8 May 2018
Sabrina Doornekamp
Sabrina Doornekamp

Service design in Tokyo

Five lessons learned as a professional and a person

In January 2018 I got the opportunity to do a short project at Neuromagic in Japan. Through this project I grew as a user experience designer and as a person, I might say. With this post, I want to share the five best lessons learned. I hope I can transmit a few things to make processes of user experience methods more valuable. With the necessary knowledge of service and user experience design, I started at Neuromagic in order to share as much of my knowledge and to provide advice in service design. What are the lessons I’ve learned?

Lesson 1: Focus, focus and focus on your hobby

In Japan having multiple hobbies is considered impossible or rather strange at least. That’s why the creative lead of Neuromagic had just one single hobby: illustrating. He told me that he illustrated after his day job, before going to work, and even on weekends he spent most of his time on illustrating. This drive to spend his spare time on illustrating I found very inspiring. The lesson learned for me is that you can excel in something you get energy from. Something you also want to do beyond the regular working hours. With such an attitude you don’t mind putting a lot of time into your hobby and become experienced. You can easily absorb knowledge like a sponge and you’re able to apply what you have learned at the right moment.

Lesson 2: Listen careful to the other

This all sounds rather normal, but listening carefully happens less in The Netherlands than in Japan. It is hard to explain, but what I noticed during workshops was a certain kind of attention which eliminates distraction. If you don’t listen carefully, you might miss the message of the person at the other side of the table. This cannot only come across as rude, but it is also a pity because you probably miss half of the conversation. This lesson is connected to your listening proficiency and patience. Why is this important? People you meet at a professional level possess knowledge you might not have but might need. When interrupting someone responding to just a part of the story, you probably also miss a part of the conversation. Moreover, someone can feel not being seen and the conversation or the collaboration can be experienced as unpleasant. And that’s something nobody wants.

Lesson 3: Who are you and what do you do?

In Japan introducing yourself may come across as rather formal and ceremonial to an outsider. You actually receive a business card with two hands, listen carefully to the other person, make a bow and store/archive the card. By doing this, I became very aware of my role and the story I tell about myself. Furthermore, it opens the door to a possible work relationship with the other. The lesson I learned from this is that you always have to tell a true story about yourself, in accordance with your work activities and where you get your energy from (see lesson 1). In this way somebody will know immediately how reliable you are. This mini ceremony did not occur incidentally but took place sometimes five times a day. As a result of the created network, it would be nice when you get the opportunity to show something you’re good at.

Lesson 4: Support the process

I presented two workshops in Japan and I also attended a number of workshops. Furthermore, I had conversations with two service designers working in the Japanese service design sector. What became apparent several times, is how important it is to prepare each workshop very well as a facilitator. A Danish/Japanese service designer told me that depending on the type of client, he decides how to prepare the workshop. Is the client very conservative, then he lets hardly any opportunity for further discussion within the group. The lesson I learned from this is to always think beforehand what the results of the workshop should be, especially unwanted results. Which kind of outcome does the client expect and how should I differ from my usual workshop format to involve the client? And finally: always send the format of the workshop to all participants one day in advance, also in Europe. That takes away a lot of insecurity from the participants and creates a relaxed atmosphere which benefits the quality of the workshop outcomes.

Lesson 5: Show gratitude

Besides the fact that it’s always nice to be thanked for your effort, it’s also an easy way to show your respect. This lesson I will apply to future user tests. During these tests it’s important that participants feel at ease and can express their opinions freely. In these kinds of situations, the opinions of the facilitator or the interviewers are not important. When you start by saying thank you to the participants, you’re expressing that it’s not you that matters, but the participants. In this way, the interviewer is conducive to the participants. Ideally this should encourage the participants to reveal more of their thoughts.

With this post, I hope I’ve shown how important it is not only to focus on UX methods or processes. Besides the fact that proficiency in the essential UX methods is important, I believe that attention paid to the human dimension benefits the outcome of these methods.

About the author

Sabrina Doornekamp (/sdoornekamp) is user experience designer. She has a background in graphical design. Together with her study digital culture provides this the basis for her interest in digital systems and their users. Sabrina believes that collaboration and communication are important parts of the design process.

Events (26), Service design (42)

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