Global Service Jam 2012


This weekend Futurice had the privilege of hosting the Helsinki edition of this spring’s Global Service Jam. In this 48–hour event, people interested in concepting and service design got together, formed teams, and created new service concepts that can “change the world”.

Once again, the Jam was very intense, but also lots of fun, and some pretty amazing work came out. People met others with similar interests, made friends, learned a lot from each other, learned even more by doing and trying things out, and in the end showed theconcepts they had put together to everyone, and made them available to the world.

Here’s a summary of what happened:

We started the event on Friday with getting to know each other and looking at what was going to happen over the weekend. Then, we listened to a most inspiring speech by our inspirational speaker Anton Schubert (ex-Ideo, now 358),who started from the wiki-definition of “community spirit” to outline the relevance of events like the Service Jam and the huge impact they can have on the world.

Then the theme was announced (“Hidden Treasures”), and after the expected moments of shock and confusion, the rest of the evening was dedicated to making sense of the theme together, and forming teams based on the common interests of the participants.

Saturday was the ‘research day’. Using early prototypes, or just interviewing techniques, all the teams had to go to the streets and gather insights on their existing ideas. The research was successful: after carrying it out, many initial assumptions were proven wrong, some crises came about, and finally new and improved solutions were found. More advanced storyboards, UI mockups and other service evidences began to emerge.

Sunday was the “do-it-all frenzy day”: some were doing video prototypes, some presentations, some logos and costumes, some final storyboards. It was probably the most fun day, because everyone needed to upload the final deliverables to the website, and felt on their own skin what the organizers had been preaching from the beginning: “Doing, not talking”, “Doing, not talking!” and “Keep it fun”. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, the teams presented their results to each other, and we ended the day with some looking back on the weekend, feedback for the organizers, cake and sauna.

And, well, here are the teams’ results:

And here are some photos and videos from the event:

So, not more can be said other than hats off to the participants for their amazing effort, and thanks to everyone for yet another amazing Jam!

And of course, thanks to Leyla from 358 for our cool logo this year, and thanks to the rest of the organizing team: Riitta from Hub, Katja from RAY, Reima from Palmu, and Mike from HammerKit! It’s such a pleasure to work with you guys!


So why have events like this one gotten so much success lately? Why would anyone sacrifice a whole weekend, to… well, basically work, and not just work, but work at a crazy pace, with the tightest deadline you could possibly imagine? Why did the Global Service Jam get 2061 registered attendees, from 85 cities in almost 40 countries worldwide, in just its second edition? Well, there could be a number of reasons, but I’d like to discuss two of them.

The first reason could be the drive to learn by doing. I strongly believe that our education systems are not designed towards preparing people for working life, and there’s an acute need for more practical, hands–on experience.

And even though the Finnish and other Nordic systems are way closer to the real world than many others, many students are still thirsty for more real projects, for more chances to practice their skills and get connected with the business world.

It’s not just students who want to learn, of course. We had many employed professionals at the Jam, and that to me highlighted the second reason for attending: the possibility to fail. As one participant put it: “here it’s cheap to make mistakes”. Many times, in our work projects we can’t afford to fail: we know what we need to deliver, and we just have to do it. We have to meet expectations, and to do that we’ll take the routes we already know, and know well. Any failure in our projects seems to make us less of a professional because we should know our stuff, right? Well, it doesn’t work quite like that, at least for a designer. For one, we need our prototypes to fail as much as possible, because that’s the only way we can make the final outcome better.

But there’s more to it than that: it’s about having this completely fail-safe (and fun) environment, the space to explore something completely new, to get inspired, to learn something you didn’t know you needed to learn, which you can then use to bring value to your daily work. These kinds of projects are extremely valuable to us designers, and, as it seems, to other professionals as well.