A Global ‘Jam’ in Aberdeen

The Global Service Jam is a global event for people of all backgrounds to gain experience in service design techniques. In early March, in over 120 cities 3,000 participants got together to build prototypes and investigate service design.

I helped organise and run the Aberdeen Jam. We filled two units within a shopping centre with a diverse group of people from business, academia, local and national government, even students for the whole weekend.


The theme (Grow^) was announced at 6pm on the Friday. We started with a number of exercises to generate and evaluate ideas around this theme. Discussions were wide-ranging, and a variety of diverse topics were raised. The participants formed four core ideas before break-up, and headed for a few hours' sleep before an early start on Saturday.

Early prototypes – Very early prototypes.

On Saturday morning each idea was pitched by a sponsor, and teams formed around the idea. Each team had to work through the weekend to flesh the idea out and produce a prototype of the service. The first task? Create a prototype by noon and get out on the street to validate your idea.

This is the most inspiring aspect of GSJ, the focus on prototype production within the weekend. By lunchtime on Saturday all teams had a prototype produced, and were out talking to the famously resilient Aberdeen public.

More doing, less talking.


All teams returned to base with a mix of supported and disproven assumptions, ready to refine their plans. Some needed minor alteration, some required wholesale pivots. To achieve this progress within three hours of team formation is remarkable and demonstrated the value of a strong process applied with enthusiasm.

If there was one takeaway from the weekend it’s that prototyping to lead evaluation and validation work is an incredibly powerful technique, even on the first day of a new idea. Solidifying the idea in a prototype helps solidify it in your mind.


The global aspects were particularly evident on the Sunday when we had a number of Skype and Google Hangout sessions with other locations – from Dundee to Australia. All locations worked on the same theme but came up with very different projects. This helped lift energy on the Sunday for a final round of work before presentations at 3pm.


Throughout the weekend we pushed the teams to use various service design tools which seemed appropriate to their problem at that point – from a simple stakeholder identification to a full business model canvas. By the end of the weekend, teams were seeking more tools, having seen the success of the earlier ones.

My favourite question to ask through the weekend was: “So how do you sell it?”. Most teams found the production of marketing messaging, and even advertising mock-ups really helped focus ideas and accelerate progress.

The enthusiasm of the participants, from the Friday evening right through to late Sunday afternoon, was commendable. The progress that can be made with an intense, immersive, well-guided effort is remarkable.

Fifth Ring was a gold sponsor of the Aberdeen Jam.

There is a host of information about the Service Jam on their website.