Monday, April 2, 2012

Kids Learning Service Design (2): SDHeroes Game (1)

So this is my second post on the topic of "Kids Learning Service Design". In the first post, I shared with you the Riyadh Service Junior Jam Experience. In this post I'll address the second version of the activity where we transformed the entire service design activity into an engaging game. The complications of running 2 activities at the same time (service design+game) may make it a bit difficult to cover but I'll do my best.


After I ran the Riyadh Junior Service Jam, I started to believe that there's more that kids could do with service design. They're really amazing when you think about how ready they're. I decided to run another version with my kids. In the beginning it was planned to be a split image of the other activity but may be with longer duration. Once we started to plan the activity area, the game theme started to emerge and the idea to transform the entire thing into one game started to be clearer. This activity also happened in the comfort of our home. The adults participating have seen the photos from the jam but the kids were more taken by the coloring pencils, sticky notes and the preparation taking place.

I started to design the game storyline and the needed physical evidences and handed them to participants to create. So you can say we started practicing design before we even start the design activity.Following are some photos of the early preparation activities.

SD HEROES are on a mission, be around at your own risk !!

Game Storyline

The game is based on a set of objectives to fulfill a specific mission. A friend of each hero has escaped due to a bad experience he had. Each hero's role is to bring his friend back. In order to fulfill this mission, each hero has to achieve the following mission objectives:
  1. Find the scene of the accident. Where was your friend when he escaped?
  2. Draw a sketch of your friend. Who's your friend? And why did he escape?
  3. Know more information about the problem of your friend and people like him.
  4. Change that place to make it better for your friend.
  5. Craft a great message to tell your friend about the change.
  6. Prove to your friend that this change is guaranteed and will always be there.
COMMAND CENTER is being built
Each of the above-mentioned objectives maps to a goal or activity in the service design project. We together designed the COMMAND CENTER as you see it in the photo above. It's a simple 2 A4 papers stuck on the back of the door which SDHeroes visit to know about current objectives or do general communication needed for their missions. I draw one of the them and the kids colored it. The other one was drawn and colored by their mom. As you see before we started we asked them to come back later for the first objective. We also utilized Twitter to announce the game activities to the rest of the world. You can check it at #SDHeros .   


 Mapped to the above-highlighted storyline is the activity outline. Unlike Riyadh Junior Jam, we made the choice of the service concept to work on a part of the activity rather than a choice of the participant. We also had more room to do primitive customer research. Again, it was all embedded in the game. This time the kids were explicitly playing a game and not aware of anything called service design. Following are 6 steps mapped to the 6 games objectives:
  1. Define the service domain
  2. Draw the customer persona
  3. Conduct further customer research for more insights
  4. Draw a customer journey of the new concept
  5. Visualize the new concept
  6. Design the business model to sustain the business and crystallize value creation & capture.
The time was enough to do the first 4 activities. We partially did the 5th activity. In the middle of the game some merging between heroes happened where some of them formed teams. We'll continue the game this coming weekend where we continue visualization and do business model canvas.
Unlike the Riyadh Junior Jam, this activity was full of collaboration as each hero was involved in achieving the objectives of other heroes as we'll see. This collaboration made the game very engaging.


SO we had 5 kids and 2 adults. The first objective that was posted in the command center was about telling us about your name and mascot/avatar as you see here: 
SDHeroes had to start by picking a name and avatar
Please help me welcome our SDHeroes and their avatars you'll know them by throughout the game:

Khaled (10 y.o.), Dragon

Dragon's Avatar
Abdullah (7 y.o.), Blue Ranger
Blue Ranger's Avatar
Arwa (5 y.o.), Dora
Dora's Avatar
Abdul-Malik (5 y.o.), Iron Man
Iron man's Avatar
We also had 2 adults participating and they chose the following names and avatars:
Mars's Avatar
Super's Avatar
As you may have noticed, every hero was assigned a different color of sticky notes. This helped manage the game specially when it comes to clues and information. It helps every hero immediately recognize what's related to him or to others.


