April 20th, 2018

Ghent Service Jam 2018

Imagine a group of 20 people who don’t know each other and decide to spend a weekend together co-creating service concepts. Now multiply this by 90 and spread it all over the world. This is exactly what happens every time the Global Service Jam takes place.


This year we decided to take part in this experience, and between 9-11 March 2018 we hosted the Ghent Service Jam at our office. Although some of us had previous jamming experience as participants, it was our first time hosting one. After the jam we decided to make some notes to ourselves with our learnings for future editions:

1) Plan the jam, but not too much. Before the weekend we weren’t sure how far we should plan the schedule for the weekend. We didn’t want to plan every minute of the jam in advance (that is definitely not the point of a jam), but we did set up clear milestones along the weekend. These milestones were essential to make people move forward in the process and avoid getting stuck in an idea.

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2) Don’t assume that everyone who joins a service design jam knows what service design is. A jam is not targeted only at design experts, but it is the perfect opportunity for other people to discover service design. For this reason, we found it very important to help participants understand the design process. We prepared templates and exercises to guide them through the different phases and we were always available to help and answer their questions, which they really appreciated!

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3) A lot can happen in 48 hours when you are working with people you don’t know. It will be an enjoyable process, but there will inevitably be some moments of frustration. These come from people with different opinions and personalities working together, people feeling that they are getting stuck and won't make it on time, endless discussions without reaching any conclusion, people wanting to ditch their whole concept on Saturday evening and start over… so be prepared for some ups and downs in the groups, this is totally normal. Most of the times a fresh view on what they were struggling with can help them move forward, and in the end everything works out!

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4) Less talking, more doing! We repeated this endlessly during the weekend and we will do it even more next year. It’s very easy to get stuck in endless discussions, or start talking about how their service would do this or would solve that… and before you realise it’s Sunday morning. We want results, we want to experience how a service feels, not hear it from someone else. So make participants get their hands dirty and encourage them to prototype as much as possible.

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5) Get out and talk to real users! One of the most difficult things we experienced was making the groups go outside to test their prototypes with real users (okay, the weather was not always helping). Many participants thought that they were not ready yet to go test their prototypes because the prototypes were 'not good enough'. And let’s be honest, approaching strangers on the street when you have an idea prototyped with paper and other high-level materials is very scary. But also extremely useful. So don’t feel bad for kicking participants out of the building -they will appreciate it afterwards!

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6) Expertise and experience are very appreciated. During the weekend we invited three experts from different design agencies to give short talks about topics that would add extra value to the experience: user research, prototyping, and how to pitch an idea. The talks were short and really practical, and we found that this format really helped the groups with their concepts. Our experts also stayed for a few hours to help the groups around, give them some feedback and bring some fresh views to their projects.

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7) Food and energizer games are key to keep people going. When we felt that the energy levels were going down… time for a break and a snack! Having breakfast and lunch with the entire group also helped creating more of a group feeling, and energizer games are great to make participants switch off their minds for a few minutes.

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8) A jam is fun, but it's also a learning experience for everyone. We wanted participants to have the feeling on Sunday evening that they had learnt something during the weekend. That it was worth giving up their free weekend, and that it was more than “just a fun event”. 

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9) Document and share your process! Remember that there are jammers all over the world working on the same theme at the same time as you. Seeing what other jams are doing and letting them see what you do is part of the fun. We were very lucky to have the talented Frederik Vincx joining us for the weekend and making this awesome video recap:



In a nutshell: we learnt, had fun, met awesome people, laughed and really enjoyed our first time hosting a jam. We are already looking forward to next year's edition!

Author image

María Crucera

Service Designer

Service designer with an eye for visuals and a passion for people. Always ready for new quests.