototype from scratch in 48 hours

To illustrate all that’s been said, let me share our team’s project diary with you.

Flip through the pages to learn how we tried to explore problems of a specific user segment, how we hit the street to validate our assumptions and which surprising insights we found in just a couple of hours.

See how we distilled those insights into rough ideas, and why we asked Chinese tourists how they would explain that they needed to go to the doctor, just by drawing on a blank paper.

Ultimately, deciphering our user’s unique visual mental model helped us map out a potential customer journey and create a first, paper-based prototype. With a little more time, we could have used this prototype to keep on testing and iterating our idea(s) to get closer to a satisfactory problem-solution fit.

Thanks to all the organizers at Claro Partners, mentors, and thinkers for making Barcelona Service Jam great.

May the spirit of the Jam be with you all!

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