Developing Our Unique, Sequential Approach

As far as we know, no other organization or institution offers Service Design instruction that progresses learners step-by-step, in the progression of designing or improving a service.

We began the International Service Design Institute on our finding that the field was too ill-defined. And, for Service Design to achieve greater recognition would require service designers to be well-equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve design challenges. This, we felt, was the only course to prevent the field from dissolving.

To back up just a bit, when we decided to get involved, we found a serious gap in available learning. There was no form of step-by-step instructions to use for designing a service. So, quite quickly we decided this was our mission, our purpose, and we have stuck it out through the number of challenges in our way. At one point we were introduced to a well-known entrepreneur, behind some iconic service brands, who told us we were wasting our time. Obviously, we tossed it off.

We began our effort by assembling known and lesser-known ideas and techniques, ones we determine necessary for building services. Our collection came from blogs, studies, reports and interviews, which we then laid out in a logical, sequential order—much as how you might construct a service blueprint.

As for some techniques we hadn’t personally encountered but hoped would fill in where other techniques left off, we decided to test them out prior to presenting them to our learners. From those tests, some impractical, we left them out. There were also, in complete candor, a number of popular models found on the Internet that we just couldn’t make sense out of.

Over the several years of putting our materials together, we became confident that the techniques, tools, models, templates and diagrams we present, are the real deal. They most likely have been all tested, verified and validated in real-world challenges. That is, in essence, how we can stand by our learning approach.

Behind ISDI’s Sequential Learning Approach (from the design of Steven J. Slater)

There are a number of organizations and institutes that offer Service Design learning, including universities, instructional organizations, and even consulting firms. Yet none of them offer a sequential approach that aligns with the stages of designing a service. Based on our research, most of the tutorials, workshops and academics are highly theoretical and hypothetical, even with case studies and group exercises.

The familiar retort to this shortcoming, which is found often in popular books and blogs, is that the field is so dynamic, complex, and multi-dimensional that it is impossible to instruct sequentially. Yet as someone who has worked in systems engineering and other STEM-related fields, it seems those memes are rhetoric for explaining away that the design process can’t be simplified.

The premise is simply not true.

Again, from my background working alongside those building complex systems such as space vehicles, to them, technical design is all about deconstructing complexity at each stage in a project. Thankfully, Service Design is nowhere near as complicated.

About Steven:

Steven has devoted his 35-year-career to building and improving services. He launched his career working at the Pentagon, designing and launching healthcare-related services for more than 1 million personnel. He also worked for international NGOs helping create communities of interest around social services. Later in his career, he was responsible for designing technical training programs for typically underserved populations.

But most of his Service Design experience derived from working in various capacities for one of the major global management consulting companies. There, he built and launched services across industries, whose earnings amounted to more than $2 billion in traceable revenue. His last position at the firm was as chief of staff to the Systems Engineering business, a multi-million-dollar division he helped launch.

Steven has always been extremely inquisitive, partly demonstrated by his pursuit of advanced degrees in marketing sciences, communications, international affairs, and journalism. He has also won national awards for marketing science-related projects and prestigious journalism prizes.


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