4 Service Design Methods for L&D Professionals

The nature of workplace learning is undergoing a shift. Organisations are starting to recognise that simply delivering conceptual knowledge doesn’t necessarily yield results. Rather, the function of the L&D should be to facilitate performance by solving business challenges and helping the people succeed in their jobs. And as we go more and more into learning in the workflow, and integrate learning activities to our daily jobs, we need to update our toolbox as well. Packaging information with instructional design techniques is no longer enough. If we want to truly make an impact on performance, we need to get much deeper into it. And that’s where different service design methods, such as design thinking, may come in handy. Here are 4 service design tools for L&D and how you can use them in practice.

1. Service Safaris

Service safaris are explorations. Participants are asked to go out and explore examples of both good and bad services. You can narrow down the field of services to e.g. the same sector as the organisation, or it can be an open field. This is an easy way to put the participants in the shoes of the end-users, and get to experience things from their viewpoint.

In L&D, this service design method can be similarly handy. You can set people out to learn about different kinds of learning experiences, what works and what doesn’t. This first of all helps you define what are the critical elements of a good learning experience overall and in a particular context. Secondly, this also opens you up for small scale learning innovations. As you’ll experience the problems of the end-users first-hand, you are much better positioned to come up with novel solutions to solve them!

2. Shadowing

As a service design method, shadowing involves the designers immersing themselves in the lives of the customers (or end-users). The aim is to observe behaviours, practices and experiences, without being obtrusive. Of course, documentation is important, for which text, photos or video can be used. Immersing oneself in the real environment enables the designer to document problems that others may not recognise. Furthermore, spending time “at the front line” is often the only way to develop a deep understanding on how things operate.

This service design method provides L&D another avenue to understanding the workflows of the learners, and thus gaining insights on how to provide learning opportunities within them. This is especially helpful when designing performance support resources and delivery.

3. Contextual Interviews

Contextual interviews are a good method of collecting qualitative, user-driven information. The interviews always take place in the environment or context of the service or process in question. This helps to provoke more in-depth discussion, compared to e.g. conventional focus groups. As the interview happens “on the spot”, the interviewees are also more likely to remember specific details. People may also be more comfortable in communicating their own thoughts when they are in a familiar environment. It’s often beneficial to document these interviews with audio or video.

When it comes to service design for L&D, contextual interviews work well in understanding how employees interact with learning, whether it’s in the workflow or as a separate activity. These kinds of qualitative insights can be used to validate quantitative data as well.

4. Co-creation

Co-creation, in its fundamental, is at the core of the whole service design philosophy. It’s about involving different groups of stakeholders and collaboratively examining and innovating an experience. However, organisations should be wary of challenges related to participants’ fears of e.g. speaking up or disagreeing with a boss. Unless these kind of challenges are overcome, co-creation will only have limited efficacy. In general, co-creative approaches tend to bring a variety of benefits, e.g. increased ownership of the concepts created.

In L&D, this service design tool can be used in a number of ways. For instance, you can use it to develop strategy, new work practices or training needs analysis. Additionally, co-creative methods can extend all the way to the execution as well. For instance, smart use of user-generated content at the development phase can help to alleviate a lot of the output pressure of the L&D team.

Final words

Overall, service design methods can prove very beneficial to any modern L&D practitioner. They enable one to identify real problems and points-of-need, design more effective learning experiences and support performance in ways that conventional instructional design cannot. In the end, the better L&D can understand its business, people and their problems, the better learning impact it can deliver. If you’d like to explore designing learning in a new way, but feel you may need additional support, feel free to reach out to us. We can help you implement service design principles within your L&D, or demonstrate the effectiveness of these methods in practice.

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