Culture, Event

Introducing the Backelite Service Design Jam

What is the #BKJAM17?

This month, we gathered teams from all international Backelite offices to create the first annual BK Service Design Jam. In the spirit of applying our service design methodology in an on-the-ground fashion, we chose the Mediterranean island of Malta as our host. We selected four key problems and put our teams to the test in real-life conditions: a growing obesity rate, ballooning traffic rates, the lack of affordable housing and a dire scarcity of fresh water.

Give us a challenge, and we will design a solution with you

Affordable Housing by Ole-Fredrik Lie

The problem

Our task was to address reasons for rising rental prices in Malta. First, we mapped possible causes to this problem. After that, the challenge was to come up with a concept that could solve the problem.

It was exciting and fun to work on such a big challenge, with a whole team over such a short period of time. It was intense, but at the same time very rewarding. We got the chance to validate our ideas and assumptions with the target group that consisted of young people who wanted to enter the housing market in Malta.

The process

We started by defining the problem. This was actually the most demanding part of the challenge, I think. Rising prices on the rental market is a problem that is composed of many different reasons. We spent a lot of time initially working around problem definitions.

In a user-centered design process, it’s essential to have a user profile to build a story around. In our case, we made different types of personas. We built these in collaboration with local people who represented our target group. We also designed user journeys, which we checked and validated with local people from Malta.

As a designer, it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to work in a cross-functional design team. It worked really well and I felt that everyone was getting ready for the work that needed to be done very quickly. Everyone had a lot to contribute and I felt that we as a team were good playing each other’s strengths throughout the mission. I’m going to miss the group! Already looking forward to next year’s Service Design Jam.

The result

We noticed that there are many abandoned and empty buildings in Malta. The total value of empty buildings in Malta is over 7 billion euros. Our solution was to utilize the uninhabited buildings in a way that benefits landlords, authorities, banks and the general population.

We designed a concept based on reasonable financing of the restoration of empty buildings. This would allow people who are looking for a place to live to refurbish empty buildings at a very low interest rate and get a cheap place to live with a 4-5 year contract. We estimated that it’s realistic to get rental rates on these buildings down to half the average. A classic win-win situation.

The concept materialized in the form of a physical prototype. We designed an A3 advertising poster that demonstrated our idea. We taped the poster up in strategic locations around Malta (such as bus stops), where we checked the live feedback with people passing by. In a short period of time, there were many people who stopped and were curious about the concept.

The key benefits to our solution include:

  • Tenants get affordable housing
  • Landlords get their buildings restored
  • Preserving Maltese architectural heritage
  • Banks will get more loans, while earning trust and gaining loyal customers

Obesity by Anton Larsson

The problem

Malta is the most obese nation in the European Union with more than one in four adults (26%) considered obese. Diving into this issue, we were surprised to learn that the primary contributing factors to the obesity rates in Malta are cultural habits, poor knowledge and cost of living, rather than access to healthy food and lack of government initiatives as we had originally guessed. For example, in Malta if you ask someone if a restaurant is good they base their judgment not on the quality of the food or the service, but the portion size.

The process

We started by doing our homework, by doing desk research and a user safari in which we interviewed people on the street to get a broader picture of what was going on. We then spent a lot of time and effort defining the actual problem, or rather which problem area we should focus on to drive effective change. This thorough preparation allowed us to generate more ideas that gave way to relevant solutions.

Regardless of your level of experience, the Service Design process makes everybody in the team equally important contributors. Especially during the idea-generating phase, the project managers and developers can be as creative as designers, whereas designers need to think in terms of business value and feasibility. The different roles appear more clearly when it’s time to produce work and the work is distributed within the team.

The result

Our solution to the obesity problem in Malta was a government initiative/program called GOOD FOOD that aims to make it easier and more affordable for people, especially families, to eat healthy in their everyday lives. The idea was to make simple changes everywhere that families get their food:

  • Supermarkets:
    • Labels in-store with that clearly mark healthy food
    • Educational signs that show alternatives to high caloric common foods
    • Markings on products that are especially unhealthy (similar to those on cigarette packages)
  • Restaurants:
    • Certificates for restaurants serving healthy food
    • Show how many calories are in each dish on the menu
  • Schools:
    • Government sponsored food trucks that serve good food as an alternative to the high caloric food served in cafeterias and food stands
    • Ban kiosks that serve bad food near schools
  • Regulations:
    • A sugar tax
    • Subsidies to companies contributing to healthier commodities and food so that healthy alternatives can compete with the prices of unhealthy food

Traffic by Ard Jonker

The problem

The traffic problem in Malta is threefold: long delays due to traffic jams, few available parking spots and bad roads. Initially a service designer might feel hesitant to reach out to the user, but a service designer should strive to be surprised. But the Maltese are close to ideal subjects for interviews. They are a bit reluctant at first, but the warm-hearted Mediterraneans thaw easily and talk openly and passionately about how the car is really part of their strong family-oriented culture and why they want to “park in the door”. This proved to be one of several truly surprising and valuable insights for our challenge on the impact and cost of road traffic.

