Taking Part in an SDA Workshop, My Experience

Hello I’m Rory, and I attended our Tools for Problem Solving & Innovation course that just recently happened, this was to help me become more familiar with what we do here at the Service Design Academy. As well as give me tools that could be useful when I’m creating social media content.

This is now the second time I’m writing about my experience with the SDA, my first time was about how my 1st month working at the SDA went, which you can read here!
So I attended a Tools for Problem Solving & Innovation course, it lasted 2 days and was hosted by Chris and Claire. They were both excellent at keeping us engaged and conveying information in a way that sunk in. Which was great as although I work for the SDA, I’m still quite new and don’t have a deep grasp on everything Service Design yet. Let me break down what happened in more detail!

Day 1

As you might expect, at the start of Day 1 it was introductions and short ‘icebreakers’ tasks, a nice way to ease us into the main tasks ahead!
First task: a board with 4 categories titled ‘Leadership’, ‘Silos’, ‘Conflicting Priorities, and ‘High turnover (people)’, using post it notes we would type in what we know and have experienced in those 4 areas for where we work. Fair to say I was a little hard pressed adding to it as previous to the SDA I’ve only worked for my family’s business when not in school / university term time!

Next task had us talking to each other to create our own categories based on what we typed up, to which we put ‘Conflict’, ‘Us and them’, ‘Emotions’ and ‘Communications’. Which at the end we had to choose what we gravitated towards the most, for me I put communications. I was then grouped up with the people who picked the same as me (and 1 person who picked emotions so the groups were split evenly). This group would be who we’d be predominantly working with over this workshop.


My team, Rory, Eliza and Maureen, our team name was Rested and Ready (REM)

So our team theme was focused around emotions and communications. We were then given a series of tasks. Such as researching current day problems relating to our theme. After that, we collated the data we found by using something called a ‘Problem Framer’. Before we reach for a solution we first need to properly frame the problem, in this case our problem was “Loneliness Due To Covid”.

The Problem Framer had boxes asking us to write certain things, such as  “Describe the problem”, “describe the vision or change you want to see” and “What are the barriers”, really trying to make us dissect the problem at hand as much as possible, and consider as many things as we can before even attempting to research for a solution. Eliza and Maureen were great here as we all took different sections in the short time frame we had, to get it filled out as much as we did.

Problem Framer - It allows us to capture barriers and align to specific opportunities. Problems can be acted upon immediately, or banked for later.

Now that we had more clearly defined our problem, we could start spitballing ideas on ways to tackle this, using a variety of methods. we started with an ABC avalanche, which was the final task of the day, this method involved thinking of ways to combat our problem by having an idea after every letter of the alphabet e.g. I – Internet hangouts, O – Online support. Starting out it was very easy, but we soon slowed down as some letters were particularly hard to fill out. We filled it all out in the end but some words we put definitely felt like a bit of a stretch. However, that’s the point of the ABC avalanche, to try and make us think outside of the box for solutions.

With that, day 1 had concluded, it was very jam packed and everything we did was engaging, I’m sure the rest of our group felt the same as we were all quite talkative and responsive when we were having group conversations!

Day 2

The day started somewhat similarly to Day 1, an icebreaker task to get us back into the Service Design mindset! This task had us think up solutions to an elevator that was slow, how could we make it go faster?

A myriad of unique solutions were proposed, I’ll name a few here: “Run up the stairs – sponsored”, “Put a touch screen with quizzes on it”, and “Music choice in the elevator”. There were of course several answers stating to get a new lift or upgrade the lift, which while yes that would likely solve the problem, the cost could be too great! So the alternatives were to add engaging options to make the lift journey feel shorter.

Now getting back into the main task at hand, we used another method to think up solutions, such as the sunflower method. This had the problem be the centre and 8 possible solutions acting as ‘petals’, which we could then take each individual solution and make it the centre of another sunflower, elaborating on how those specific solutions could come into effect. It honestly reminded me of a Mandelbrot fractal zoom, as in you could keep going deeper and deeper analysing the possible solutions!
I won’t show what that is as it’s a bit too funky with how it zooms in on patterns that repeat, but I hope you get the idea!

This was another task that tripped us up a bit, as each task has a tight time limit, we were getting caught up trying to fill up the petals before moving onto the next (for reference if we filled out everything we’d have 64 solutions!), with only a few minutes left on the clock, we had filled out about 3/8 and was struggling with the fourth. At that point Chris came in to remind us of the time left and that we should focus on getting a few answers for every sunflower rather than complete one and then moving onto the next. After that we went at top speed to get some answers for every sunflower, and thankfully with seconds left on the clock we reached an amount we were happy with!

Next up we had to bring forward 3 of our favourite possible solutions and prototype how it’d actually work, we chose:

Walking Group – “Themed walks for where ever you are! In the countryside? You can do some birdwatching! In the city? You can do some sightseeing!”

Comedy Group – “Online or in person, share a comedy experience and laugh together! We watch live stand up shows, comedy films, and you can even try your own stand up routine!”

VR Headset – “VR can take you to places real and imaginary from the comfort of your own home!”

I’ll show you the prototypes we designed for the walking group, as that’s the idea we decided to bring forward!

Drawn Walking routes for Rural and Urban, enjoy nature or see the sights in the city!

Here we have a sketch drawn by yours truly on the different routes that could be taken and the kind of activities you can have during the walk. 

For the Urban routes you can walk about the city, stop for snacks and check out sites of interest, like the V&A in Dundee!
For the Rural routes you can experience a wide variety of nature, hill walks, going to the park and chilling at the benches, do some birdwatching and more!

It can be a group decision before hand on the sort of route you want to have, going to places you may otherwise not have picked out yourself, all the while you can meet new people and get some good exercise in!

Walking Group Storyboard - Joing the group, meet up, time to walk, see the sights, stop for a snack, make friends, chill out, discuss future walks, become a full time member!

We also did a storyboard for how we want to see the walking group play out!

It starts with someone finding the group online and deciding to try it out, they meet up and have a walk, seeing the sights and stopping for snacks, hopefully also talking to each other and making some friends! Maybe you could go to a city park to chill out for a bit at the end. Afterwards the group can discuss the walk and how it went, and plan for their next meet up!

With a few more tasks to go we finally reached the final task of the workshop.
A 3 minute presentation on our idea we’ve prototyped for our original problem, Loneliness due to Covid-19.
Which honestly went quite well, time always flies when presenting I find. The other two teams did great too! One presentation was about supporting people working at home, and the other was on development days, to support staff in understanding each other and to collaborate effectively!

R&R Walks Presentation Graphic, Rural+Urban, experience the 5 senses,1 stick person saying "I love walking" another stick person responding "Glad you joined!"


I have to say the 2 day course was very enjoyable, Chris and Claire were great at keeping it engaging! The tasks were all interesting and really made me think and work through a problem in ways I haven’t done before, certainly wasn’t taught like this in school! Everyone taking part was really involved and seemed to be enjoying themselves, and I’m happy I was able to further my knowledge on Service Design.

I plan to use the tools I’ve learned to improve my job with social media marketing at the SDA, and I’m glad I was able to attend this!

For those interested in looking at our courses, there’s a link to the courses page below!

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