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What do Service Design and Design Thinking mean?

In case you have heard of Service Design and Design Thinking but do not know exactly what they are, this article is for you.

Have you ever entered a store, hotel or restaurant and felt that something was not entirely how it is supposed to be? That what you are looking for is not in the right place, that it takes too long for you to be served, or that many of the employees’ actions or operations are useless? Have you ever accessed a certain website and felt it was very complicated to find what you were looking for, doing unnecessary mouse movements and countless clicks until you found the button you needed

Have you ever felt that the people inside your organization who provide you with internal services (legal, HR, purchasing, ICT, etc.) do not always respond promptly and efficiently enough to your needs? Or that your whole experience in the organization is far from desired?

I am convinced that you have, at different moments, experienced all of the above.

Well, what does this have to do with the two concepts we hear more and more lately in the market: Service Design and Design Thinking? Everything! Because they help us make this type of experiences less frequent in the future.

What is Service Design?

Simply put, it is a method of rearranging the services that organizations offer starting from the outside (the customer) and going towards the organization, unlike the classic approach from the organization towards the client. The final purpose is a customer’s or employee’s experience that is as good as possible.

This implicitly also brings about internal benefits: a simpler and more efficient organizational structure, due to the elimination of useless red tape and the reduction of costs which have no impact in the end result.

What is Design Thinking?

Many people confuse the two concepts. They are indeed closely linked, yet different.

Design Thinking is first and foremost a creative method of solving the problems of organizations. At the same time, Design Thinking is the main tool used in Service Design for identifying the real needs of internal and external clients, as well as for generating solutions.

Design Thinking is based on work methods used by designers to create a link between people’s real needs and what is feasible for the organization. Just as furniture or interior designers are interested, next to aesthetical harmony, in designing something that is functional for the end user, in process design we are concerned with a positive all-around final experience for the user.

Therefore, in Design Thinking we first think about the human need that each business need is based on, so on your real expectations when entering a shop, hotel or restaurant, when browsing a website, when being served by a colleague who acts as an internal supplier, or in any other interaction in which you are the beneficiary. The method encourages organizations to focus on the people for whom they create products and deliver services (and not on the organization itself) and leads to human-centered products, services and internal processes. Hence, Design Thinking implies a mindset change.

Simultaneously, it is a way of thinking and of approaching issues based on experimentation and on empathy towards the client. Unlike the classical problem-solving methods, Design Thinking takes into account our emotions and the way in which they influence our decisions and experiences as consumers. This way, the method uses empathy and market research techniques to understand the real needs of customers, as well as the nature of their interaction with the services they make use of.

In practice, Design Thinking is an iterative (repetitive) process through which one tries to understand the user/client. Moreover, it entails assuming different hypotheses and redefining problems in the attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions to solve them. Typically, these solutions might not be visible immediately if only applying our ordinary way of reasoning.

To summarize, Design Thinking is a method of out-of-the-box problem-solving which helps organizations adapt on the fly to the complex challenges of the future. This becomes even more important when considering that, in the future, the customers’ preferences and their absolute freedom of choice will be crucial to the success of any business.

Who can use Service Design and Design Thinking?

Absolutely any organization, from large companies and SMEs to public institutions and NGOs. It can be used to rethink the services provided both externally and internally, so as to make them truly converge towards the client and offer a memorable experience. Not only to them, but to every single employee in the organization.

They can be used to redesign punctual external services, to rethink internal services, but also to create a more motivating environment for the employees within the organization.

In short, why is it important to use Design Thinking?

  • It helps organizations solve complex issues;
  • It reduces the risks associated with the launch of new products and services, new lines of business and new business ideas;
  • It increases the degree of satisfaction of customers as well as their loyalty;
  • It generates innovative, not only incremental, solutions;
  • It helps organizations learn and develop quickly;
  • It improves the workplace atmosphere and the motivation level of employees;

Going back to the challenges mentioned at the start of the article, the use of Service Design and Design Thinking (sometimes also worded as Service Design Thinking) will maximize the chances to find exactly what you desire when entering a shop, hotel or restaurant, when browsing a website, when working with your internal suppliers, or when obtaining a job in an organization. Due to this, your experience as a customer or user will be memorable!

How can we do this? 

It is actually very simple. We learn how to use the specific Service Design and Design Thinking tools, then apply them into our organizations.

And since the easiest method of learning is to engage in practical and interactive activities, a first step in case you have just recently learned about these concepts would be to follow a Service Design/Design Thinking Fundamentals course. If, however, you are already somewhat familiar with the notions, you can directly attend a Customer Journey Mapping course to get acquainted with one of the main tools used in Design Thinking. If you are already knowledgeable regarding these concepts but you have trouble applying them into your organization, a Facilitation course would fit you the best. Last but not least, if you work in HR and are interested in applying the concept strictly in order to improve the experience of your employees, then you should certainly not miss an Employee Experience Design course.

I will follow soon with a concrete case study in which we will go through the main stages of the concepts together, in order to understand its usefulness and purposefulness as good as possible.

But until then, if we have sparked your curiosity, we are looking forward to you joining the world of Design Thinking and discovering us on:

For more details I recommend:



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