Tenny Pinheiro is one of those people who seems to be doing just about everything, all the time. He’s a web engineer, game programmer, visual designer, service designer, and serial entrepreneur. He published Design Thinking Brasil in 2012, and then went on to write the practical guide to Service Design Sprints, The Service Startup: Design Thinking Gets Lean, back in 2014. Before that, Tenny founded the Latin American branch of Livework, one the first Service Design agencies in the world. Recently, he launched his newest start-up venture, an innovative team chemistry building app called Kinds.
We were lucky enough to secure an hour of Tenny’s time in June, right before he joined Facebook Reality Labs, and hear some of the wisdom he’s gained over a long and ever-changing career in product and service development. He shared a lot of great insights with us, so we’ve broken down the topics as follows:
- Beginnings in Service Design
- From Digital to “Real”
- The Service Design Sprint
- Culture and Service Design
- Challenges in Service Design
- Explaining Service Design
- The Future of Service Design
This one’s a long one, but I promise it’s worth it– now let’s dive in!
Beginnings in Service Design
Neuromagic: So, how did you first get involved in Service Design?
Tenny: It’s an interesting story because Service Design kind of happened to me instead of me trying to pursue it directly. I started my career as an interactive designer coding and designing games and user interface using Flash. When I was 23 years old, I moved to Angola, Africa. I went over there to start working on projects that were related to the reconstruction of the basic infrastructure for their country. I thought it would be a lot of digital stuff that I would be planning and creating, but it turned out to be a lot of physical services. They didn’t have these physical services– when you went to a hospital there was no process to check people in. So I wanted to start with the digital stuff, but I ended up having to wait and go back a little bit to make those services first credible in the real world, then move them to the digital. That was when Service Design happened to me.
From Digital to “Real”
Neuromagic: So you had to move from digital design into the “real” world?
Tenny: Well I had to make user interviews more like, “hey so how do you pay your phone bill right now?” Instead of just, “show me the screens where you go” it would be more like “Can I follow along with you when you are going to the bank physically waiting in line?” So it was a lot of process analysis of what they have right now, which wasn’t much, and a lot of process design to make sure this service is delivered so that people are comfortable with it, and they also understand it.
A lot of these modern things that people wanted to throw on the population were way, way, way further than what people were able to cognitively comprehend based on the experiences that they had on a daily basis. So it was more like, not only how can we design those services, but how can we teach people how to use it. That was one of the things that inspired the “learn, use and remember.” mentioned in my book.
How do people learn? How do people use something on a daily basis? Are they comfortable with it? Is it a crappy experience? Were they expecting something else based on their mental models? Am I reinventing the wheel here?
I also had to consider how people remember or talk about the experience… How can I design it in a way that people will talk about it, and they will know how to talk about, what to talk about it, and whom to talk to about it with?
The Service Design Sprint
Neuromagic: How did you come from this experience to creating the Service Design Sprint?
Tenny: Even when I was in Angola, I was always driven by need rather than process. That was my practical approach. I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life and even then when I was in Africa discovering how to do those physical services, my drive was to ship it, my drive was not to figure out the process and draw it on a huge board or something, my drive was like, how can I get this out? Even though I was touching the theory and trying to learn from it, I was always adapting to reality.
After joining a large agency, I saw a discrepancy between the way we work with huge clients and the way we work with small clients, and I think my DNA is more on the start-up side, so I jumped right into it. I studied lots and lots and lots of the MVP stories just to figure out exactly where we could add value. Because one of the things that I hate the most is just pushing out one more methodology, one more method, giving another name to the sameness that we have already.
So I was like okay, if I’m putting out something, it can’t just be one more method, it has to be something like a supplement that can really work together with things that are out there, and mainly, it has to be worth it. It has to be really helpful. When I was writing the book [The Service Start-Up] I was already packing to come to Silicon Valley. It was my last year at LiveWork and I was ready to get back at my roots of being an entrepreneur, so I was thinking about that a lot. It was a combination of the lessons I learned in Africa, this practicality thing, and lessons I learned at LiveWork. That’s where the Service Design Sprint came from.
Culture and Service Design
Neuromagic: You’ve worked in many different countries, I know you are originally from Brazil, and now you are living in California– have cultural environments had any effect on your Service Design practice?
Tenny: There are different levels of [design] maturity depending on the country or culture. I will mention the LiveWork experience because we created the market from scratch, we had to teach people. Back then in Brazil there was not much education about Design Thinking, and Brazil is not a country that has a very strong product industry. When you have a very strong product design industry, the design process is more widespread and because there are similarities and you can drink from it.
If you have a country with this product design culture, when you talk about prototypes you’re not scaring anyone, because people were, like, “okay, I get it.” So, maybe you have to explain to them that prototypes for a Service will be a little bit different, but you don’t have to explain the value of a prototype. Over there, we had to. We had to explain everything, even the value of a prototype. So level of design maturity really affects the way I work with clients, more than any cultural differences.
Challenges in Service Design
Neuromagic: What challenges have you faced using the Service Design Sprint and other Service Design methodologies?