  1. Finding the Accident Scene (Defining the Service Domain)

    This is where first incident of collaboration started. This was the second objective to be posted on the COMMAND CENTER. I first asked every hero to take 2 sticky notes from the hero on his right side and they did. On the first stick note he would write a name of a place (which will act as the service domain). He will then hide that sticky note to serve as a clue. He'll then write the location of that clue on the other sticky note and post it in the COMMAND CENTER to serve as a clue to the clue. From that time on we referred to the person who did this activity as clue assistant. He'll continue to serve as a clue assistant for the Hero throughout the game. To make sure it's clearly we understood, Heroes interchangeably acted as clue assistants for each other. We had 6 heroes who also acted as 6 clue assistants.
    Once clues are properly placed, we announce the objective and SDHeroes would head to the COMMAND CENTER to know the objective and take their clues as you see here:

    Following are some photos of the action of this very engaging mission objective.

    It was a very engaging start for the kids. You were very tricky and very merciless for their choices of places to hide the clues but they all found them with not help. As you see here, these are the scene clues posted back to the COMMAND CENTER.
    It reads as (from left): "Your friend is at the school", "Your friend is at the Smouha Sports club", "Hospital","The place where your friend got lost is the Smouha Course (Training Center)", "Bank", "Your friend got lost in the mosque"

    Once they all knew about where to start, they were all ready to move to the next objective; knowing more information about their friends enough to draw them.

    2. Draw a Sketch of Your Friend (Persona Development)


    Now that each Hero has a clue assistant, they were asked to interview their clue assistant to get details about their friends that are enough to draw their friends. We have to take into consideration that now each clue assistant had to give his own real insights on specific services to serve as problems for the hero to solve. This was very clear when you come close from concepts that are present in their daily life like school. Here's a part of the action of interviewing and drawing.
    Iron Man giving his testimony to Dora on her friend at school
    Dora is sketching accordingly
    Blue Ranger is interviewing Super on Mr. Saeed on was at the bank
    Blue Ranger is refining his persona
    Here it's
    Dragon is giving details to Mars on the course her friend was attending
    He's also noting down Dora's inputs for his persona
    Further developing

    Mars's persona with her 5 kids and 1 of them is handicapped
    Super's persona of an obese lady who slipped while doing exercise and people laughed at her!
    This is where we stopped at the first Day and in the next day we started with the customer research.

    3. Know More Information About Your Friend's Problem & People Like Him (Customer Research)

    So we were starting out first activity with our SDHeroes here fueling as you see.
    Some SDBabies are spotted as well :)
    Remember that in the persona development clue assistant was the only source of information about the customer. In this current activity we widened the area of research and support to include all of the group and their circles. We ran across each service concept and asked if any of the group could be a good profile for research for such a domain or if they happened to know any. This helped very much for concepts that come from outside kids world. We were able to interview an orthopedic relative on the phone for the hospital concept, I was interview on the bank services, and we had more examples. Surely Dora now had all the freedom and luxury of interviewing all the kids in the group for her school concept rather than only having Iron Man as her only source.
    Blue Ranger giving his inputs to young Dora

    4. Make It Better For Your Friend (Customer Journey of the New Concept)

    At that point SDHeroes started ideating new concepts to solve the problems and to provide a better experience. The bank case was an example where the hero was not able to design a new journey without capturing the existing one in details. This happened due to the service domain being one that they don't interact with in their daily life. It took more time to develop the knowledge of this business and he was ready to move on. Again, this kind of learning is one that we as adult designers have to do all the time. It's rare that you come to a service domain and you find that you already know the business details, you all the time have to do this learning.

