Service design thinking: Why?

Person Centered

This post is part 3 of a 3-part series.

In my last post, I talked about how to do service design thinking. In this post, I’ll discuss why service design thinking is important.

In a recent conclave organized by Singularity University, the speakers highlighted how products and services are now congregating into four clusters:

  • content businesses
  • products and services
  • platforms
  • ecosystems

Content businesses have less market power than the other clusters and low margins, as copying content is much easier and faster now. Eight out of 10 Oscar-nominated movies this year were available in full HD before their official releases.

Products and services have more market power than content businesses, but less than platforms. Most companies are in the products and services domain.

Platforms are like value bridges that allow two or more markets to connect. You allow the value to flow, though you are not directly delivering the content; you are the bridge. Perhaps counterintuitively, offering designers need to think about creating open platforms that can make their competitors’ lives easier. Although in the short term you may have to forgo product and service profitability, in the long term you establish yourself as a de facto standard and the platform enjoys more market power. Examples include Google’s TensorFlow platform (open source library for machine intelligence) and Tesla’s electric vehicle patents (released to open source).

Lastly, ecosystems intertwine and interlock multiple platforms and enable end-to-end user satisfaction. Very few are here yet, but China’s WeChat is evolving into one such ecosystem.

Raising your AQ

While designing services that are innovative and valuable for clients, organizations will need to keep these market aspects in mind. In the exponentially changing world, the strongest predictor of stability is the ability to unlearn. No organization can let its past success get in the way of future success. In the current business dynamics where businesses handle fewer people but more data, fewer products and services but wider platforms, less stability but higher revenue and its impacts, IQ can only take service designers and offering managers so far. Instead, your adaptability quotient (AQ) — the ability to respond to change — is the new mantra for success.

Service design thinking using a rich garrison of tools and techniques, coupled with disruptive technologies like AI, machine language, mobile devices, robotic process automation and cognitive computing, allows you to customize services to make them cheaper, faster and more accessible for clients. This is showcased in how crypto technologies like blockchain are now enabling smart contracts.

It’s about outcomes, not products

Service design thinking also allows for movement from “this is our product or service” to being able to define and talk about desired business outcomes and results for clients. Through a collaborative approach to understanding the problem or opportunity and designing the solution together, service providers can move to outcome-based contracts.

With empathy at the core of service design thinking, the focus shifts from data, processes, technology and cost reductions to how the customer feels from multiple perspectives. What are the client’s problems and how can we best solve them?  What is the desired customer experience, which will be built into the solution design and implementation?

Think big

Products, services and offerings that allow people and information to flow will bring disruption. We need to design products that add more certainty to uncertainties. Uber ensures that you get a ride easily at any time; blockchain guarantees a transaction without intermediaries; Kickstarter enables artists to go directly to their audiences to fund their work.

The only crisis facing offering managers today is the crisis of imagination. We need to think bigger.


Service design thinking: What

Service design thinking: How

On the blockchain, nobody knows you’re a fridge


  1. Good article. Really important that we always remember to actually engage with customers throughout the process to ensure the “desired customer” experience is the actual experience sought. What we think the customer wants and what they actually want (when asked) can be different and can change over time.

  2. It is not only even about outcomes anymore but about creating or having value

  3. Appreciate your 3 part series and the variety of examples you’ve chosen. Thank you for sharing!


  1. […] my final post, we’ll address the “why” of service design […]

  2. […] Service design thinking: Why? […]

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