Imagine a new of way of thinking that can unlock within any enterprise the potential for services that design methods presently can’t even see. Imagine it also detects hidden costs and risks that cause unexpected failures.

Imagine that.

Longer version

The universe of services continues to expand, and, it seems, faster than ever before, with new kinds of services that didn’t previously didn’t exist. As a result, the problem space for design also expands, exposing new challenges for us to deal with. Being up to the challenges, requires us to advance our thinking, and develop new instruments and methods.

Because services are big deal in economies around the world, highly-respected design agencies, consulting firms and universities are at the forefront. There is no doubt they will succeed in setting new standard. However, as it often happens, establishments are more often than not risk-averse to anything that’s too different from what has earned them their much deserved status. Therefore, any advancements are often simply extensions of established thinking and accepted wisdom.

That is alright if the newly expanded parts of the service universe are not very different, and simply represent new ground to cover. But we are in fact dealing with not only new kinds of services, but also socioeconomic environments that previously didn’t exist. Our thinking on services therefore needs to evolve.

It is time for new and original thinking in services.

Thinking in services is what we all do, consciously or otherwise; when we are paying for them or providing them. Services are a means of providing value, and in certain cases the only means. Therefore, service providers such as governments, banks, airlines, hospitals, utilities, and retailers care a lot about improving their designs. Others do as well, such as manufacturing companies who see services as additional sources of profitability and growth.

Paying, or providing, for profit, or for public good, everybody cares about getting far more for far less. Why not. However, services fall short of expectations far more than manufactured goods do. That’s after expectations have been set below the true potential. Therefore, even with services that score high on customer satisfaction, a lot of value remains unlocked outside the design envelope.


Failure of imagination while thinking about what services really are, what they could be, and why they even exist. Ask seven different experts on what services are what you get are seven different answers that are right in part and wrong as a whole. Prevailing definitions of services are either too superficial or so abstract

The process by which services produce value can be best described as materialization. As in, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and materialization, for cabbages, copper, cars, and card payments. As in the materilization is the fastest growing sector of the G-20 economies?Wait, what?! Ok, that does sound funny, but you get the idea.

Services are arrangements and agreements for a particular set of outcomes and experiences (“the goods”) to materialize at a particular place and time, as in-situ products of supply and demand that are often, though not always, just-in-time. Therefore, by nature, services are dual, dynamic, and nondeterministic. Even simple services can therefore be complex. If they aren’t see that way, how could they be possibly designed to deliver far for for far less?

Therefore, sooner or later, or every now and then, for one reason or the another, the design of every service, or the lack of it, comes into focus. Changes to the design are expected to improve the outcomes and experiences for customers or for providers; preferably for both. However, changes to design can have unintended consequences, when hidden costs and risks materialize in new or unexpected ways. This is morely likely happen with a service than with the manufactured product,

The good news is there is a new way of thinking about the design of a service that does not depend on static, synchronous and sequential formats, such as blueprints, journey maps, and storyboards. Imagine that. The new way draws inspiration from biology and computer science, for design in the form of code that evolves, adapts and integrates, across layers of complexity.

Service design meets systems thinking.