6 Tips for How To Prototype a Service (Transcript)


In this Creative Confidence Series chat, Suz and Ilya share examples of service design prototypes they’ve worked on including Kaiser Permanente and the postpartum experience for new mom’s, reinventing the Walgreen’s pharmacy experience, and a new retail service design and innovation capability for Interbank Explora.

Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (00:05)
Welcome to the IDEO U Creative Confidence Podcast, a series focused on building your confidence at work to tackle your biggest creative challenges. Coe Leta Stafford: (00:16) Join us as we learn insights and lessons straight from IDEO and today's most impact-oriented design thinking leaders.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (00:24)
Hi, I'm Suzanne Gibbs Howard. Coe Leta Stafford: (00:27) And I'm Coe Leta Stafford.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (00:30)
I'm thrilled today to have Ilya Prokopoff with me
Ilya: (00:33)
Good morning.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (00:34)
... a dear friend and somebody who I've worked extraordinarily closely with over the years here at IDEO and today we are excited to start to answer some of the questions that we've heard from a lot of people about if they're tackling something that's not a product that's not a hard object, it drops when you break it. How do they use design thinking and especially how do they use prototyping? Today is all about stories, tips and tricks for how you can move from ideas to action even when you're dealing with something beyond a product and so with that I wanted to ... Ilya came to IDEO at a time when we were really shifting beyond product design. I thought it would be fun to have you start off just sharing a little bit about the trajectory you've seen IDEO on over the last many years.
Ilya: (01:24)
Yeah. Sure. I've been at IDEO now for 21 years, which blows my mind every time I say it out loud but IDEO has evolved quite a bit as I think design has over that time and really when I joined the firm's primary work was around the creation of products. As Suz says, things that make a noise when you drop them and we did a lot of work in healthcare and in consumer products and a lot of tech products like computers and PDAs, early days of PDAs and that sort of thing.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (02:03)
Those were early mobile devices for those of you who don't know.
Ilya: (02:05)
Right, sorry, not public displays of affection but personal digital assistant. Yes, back in the day. I joined a very fledgling group focused around the design of physical spaces that were meant to be containers for branded experiences. I'd say it's sort of an early foray into the design of brands, the design of service experiences and that became much more mainstream over the years as my time here progressed and as the requests that our clients were bringing to us became more and more complicated and the service experiences that we were designing became more and more complicated. We added more and more different sorts of disciplines in order to be able to make those services come to life. Everything from brand designers, to business designers, to people who tell stories in a narrative form that sort of reflect the arc of an experience through now to organizational designers who help think about designing the underpinning organizational systems that allow a system to kind of grow and evolve as the market changes.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (03:13)
Yeah. This morning, I know you are amongst many passions that he has, Ilya’s very passionate about cars and so we were just talking about like the all the different aspects of cars and automotive design that we've worked on so we definitely think about the design of the car. That's certainly the product and other aspects of it and the interior of the car and the electronics and digital aspects of the car but then you think about the service, we'll show some images of something that we just worked on at IDEO called Sweet Works, where it is a system to care for your car when it breaks down and then you think about entire mobility systems in cities and caring for the flow of a city, which is much more system design level. Great. If you were to try to take a crack at defining what service design means to you, how would you talk about it?
Ilya: (04:10)
I think service design is, think of it as the kind of intangible aspects of how an organization seeks to build a relationship over time with its customers and customers can be end consumers, they can be business to business, it can be a whole bunch of different kinds of customers you're trying to create a relationship with over time but I think that over time is key. I think that the idea that it's this sort of collection of important moments that an organization owns in order to cultivate that relationship and evolve that relationship as it changes over time.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (04:54)
Nice. Great. I think some of the things that we see people struggling with are that those relationships can be so intangible and yet one of the primary elements of design thinking and that philosophy of tackling change is that we bring tangibility through prototypes. We make things real, not because they'll be perfect out of the starting gates but to get feedback to bring about collaboration, to gain buy in or collaboration from others in the organization. I know you've designed so many different services, digital services, human powered services, services in an environment and so when you're working with a team and you're trying to guide them to get started, what are some of the things that you ask them to do to help them think about how to get tangible with the service experience?
Ilya: (05:45)
Goodness. Lots of things. I think we've talked a little bit about this already in this conversation but thinking about the arc of the experience over time and how that plays out, not just in the moments that punctuate the delivery of value but in those interstitial moments where, you know, how do you help people remember you? How do you help people think about and prepare for and anticipate the next engagement moment? That sort of time-based view is definitely a stance that I think design teams ought to take.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (06:20)
Yeah. I know a lot of times we'll have a team kind of think out what's the ideal type, what's the idealized experience? And so some of those early sketches are acting. I can see a lot of people are saying they've done things where they act out the service. They make a really rough video and go for perfection but then sometimes I'll see teams, everything will be dialed up to the nines, you know? And so it's like, wow, it's hard to afford to deliver something at that level all the way through. How do you help the team make tough choices about what to prioritize in a service?