Tenny: I think that again, it comes down to what is the culture of the customer and how evolved they are when it comes to design because some clients like Facebook, for instance, they created the “like” functionality overnight doing like, a hackathon over pizza. But that’s a bunch of creative people working together, that creativity is in their culture, which may be very different from an old banking company, right?
You can throw 35 nights of pizza on bank executives and the like button is not going to show up. Not because people are stupid but because people have their heads in another lane, they are not doing the type of creative work, they are not used to having that muscle, to work that muscle. They would have to probably use a tool like the Time Machine* to walk them through the process, review a lot of data with them, and then they would be like, ok “I see the patterns, I can walk through them, and I can probably now deliver ideas with more confidence.”
That’s what the design process is supposed to be, it’s supposed to be a guide to frame a little bit and give you a way to absorb different angles without you having to struggle to come up with those angles again and again because that would be exhausting.
* Time Machine is a service design exercise where participants are asked to think about the past and future of the problem they are faced with or the product/service they are trying to develop, in order to warm up the mind for ideation. First, we write sticky notes describing past solutions for an issue, then do the same describing the future.
Explaining Service Design
Neuromagic: Do you ever have difficulty convincing people of the benefits of using Service Design? Especially when you were bringing Livework to Latin America?
Tenny: It comes down to education and patience. Also, not chasing people, and having them buy from you without really understanding what they bought. Then there’s a horrible experience for both parts, because you’re trying to sell value that people don’t recognize, you know? It comes down to getting people educated, getting them to perceive the value of service design, and going from there, slowly building the business with them.
When you are creating things, the eye of a service designer is going to improve the final product. Compared to a competitor that is just diving head first into digital techniques, it’s going to result in something different. It’s also worth it because you won’t have to redo things, you don’t have to go over down the road where there is this use case that was never thought of and now has to be implemented and is now going to cost much more money. The power to anticipate things, I think, is at the center of the unique selling proposition for Service Design. So that is what I emphasize.
I tell people, with service design, we are anticipating issues. We can avoid having to deal with issues when they are very expensive to deal with, and not create things that people are not going to really value. Those unnecessary things would be like, sitting over there, in the app, on the website, nobody clicking on it, you know? So this is really important because as soon as you sit to code, then time flies. That’s when time is really consumed, like, at a crazy rate. And not in the design process, not when we are sprinting and doing interviews. So I try and make this clear.
The Future of Service Design
Neuromagic: What do you see in the future for Service Design?
Tenny: I think service design needs to be decoupled from being a thing in itself, and needs to be more oriented into how it can help. For instance, companies saying “ok, so maybe we should stop right now and using the lens of service design, we should look at this product and see where we can add value.” That’s amazing, that’s perfect, but then people go like, “in order to build this product we are going to use service design”.. It’s weird. You know, it’s weird. Because in order to build this product you are going to use so many different skills!
To borrow the example from graphic design– just because graphic design is such an established practice so it’s easier for me to correlate– if you are a graphic designer, you are a graphic designer for life. You know how to do graphic design, it’s a skill that you have, it’s kind of like an art and a skill combination that you can do, you will do forever. You may not be employed as a graphic designer, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not and that’s how I tend to think about service design.
As a professional, you have to be able to integrate different skills. We are moving forward into a realm where this is not even a discussion anymore. This is the obvious path to the future. For people that don’t want to be this very highly skilled specialized Service Designer– for people that just want to build things– Service Design should also be available, because it’s amazing. The way we think, the way service designers think about services, is very powerful. And it changed the game, you know, even here in Silicon Valley, you would be surprised how many times I just ask this simple question like, “So can we put this explanation for the product in the perspective of learn, use and remember?” It’s amazing how only this question breaks products already.
So that’s my take on it, you know. That’s why I think a one sided track is for the few, not for everybody, and we have to be able to serve everybody with service design. We have to have something that the mass can drink from.
Thanks again to Tenny Pinheiro for taking the time to join us and share his many insights on Service Design. This was a really enlightening and interesting conversation for us here at Neuromagic, and we hope you feel the same way! There are a few key points from his discussion that really stuck with us:
- Sometimes, Service Design happens to you. We know many career changers in Service Design. Service Design is so broad but also so human– it looks at the way individuals experience moments, but also at the system that creates these moments.
- Service Design is for everyone. Not everyone needs to be an expert in Service Design to use its tools and methodologies to drive their work. And it is a great tool for everyone to have access to.
- Service Design can be flexible. There is no need to build the perfect User Journey or Persona, absolutely according to any book or agency’s idea– as long as you understand the concepts, the way you employ them will vary depending on you and/or your client, and that’s okay! In fact, it’s more than okay– it opens us to a wealth of problem-solving opportunities and resources.
What are your thoughts on the position of Service Design today, and where do you think it will go in the future? Please stay tuned as we continue to discover and share more about the business innovation, Service Design, workshopping, and problem-solving from more global leaders. If you’re interested in learning more about Tenny and the different projects he’s been working check out his website.
Originally from Philadelphia, PA, USA, Elena is passionate about storytelling and designing for equity. Her current focus is on content strategy and creation, from research, to writing and photography.