Service Design & Storytelling – the perfect partnership

It really is a case of it being the perfect partnership.  Storytelling is such a huge part of service design and the whole design thinking process. Storytelling can help you in so many ways throughout your service design journey.

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today”

Robert McKee, Scriptwriter

Service Design gives us powerful stories to tell.  

We have been telling stories for as long as we’ve been human – they are an essential part of our day-to-day communications. When done well, storytelling can do wonders for a project: it can create a sense of empathy, generate enthusiasm and win the loyalty and affection of audiences. 

We want to share three ways where you can deploy storytelling to support your service design journey.

Problem, Solution, Impact

The first is to better understand and to articulate a problem. One of the key principles of service design and design thinking is that we need to understand the problem before we can come up with potential solutions and being able to tell the story of the problem is a good place to start.

As service designers we listen and share the human story behind the problem. It could be that people can’t find a service, or that they can’t use it unaided. It could be that the confirmation email hasn’t been sent, or the explanation in it is not clear. It could be that having to pass between the silos created in organisations means the service becomes frustrating for people. Whatever it is, there’s a story behind why that service doesn’t work, and why the user is not able to do the thing they set out to do.

All our courses are hands-on, with a learn by doing approach, our learners are required to listen to, and share stories. When teams come up with their idea, there is a story behind it. Telling this story and the background context lets everyone know why something needs to change.  

And that’s the second part, we can share potential solutions to the problem. It’s about telling a scenario of what could be possible in the future and if we are trying to get buy in, or help people to understand our solutions then telling it in a story format is going to be much easier for people to absorb and to understand.

“Storytelling connects us, helps us make sense of the world, and communicates our values and beliefs. A good story makes us think and feel, and speaks to us in ways that numbers, data, and presentation slides simply can’t.”

Celinne Da Costa

Thirdly, you can tell the story about the impact you have made. Going through the service design process means that you will initiate some sort of change, being able to tell the story of that change, tell the story of what it was like before and what it’s like now and the impact the change has had. This part is not just about the change, it’s the difference that change has made to individuals and potentially the broader community as well.

We’d been thinking more and more that Storytelling had an important part in service design and we wanted to test our idea. The team got together with Kevin Anderson from The Story Edge for some training. It struck us how intrinsically linked our worlds are and how important it was for service designers to be able to tell their stories well. A workshop was arranged with some of our past and potential clients and we fleshed out the idea. At that time, we were undergoing our Organisational Accreditation with the Service Design Network and Birgit Mager, joined the workshop as part of our assessment. Birgit was intrigued by the idea and saw real value in adding a Storytelling element to our core learning. 

Move on several months and we’ve just introduced 8 self-study videos created by Kevin to the PDA in Service Design. The short lessons take you through Kevin’s Story Stack model.

When the story is very relatable, like when you’re using real-life examples gathered from user insights, it has the added benefit of making it easier to understand and more memorable as it’s personally relatable, the audience empathises with the character in the story.

Stories provide meaning, create context and evoke a sense of purpose. Businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of storytelling to better connect with their users, create a connection with their brand and to share successes!

Being able to tell a powerful story can be the start of a service design journey and a tool that will help you through the whole process.

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