The process

The Maltese love their cars, there are more cars than driver licenses in Malta. So getting them out of their “second home” seemed very unlikely to be successful. That is why we chose to focus on efficiency. Finding a good parking spot frequently takes more time than the actual drive from point A to point B.

It’s good we were timeboxed in the pressure-cooker type of workshops as we would have spent a good deal of our time on this fun part of service design: user safaris and live user tests! During the Customer Journey workshop we craved even more for time with the users to validate assumptions. Every Backelitian in the team had their say and added to the end result. Even though the schedule was tight we made time to listen to each other. As team spirit grew, more time together would have led to (even) great(er) things and ideas.

The result

Our solution, Malta Efficient Parking, detects free spots using IoT devices in the pavement. It informs drivers where best to park through services such as TomTom and Google maps. The public/private system is paid by enabling drivers to reserve a spot for a small amount. It can also push the number of available spots to digital road signs on the street, neighborhood and district levels to better guide drivers (tourists) without the app.

During our final presentation, we had to role play the solution. This was harder than imagined but good fun and a great bonding experience. The whole team was supportive to the nervous actors. And as we had limited time, we really had to focus on the core message: knowing where (not) to park will save time and solve a lot of the traffic problems. Our focus made the role play presentation a success, but it did take our eyes off of a very important aspect of the service: branding. This is what made the winning team stand out from the rest: they really packaged the message well with a nice logo and catchphrase. All in all, it was another important learning from this excellently organized Jam.

Water resources by Daryna Kruty

The problem

In our team, the Seacorns, we explored the issue of overusing the groundwater in Malta. On the island they do not have a sustainable consistent source of drinkable water, except for some groundwater reserves which are rapidly being depleted by the growing amount of tourists who use and require more water. As a makeshift solution, locals oftentimes drill boreholes and install private groundwater pumps in their households. The island imports bottled water from abroad and also desalinates water through an expensive industrial process. These temporary solutions have led to a local population that refuses to drink tap water due to its taste, frequently purchases bottled water and drills holes to illegally extract groundwater. This seems to be a vicious circle, and the problem cannot be resolved by one measure. Because of the scope of the issue, we decided to focus on helping the population, who account for approximately 50% of the island’s water consumption, avoid wasting water at home.

The process

We started the jam by ‘’going out there’’ and doing interviews with the locals during the user safari. It was amazing how friendly and open the people were, and shared troves of useful new insights with us. It looks like the locals are aware of the issue, but it’s not common to actually do anything to preserve the water. We identified this as a topic to dig deeper into. Throughout several workshops of developing personas and a customer journey we gained a deeper understanding of the problem. We further discussed and validated our hypotheses with several locals, learning that some Maltese disliked tap water so much, they prefer to boil pasta in bottled water. One Maltese woman preferred carrying six packs of two-liter bottles home every few days over using tap water or having an ugly water dispenser installed in her home. These testimonies gave us a very personal side to this issue, as well as some useful insights.

The result

After two days and twelve minds working hard together on this challenge, we came up with a program which will invest in a long-term solution to address the water shortage. We decided to have a yearly week-long educational week for children between 9 and 10 years-old, during which they become ‘’Water rangers’’. Their task would be to spot and prevent the activities in their homes that waste water, such as: running tap water when brushing teeth, running the washing machine half-full and not reusing water during cooking. The kids would be armed with stickers, water purification class visits and other fun educational activities. The results of the program will be monitored by their school and every school will have a winning class. The top water rangers will win a prize: a class activity.

We hope that by educating the younger generation we can influence the behavior of children and their parents as well. As with any complex cultural change, this one will probably take several years to deliver a change, and the Seacorns strongly believe this is a good approach to trigger change that ‘’sticks’’! Go, mighty morphing Water Rangers!

What’s next?

Our first BK Jam was a smashing success!

We not only were able to unite 100 service designers, art directors, project managers, developers, and more from 8 different countries, but we also successfully put into practice service design methodology in realistic conditions. We focused on the Backelite family spirit and cross-country teamwork.

After spending these two days focusing on the challenges, it was a big achievement to note the Jam’s success: the participants broke down boundaries to work together with a one team mindset and they got to know their international colleagues for future collaborations. For some, it was also a first exposure to service design tools and methodology and allowed us to align our international ways of working between countries. We believe arming all of our team members with an in-depth knowledge of this methodology is key to working well together, with our clients, and ultimately with the user.

As our teams go home with bolstered knowledge and fond memories, we can only look forward to next year’s annual Jam and the exciting challenges it will bring. See you for the next one in 2018!