    When continuing this weekend, I'll help them further enrich this part of the game to come with better outcomes.
    We've done visualization of only one concept, so in this weekend's activity we'll also do that. We'll finish by designing the business model.I'll then share all the lessons learned with you.
I'd like to leave you only with one thought that summarizes my main outcome.
"Kids are full-time service designers and we were so when we were young. We used to imagine things that are not there, prototype them, act accordingly, enhance them, act them, we were never laughed at when we used a stick as horse or a cup as a mic or phone. You act as if you're giving money and your friend would take it from you and put it in his pocket right away. We used to tell each other stories that never happened and we build on eachother's. We always made things that looked like things and origamis were a big competency that helped us own what we don't have. Probably all we needed was to be able to understand and more sophisticated knowledge of the world around us and the complexity it brings. Don't you think kids are easier to turn into service designers than design students?"
Stay tuned for more game updates. Until then I would like to read your insights and what you think about it.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Kids Learning Service Design (1): Riyadh Junior Service Jam

So I wouldn't call it Service Design education for kids because we're still far from that. I've done 2 activities to explore teaching service design to kids, and I'll share the first activity in this post. Both activities didn't take much time in preparation and sometimes the activity itself got designed or evolved within the time of execution.

This post is on Riyadh Junior Service Jam a closed home-hosted activity that took place few days before the Riyadh Service Jam (the spearhead of Global Service Jam 2012). It was all spontaneously planned. I was supposed to visit a friend at home and he has asked me to be ready to share something with his kids or to teach them anything. I called him a day before and I said "Why don't we do some service design?" he agreed and I SMSed him the list of requirements (2 glue sticks, 3 thick markers of different colors, post-it notes, A1/A0 or flip chart sheets, tape, A4 sheets, some old magazines.


We had 2 hours for the activity. I was so over-optimistic  and decided to do the following activities:
  1. Persona development
  2. Customer journey Map of the new concept
  3. Visualization 
  4. Business Model Canvas
We were able to do the first 3 activities and we couldn't do the last one due to time constraints.
I was kind of not decided on how we're going to choose the concepts to work on. Should we choose for them or should we let them choose? I arrived there ready with few ideas that come from their world (according to my expectations). I thought about school transportation, shopping, education and sports club. Parents suggested to let them just decide on their own and they did. 
Another issue was team formation. Should we just work on one concept? or should we let them each work on his own? Should we let the very young ones join the elder ones in teams? We just decided to let them all enjoy independence and for each to work on his own concept. 


I was honored to work with Ahmed (10 y.o.) Yahia (6 y.o.) and Muhammad (They call him moody for short and he's 7 y.o.). Imad the host (Ahmed & Yahia's father) who's a project management consultant  was actively involved. Also Ihab (Moody's father) an events management executive was participating.

We had 2 additional later participants Dr. Ussama and Mr. Ahmad who were guests and they were very interested and got deeply involved in coaching kids in presentation skills and techniques.

Here are the challengers.

Ahmed (10 y.o.) is ready for the challenge

Yahia (6 y. o.) is on stage vs. bad experiences

Moody (7 y.o.) on service design quest
Jammers showing how passionate they are ....


In the beginning none of the kids or the parents knew what's going to exactly happen, I seem to always have a problem with that. We told the kids we'll play a nice game about making business and they liked they idea. But they all the time had this perception we're not serious :).

We asked them what business they'd like to launch or what's it that they would like to change and gave them examples. Yahia chose one from the examples being restaurant. Moody chose something we didn't mention which is a cafe. Ahmed chose the school/classroom. Then we started persona development.

Persona Development

 I asked them to imagine who's the person who would go to this business. Try to imagine a fictional character, give him a name and tell us some details about him. Parents coached kids into further developing the persona. Name, age, likes, dislikes, wants, contexts, issues with the current service .. etc.

Yahia asked if he can draw instead of writing and I said "Sure". It was clear that each of them was talking about himself as the customer. Only moody decided to give his persona another name which was the name of his younger brother. Following are some photos of the persona development actions.
Ahmed charting his own persona
Moody is being interviewed by Ihab (his father) on what his persona could like or dislike

Imad (Yahia & Ahmed's Father) is guiding Yahia in persona development activity)

The action is on in persona development
This is Ahmed's initial persona

Moody's persona

Yahia's pictorial persona
Yahia is presenting his persona to us (bad traditional classroom influence)
Moody presenting his persona with full-confidence
Ahmed giving his persona speech ...Sorry, . I mean brief ...
He decided to show it to us ..

