Events Service design

Service design drinks 12 with Marc Stickdorn

Marc Stickdorn is an academic and author of This is Service Design Thinking so we were more than lucky to have him address the group. Stickdorn teaches to both design and business students.


A theme of the night was working and communicating across disciplines, with these two important requirements:

  1. That the design community, specifically the UX design community generate a shared language to represent and promote itself consistently
  2. That service designers learn the terminology of the other disciplines they are working with

Stickdorn quizzed us on product versus service, touchpoint versus channel, introduced us to service dominant logic and the experience economy but he really wanted to abandon the slide deck and just open up the conversation. Which he did. I think he actually found us to be a little shy as a bunch.

The group questions canvassed the following topics:

  • Whether or not he pitches for work — no longer, clients either get it or don’t and management buy in is needed from the get-go
  • How he changes the perception of designers? — by reinforcing their role as looking at the holistic customer experience; going on to say that:

Piecemeal consulting is old stuff. My role is changing the culture within organisations.

  • How does he “sell” it?  — By talking case studies and attaching real numbers to them. By engaging with the business community at their events.
  • Do you need courses? — “Service design is not rocket science” he replied (an amusing and frank answer from an academic). He went on to describe the range of skills that service designers need and emphasised the importance of workshop facilitation and learning to design the workshop itself.

What I learnt from the night was that the service design industry in Europe was born out of academic leadership where the sector leads the charge in service design/design thinking. Stickdorn sees his role as supporting industry by piloting methods and “crunching the numbers” to build case studies for the promotion of service design as a legitimate discipline and approach.

Me and my co-conspirators (Bec & Ahmed) chose to hang around for the backchannel conversation after the event had officially finished with Marc, Damian (Protopartners founder and event organiser) and several others (out yourselves in the comments). While Europe has academia to lead the way we have cloistered ourselves into corners (with the exception of one generous Westpac CX team). UX companies all working away quietly, reluctant to share with each other lest they give anything away.

We all agreed amongst ourselves that the path forward was a more open model, but could also not see this happening with the current players – and we all admitted our own complicity in this. At least we have the event itself as a sharing and learning forum. That’s a start. Melis Senova asked a similar question in her talk at Service Design Drinks. That’s a pattern.

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