There is a new way of thinking will help better understand and explore the expanding universe of services. There is going to be a book about it in 2018. Here you’ll find some bits and pieces from the draft.

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.

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. The process by which services produce value can be best described as materialization.

Services are arrangements and agreements for a particular set of outcomes and experiences to materialize at a particular place and time, as impromptu and in-situ products of supply and demand. Therefore, by nature, services are dynamic products of interactions. They are wholes that are other than the sum of their parts. Even simple services can therefore be complex.

Therefore, sooner or later, 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 brings together the philosophies of systems thinking, industrial engineering, and economics. It draws inspiration from biology and computer science, for design in the form of code that evolves, adapts and integrates, across layers of complexity.