This is why we Jam

The Global Service Jam is an annual event where people from all backgrounds gather together to design new services. This year over 2,000 people in over 100 locations around the world took part, creating 500 projects over the course of the weekend.

At a Jam we form ideas around a theme, then teams form around these ideas and work to create prototype services. Think of it like a group of musicians getting together to try out new things, to jam.

As organiser of the Aberdeen Jam I miss out on being part of a team, but I gain the ability to drop into each team to help them keep moving forward.  Sometimes this is as simple as unblocking them from a sticking point, other times it’s about showing them a new service design tool that I think may help them progress
their ideas.

Strong opinions, loosely held

A core principle of the GSJ is that you should test your ideas by building a prototype and showing it to people. The feedback helps you refine your concept. You then build another prototype, and you get out there again to show it to people. This iteration loop allows teams to make rapid progress with sound justification for every stage.

The international nature of the event is very real. There are regular video chats with other Jams through the weekend – one team even gave a full 20-minute presentation to a Jam in Finland and got some incredibly useful feedback.

Thanks to this feedback and refinement loop, all teams moved significantly away from their initial idea. They all continued to work on the initial problem, but changed their approach to solving it.

One team even ended the weekend with a project that could have significant commercialisation potential. As I write this they are testing their final prototype in the field, and are investigating options to crowd funding the project.

They’ve really adopted the 'why wait' attitude from the weekend.

Ideas are easy

Focusing on the objectives rather than the idea, and being willing to kill your ideas when they aren’t supported by the facts can be hard. The Jam really demonstrates that ideas can come thick and fast when you let them, it’s identifying the winners that counts.

So why do we Jam?

A lot of us work in very narrow areas day-to-day. As we specialise our skills we narrow the areas that we work in. We are dependent on a wide range of other individuals and organisations to support us in our projects.

One of the main joys of the GSJ is that everyone can do everything.

You come up with ideas, work on early execution and prototyping, work on usability testing, research, interviews, refinement, re-engineering, marketing messaging, sales presentations – you take part in the full life cycle of a service development in a single weekend.

This was a real eye-opener for some of the attendees. We all get used to the inherent restrictions in our day job, that friction that comes from waiting for feedback from other departments or from seeking approval. At GSJ you are the other department. You give yourself approval by testing your ideas on the public.

They can say yes or no immediately. This took some jammers time to realise – but when they did you could sense the excitement.

The key to bringing this attitude back to the ‘day job’ is to be willing to wear many hats, be willing to share ideas, and most importantly to be willing to ask questions more widely. Even when the answers might prove you wrong.

Attending a Jam gives you the inspiration and confidence to work in this way all year round. That’s why I Jam.

I’d like to forward a huge thanks to our sponsors, and the University of Aberdeen and RGU Aberdeen Business School for generously accommodating us over the course of the weekend. Thanks to all participants for their enthusiasm and hard work, thanks to JamHQ for enabling all the individual Jam locations to take part in this unique event. Roll on GSJ15. 

Fifth Ring were lead sponsor of the Aberdeen Global Service Jam this year.