Extending Other Disciplines Through Service Design

Conversations about the differences between service design and fields such as UX/CX/product design / change management/ anthropology etc. miss the point – service design has grown from these fields.

SDN DC had the pleasure of welcoming Join Rich Ekelman for a discussion about how service design offers a competitive advantage, the core flexibilities required to practice service design, and ways to start making your transition into service design from the skills and abilities you currently possess. For the last six years, Rich has been a leader in building service design communities in Chicago and Philadelphia. In 2017, he became the first Master Service Design Trainer accredited by the Global Service Design Network.


Rich shared his personal experience related to building service design as a capability. He touched on some of the core flexibilities required to practice service design and ways attendees could start making the transition into service design from the skills and abilities they currently possess. Approaching complex problems with service design, he argued, creates a better, more sustainable ecosystem and competitive advantage. It’s an exciting, holistic approach to problem-solving for all digital and physical components of how an organization lives, offering the flexibility to adapt to competitive shifts. Employees and customers are equally essential contributors to how services create value.


After this introduction to Service Design, the participants engaged in an exercise to put the discipline into practice, working through a real-world example involving CVS’ recent acquisition of Aetna. The activity prompted the group to consider how to design their processes to enable critical conversations with key decision makers. Weighing costs and competitive impact when creating a service helps overcome the cognitive biases that prevent innovations from reaching implementation. Our exercise was designed to illustrate how service design can enable better decisions, leading to better experiences that yield better outcomes.


The room was filled with a diverse group of attendees — in age, industry, and race/ethnicity– which indicates the broad applicability of service design. Our goal was to help them feel empowered to start thinking and working in different ways. The attendees were all very engaged throughout our time together, and the session even went beyond the allocated time so that we could continue the discussion!

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