The more I learn and practice service design, the more I can see how we are all born service designers. But we lose these skills as we get older. Inhibitions creep in and take over; leaving us too self-conscious to do many of the things that came naturally to us when we were small. So here are my observations of my three year-old and how she inspires me every day to be a better service designer.
Be willing to act it out
Three year olds, especially those with older siblings, love to act things out. They have no problem with only knowing half the words or steps...they just put it all out there and figure that anyone watching will get it. It is more about the effort than the performance. Role playing in service design can create a deeper understanding of the customer experience in a short time.
Three year olds, whether out of curiosity or to just drive you nuts, love to ask why. They invented the 5 whys- many times they don't stop at 5. Driving in the car you make a banal comment like "look, it's raining!" Even with that they want to dig deep. Like I said, service designers don't hold a torch to a three year old.
Care about how others feel
Service design is all about making people, customers, happy. Three year olds, in my experience, love to make people happy. They draw people pictures in anticipation of seeing them with a big smile on their face. If you are sad, they want to do something to make you feel better.
Learning by doing
Everything about a three year old's life is an experiment. Have you ever tried to get them to sit still and listen to instructions? They don't want to hear it, they want to do it. In a designers world these would be called: trial and error, A/B testing, failing fast (as a parent you also hope that it is failing forward)...you name it, a three year old does it and many times they learn something.
Explore unusual possibilities
The thoughts of a three year old are random and sometimes outrageous. Disruptive would be the wrong word but they certainly routinely think "outside the box". In fact, I would argue that a three year old is lucky enough to not even have a box to think outside of.
Everything they create is a facsimile of something else. These are prototypes of things they will repeatedly build during their childhood, each getting better with each iteration as their skills get better.
'Play' with Lego
Any service design worth their salt will have spent hours 'playing' with Lego. The ability to create and recreate the thoughts in your mind in a physical representation both helps you explain what you mean and helps you work through the thought itself. Three year old love playing with Lego. They want to build the things that are important to them and they want others to interact with it. Many times, they want you to interact in the way they decide...they try to help walk you through their ideas.
Desire to co-create
Three year olds no longer want to play alone. Younger children are happy to play side by side without interacting but by the time they hit three, they are generally very social. They want to create games and do puzzles with people, they are developed enough to wait their turn and they want to be engaged with someone else. They don't just want to build things in Lego, they want you to do it with them and are mostly happy to let you participate equally.
Conduct thorough interviews
Three year olds are astute ethnographers. They want to see what you are doing- always. And if at all possible, they want to do it with you. And while you are doing it, they are asking question after question about it. They want to know everything. What you are doing, how you do it, and why you do it. Then they file away the answers to use in the future. They don’t worry about whether the question is considered by others to be stupid or simple, heck, they don’t even worry if they asked it before. They just know that there is information that they need and you have it.
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