Ilya: (06:58)
It's a phrase that we like to use, which is the “moments that matter most” and most organizations want to be awesome at everything all the time and if you've ever actually tried to map out what that would actually cause it's pretty prohibitive and so identifying the points in the experience or the journey of how something unfolds where you, your brand, the particular service engagement that you're designing needs to really nail it is a great way of prioritizing the places to devote your energy and you can let other things slip to the place where they're fine. Like if they're really bad, that's not great but if they're not the highlight, that's also fine.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (07:48)
We were talking about one experience that you worked on in prep for this about a hotel and I thought it was a really nice example of like what matters for one brand might not matter so much for another.
Ilya: (07:58)
Yeah. We've done a lot of work in hospitality and one of the brands that we're working with was focused on business travelers and so if you're a frequent business traveler, as I suspect many of you on the session are, walking in and having the person step around the front of the counter and welcome you and tell you all the amenities of the hotel for the 86th time is probably pretty annoying. The brand that we're working with, we de-featured that initial arrival moment into the lobby and that front desk experience and highlighted the arrival to the room moment where you can have this exhale and you're here. Just essentially knowing where to prioritize the focus of your design attention is really important.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (08:49)
Yeah. I've seen you do some really interesting things where you're stretching and helping the design team really push the boundaries. You've identified some moments that matter, you've got things mapped over time but then as you're making and creating and getting tangible, what are some ways you help teams kind of push the boundaries of how they might think about things?
Ilya: (09:09)
I think a really simple one is asking people to think about all the kinds of media that they can play with and trying to develop design solutions that prioritize one media over all the others. By that I mean what if you could only deliver it with people? What if you could only deliver it with signage and communications or only through the sort of cues that the space gives you about how you move through an experience and interestingly, going back to some of the healthcare environments that we've been talking about, organizations will tend to have a bias I think towards certain media.
Ilya: (09:50)
Again, in healthcare usually the response is, "Great, who's job is that going to be to do that thing?" And it's like actually people are incredibly expensive, they're super busy and they're quite distracted on things like delivering care and so what if in an environment like that, you said, "Let's just purely do it through signage, like the journey home board for instance." Or "Let's do it purely through digital communications." Or whatever it might be. Pushing it to be the most essential version of a single medium I think is an interest mechanism.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (10:28)
Yeah. Just starting to pull in some questions from those of you in our community this morning. Garage is asking about designing a digital or a virtual service and I'm wondering how you've seen this extend into that space over time. What are stories that come to mind of those aspects of a service? I know we think about digital and interaction design as yet another layer of things.
Ilya: (10:53)
One of the things that I think we spend a lot of time on when we're designing service experiences is thinking about tone and sort of like what's on-brand, what's overbearing, what's too quiet, what's too subtle, what's not subtle enough? And I think digital service delivery because it is so relatively easy to connect with an end consumer who's receiving that service. I think things like tone become really, really important because there's so many other things that are competing for that headspace that actually feel like a welcomed thing, if you will, is really important.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (11:46)
I can think of a great example of that, which is when, one of my favorite pieces of work that IDEO ever got to work on is bedsider.org. This was a piece of work for a group working toward preventing unplanned pregnancy in adults and so it was this entire educational service about all of your options for preventing unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and some of the things, tone was absolutely critical. Everything was delivered digitally, it was a resource, an education, heavy video, mobile, all online but tone and the design of that experience was absolutely critical. In their early stages of that experience, we were trying to have conversations with people to figure out how the tone could be less like ... that's not the way, that's not what you should be doing. A little more like, Hey, you're a modern woman in the modern world, here are resources to support your life and increase your health and increase the ways that you want to live.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (12:53)
Saying that in just the right way was key and so we literally prototyped text streams and had a bunch of different tones that we were trying out a little more cheeky, a little more sisterly, a little more best friend, a little more like favorite auntie, a lot more mom and we had like these different personas that we had conversations with different people, kind of A, B, C, D testing different tones and it was so great. We've done something very similar with parents and education in Brazil and really feeling out, very low resolution, what does the language feel like in a digital experience for that service?
