Finland frolicks take two

As promised here are my notes and thoughts from The Experience Service Design Conference in Finland.

The conference opened with Mikko from the Ministry of Employment and Economy who described service thinking as a topical development. The government are aware of the importance of public services because they influences the well being of citizens. Studies show that citizens are discontent:

75% feel public services do not meet their needs.
85% think it is irrelevant who produces it as long as it works.

Mikko suggested that services need to be re-thought from a customer perspective and he intends to put the needs and hopes of citizens in the limelight.

A lady who never fails to inspire me, Professor Birgit Mager, then presented the basics of service design. She began with a personal account of being met by a sign in her local hospital that said ‘Knock and wait’. Birgit highlighted that in the past services were neglected  – they were not attractive for research  but now design thinking makes the difference.

  • Design from the outside in.
  • Designers create things that make sense.
  • We facilitate processes
  • There is no hierarchy.
  • We are in the middle of a paradigm change
  • Third world countries are moving into service design
  • We need to move from selling stuff to building relationships.
  • Service Design applies design thinking to immaterial products,
  • Make people say ‘wow’ / ‘that was easy’ / give people something to talk about.


Birgit told us about her first ever service design project that focused on homelessness in 1996. The solution was  ‘Gulliver’ a survival station for the homeless. A fantastic example of service design where everyone is a winner – the homeless work for the homeless .

Birgit’s Top Ten Tips

1.Look at your service as a product
2. Focus on customer benefits
3.Dive into customers world
4.Set the big picture
5.Designing the customer experience
6.Create visible service evidence
7.Go for standing ovation
8.Flexible standards
9. Create a living product
10. Enthusiasm. create a service culture.

Arne and Marc presented Tourism and Service Design Thinking. This keynote was very interactive and audience participation was key.


I was astonished when they uncovered that more than half the room did not know what twitter was!! The pair had generated a hand out covered in words and phrases that threatened ‘business as usual’ ( most of the results had been generated by their twitter community )

The audience then spoke about the one they felt strongly about – Fergus mentioned the empowerment of self organisation. I spoke about the potentail of social networking and Gerald, a design student from Uganda spoke about how the internet had changed his life. Gerald sharing this with such a big audience was definitely the best moment of my findland experience.

Dr. Retha De La Harpe from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology talked about ICT in home-based healthcare in South Africa. For me this was the best presentation of the event.

“I’m not a service designer I am an I.T person…there is no such thing as service design in South Africa”


Retha talked about community empowerment and how her team is working towards creating wellbeing in a community of tension. South Africa is very effected by drugs, aids and gangs and most of the people they deal with are illiterate so their visual communication is very important.

She asked one participant “What do you know about computers?” he replied “I know how to steal them.”Now as a result of Retha’s project these gangsters now blog! Their mothers are often victims and have been trained on how to used facebook  where they share recipes and stories.

“Humans and artifact are both social products as well as social makers in shaping and remaking each other”

Throughout her talk Retha was determined to align her language with ours as ‘we don’t describe things the same’. I find this fascinating.

You can see all my photos from the trip here. Fergus has posted a write up of his workshop experience – one to read!

I’d like to thank Satu for giving me the opportunity to be part of this excellent event.