Customer Journey Map

We then asked the kids to design a totally new experience where the problems of their personas are addressed and a more engaging service concept is offered. We can't really say the output was a customer journey map with the scientific definition. It was more of everything in one sheet. They simply brainstormed with support from their parents what's it that they'd like to have there and drew it on that sheet. They were very engaged, at least the photos say so :).

Customer Journeys please ?

Service design is that engaging ....

Yahia is charting his newly-designed burger restaurant.

Ahmed is so engaged with his service design project ...

Moody is ready with his New "Cafe Babies" concept and Ahmed is finalizing his

Yeah, here it is.

Yahia's burger restaurant.
Moody envisioned a new cafe called "Cafe Babies". His new restaurant has PlayStation, Xbox, play area,  juices instead of coffee, baby-sitting facility, TV with cartoons and the furniture was of cartoon characters.
Yahia designed a kids-oriented burger restaurant where there's also a play area, TV with cartoons and WWE and juice.
Ahmed designed a new custom classroom experience with adjustable seating and furniture that doesn't break (his colleagues destroyed some). His design was more about telling more details about his daily suffering rather than offering a solution except for the seating part.


I gave them the option to either act a TVC to present their concept or to design a poster. They decided to act a TVC. We folded an A1 sheet and got it stuck to the door to look like the TV of Yahia's restarurant. He took 2 empty boxes of juice and put them along with a roll of tape to serve as the juice and burger he offers. He did his first version and we all encouraged him. Participants started to give him more tips on killer presentation. He did it 4 times and we saw his skills developing dramatically. At one point Dr. Ussama (one of the guests) actually did a live example for him to follow.
Moody also did 2 trials with that. He had his customer journey poster as a background. He always mastered the closing for his TVC with a nice promise.
Ahmed's was more of a presentation or talk. It was long and also emphasized what he doesn't like more than what he offers. Mr. Ahmed (one of the guests) had comments on his body language and facial expressions. He gave him some coaching on "Non-verbal communication". With valuable interventions, this part took longer than planned and this is where we stopped.
Following are some photos of the acting and action.
Yahia doing his first acting of the TVC

Yahia doing his second acting and we see Dr. Ussama is coaching him

Dr. Ussama decided to give Yahia an example, it's his turn now to act

Moody's all compelling concept & presentation

Ahmed presenting his custom seating experience

Mr. Ahmed commenting on Ahmed's non-verbal communication
Thoughts to Share

  1. Some clear examples of what should be done at each task could help make it clearer and would enhance the results.
  2. Children are equipped with many skills that qualify them to be great service designers. They're less realistic and less limited by the constraints we take into consideration. They're very visualy oriented.
  3. This experience of service design learning provided a great context for interactions and experience exchange and sharing between adults and kids in other areas.
  4. Involvement and participation of parents is crucial and needed.
  5. We still need to see the cases of team work and collaboration between kids.
  6. I believe the fact that service design is new to the parents themselves helped increase their engagement. They felt they're also learning something new.
  7. Similar activities could be used for co-designing and for receiving children insights on services or products they use.
  8. The experience was direct and straightforward. Probably redesigning the activity into a game or more children-oriented activity is an option.
  9. It may be better to put children of similar or closer age groups together.
  10. The over-emphasis on discipline in the traditional education does have its drawbacks on limiting the creativity, openness and ability to deal with vague and new challenges. 
  11. The activity definitely needed more time. Time control was also needed.
  12. The more we do these activities the more we'll have examples to use to help setting expectations for parents and children on what's going to happen.
  13. Customer research is an area that needed to be worked on in more details.
  14. Ideation and concept generation could have been strengthened with many other activities.
  15. Bigger groups will surely make this more fun and enriching.
This is one case I wanted to share here and I would like to read your insights and willing to answer any questions.

In the next post, I'll share the activity of #SDHeros (you can check this hashtag on Twitter) where we transformed the entire activity into an engaging game for a group of children. 

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