Ilya: (13:35)
One other thought there is the sort of requirement for response I think is also a really interesting thing. Navigating a website for an extended period of time to understand a narrative versus having a quick text exchange, the appropriateness and the bigness of the use of those channels across the digital experience I think is also a really interesting thing to prototype. Coe Leta Stafford: (14:09) Hey guys, just want to tell you a bit more about IDEO U. We're an online school where anyone can learn to solve anything creatively. Built for individuals, teams, and organizations. IDEO U equips leaders with the tools and mindsets necessary to ignite creative confidence and tackle complex challenges. This fall, register for Hello Design Thinking, our introductory design thinking class taught by David Kelly and check out Tim Brown's five-week leadership course Leading for Creativity. If you're liking what you're hearing, sign up here for more at ideou.com/cc. Now let's get back to the conversation.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (14:54)
There are a couple of questions we have around feedback and honing. So Sandeep is asking us how do you identify the moments that matter? How do you figure out which ones you want to lift up and focus on a little bit more than others?
Ilya: (15:13)
Yeah. Well, certainly the way IDEO does it is that we spend a lot of time investing in understanding what's important to the people that are going to be consuming that service or participating in and in sometimes creating that service relationship and so going out and spending time in people's lives, understanding the things that excite them, understanding the things that irritate them. For instance, going back to the business traveler hotel, like literally the 86th time that the person walks around from the front desk and welcomed you grandly into this chandelier filled lobby where you're just like, okay enough.
Ilya: (15:57)
You start to get cues from the ways that people are actually consuming your service offer or similar service offers that are out there and then prototyping itself is an incredibly important way for understanding what lands appropriately, what feels missing, especially when it's a service offer that doesn't yet exist in the world. Which I think and this is going to sound very simple but a medium that IDEO uses a lot is movies. When we're trying to show someone an experience that they might have in the future that they don't have a lot of references for today, essentially depicting how that might play out over time in a narrative form and then getting feedback to that. What felt valuable, what felt over over the top, what didn't feel clear. All of those kinds of things.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (16:52)
Yeah. I think in any other aspect also picking what matters most certainly what the end user wants but also there's some questions about personas, what personas or segments are you prioritizing as an organization? There's always give and take and a gray zone in this but who are the most important customers or what are new customers that you want to attract? What's on for your strategy or not? What's possible with your capabilities? There are certainly times where I've been in a room with a client team and we have a brilliant idea but it's not any set of capabilities that that organization has.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (17:30)
We have to hold that and reflect on, is it worth it to build those capabilities tomorrow or five years from now? And then is that maybe not the moment that needs to matter most or do we need to pull it forward? I think it's a lot of conversations, a lot of trade offs and a lot of them happen when you're in the midst of experience or just after experiencing a prototype.
Ilya: (17:54)
That's right. Exactly because you'll start to have that dialogue between what feels right and aspirational and what feels possible and that doesn't mean that things that feel aspirational but not possible need to be taken off the table. They just may need to be developed toward over time. Yeah.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (18:14)
Yeah. I can see, we have a couple of questions from Aaron about how does this extend into B2B service or when your clients are another company or another enterprise and have you worked on things like that?
Ilya: (18:29)
Yeah, definitely. Business customers are people too is the first thing I would say and they have needs and they have workflows and they have priorities and things that are motivating them and incentives that they're operating within that are as real as any end consumer is and so I think actually the approach is very, very similar and IDEO's done quite a bit of work in that kind of space. Like for instance, new insurance products that are sold not to end consumers but to corporate buyers and things like that where the process by which somebody learns about, gets curious about, begins to understand, situate something in their lives and then make a commitment to it. All of those kinds of circumstances are entirely designable, whether for an end consumer or for a business client.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (19:33)
I know one piece of work that was going on in our San Francisco studio probably a couple of years back we talked with financial services but it wasn't direct to consumer, it was to other people providing people financial advice. A lot of small businesses talking to this one large business and so the medium that we prototyped in was the customer support center. We've done that so many times where it's the script is what we're prototyping with. When somebody picks up a phone in a B2B environment and I think that one was so much fun and I've done it also in this space of financial services in the insurance where we've said it, "What if we took this call center and just for a few days took off the dominant metric of number of calls that you can finish in one hour and instead started to look at something like net promoter score or satisfaction with the service instead and so really quickly in a B2B environment, you can play out some of these same scenarios and start to look for indicators that something could be improved.
Ilya: (20:42)
Yeah, I think in that case when you start to ask yourself what are the moments that matter, it's perhaps as much about the construct within which people are working. For instance, in a call center environment, if somebody receives a call, the process by which things get escalated or they can tap the network of people around them and gain, essentially act smarter than they as an individual might be. The sort of mechanisms that allow for that to happen are eminently designable. Thinking about those moments where something might need to transition from an individual's responsibility to a group responsibility or from a dialogue to a group conversation, those kinds of things can become really powerful.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (21:32)
Nice. Yeah. Doug has a question here that I think will be fun to tackle. He's working in government and just about to start prototyping policy changes and we talk a lot about what are the conditions, what are the rules, what are the guidelines? He came to hear any experiences about prototyping policy, how do you test, do the rules feel fair if we change this rule, what happens? And so I'm curious to think with you about some of the things. You've definitely done a lot of government work in the nation of Singapore and the US and a couple of other nations.
Ilya: (22:07)
Yeah. Policy design is really interesting because from the standpoint ... you get a very long loops of feedback before you know whether or not the shift in policy is actually creating the effect that you wanted. In a lot of cases, IDEO has been involved in service design work with our government clients and we're actually doing that work simultaneously with policy development so essentially saying if this is the kind of offer we want to create for the consumption of our citizenry, what then would be the encircling set of policies that create the conditions for that service to be delivered effectively? And so I think it's a dialogue, right?
Ilya: (22:57)
It's a dialogue between the actual services that you're delivering and the policies that you're creating and it's a bit of a chicken and egg thing and I think it's actually sort of interesting to maybe play out scenarios for a given policy concept, which would say if this were true in combination with the other policies that are around it and the services through which that policy gets enacted, what would we imagine if we shifted it this way or shifted it that way or shifted it a third way?
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (23:27)
Yeah. I mean what I'm reflecting on is that things like policies, organizations, incentives, these are all the structures that can help a single service design prototype really scale and really have impact over larger and larger numbers of people which, of course, governments are always wonderfully concerned with and so I think there are certain things that start to extend out to that larger organization or that larger system that the service design can inform and so I think some of the things we might do is after prototyping the service, how do you dial up the right conversation? Can you bring the people in charge of the policies or the organizational aspects through that service design and then you host that different conversation or as Ilya was saying, ask a slightly different question about what are the guidelines or policies that need to be in place for this long term.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (24:19)
I know we have tons of questions and we're trying to get through as many as we can. We just have a few minutes left and so there was one that is really near and dear to our hearts about processes like this. Prototyping, taking the time to bring people through are often seen as speed bumps. The fast pace of progress that's needed. That happens equally in for profit institutions as well as nonprofit and so what are some other ways, if you were having a conversation with the senior leaders in a company, what's the argument you would make for why to take time to do these processes and what are the benefits?
Ilya: (24:55)
I think it's a conversation that's quite related to the difference between an agile process and a waterfall process and not just with regards to technology, but I think very often our clients come to us and say, "We'd love to do something really different in the future but we can't actually manage to take the time to stop and pause to really think it through." And from our perspective, the slowing down, so to speak, in order to take the time to create optionality for the decisions that you want to make, where the information is richer. It's not just in spreadsheet form, it's not just in described form. It's in experienceable form actually makes the decision making process much faster and it lessens the possibility or the likelihood of rework in the sense that if what you're trying to do is create a perfectly agreed to version of some future form that you've not actually tried in the world, the likelihood of getting that right is so low.
Ilya: (26:10)
That prototyping actually de-risks in a relatively low cost and actually much faster form that ... honestly, it's a counterintuitive argument in a lot of ways but one thing that we've done with clients or often times clients have done with us is they've tried to run their normal process alongside ours and typically we found that we get to sort of richer, stronger solutions that don't require as much rework more quickly.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (26:45)
Yeah. Always hard to make time for it and so it's about picking the right moments to lean in and take the time and space for these processes. I think also we talk a lot about double delivery, do it the normal way and then can you take one day to get people together and pull things off. I think one more thing we want to share is that we have something new on IDEO U. This is very much to inform people and help them think about ways that our Ideas to Action Course can help them, which we'll be starting up again on November 8th but we also have something new that we're very excited about. We have a Foundations in Design Thinking certification that now if people come in and we have two courses that together we'll provide you with a great foundation to start practicing design thinking.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (27:36)
Our Insights for Innovation course coupled with From Ideas to Action, certainly you can take them in that order or flip it around and take ideation and prototyping first but these two courses, this is something that's very new, we've just launched it from IDEO and we're very excited to help more people get deeper capabilities so that they can practice this and their own work and bring this to their own lives and their own organizations.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (28:00)
With that, I just want to say thank you to Ilya for joining us here. This was a great conversation. We'll share this out more broadly and we'll have more questions answered for you soon. Have a great day.
Suzanne Gibbs Howard: (28:15)
Thanks for listening to this episode of creative confidence from IDEO U. Stay up to date on our Creative Confidence conversations and send your questions for upcoming guests. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and sign up for our IDEO U newsletter at ideou.com/cc. Thanks for joining us.

Courses Starting Soon

Foundations In Design Thinking - IDEO U Certificate
Designing Strategy Course from IDEO U