A customer journey map helps you see the grand design of your service as well as isolate individual features.

A stakeholder map isn’t the only tool that can help you see the big picture of your service. There’s also a tool called the customer journey map that works as a great visual aid for service designers.

A customer journey map can be created by listing and connecting all of the touchpoints and interactions that you make with a customer.

Here, it’s important to reach out to customers and ask them about their experiences to make sure you get each and every part of their journey. After all, they’re the real experts.

So, for your barbershop, did you note the very first interaction, when they noticed your service online? How was their next experience, when they made their appointment over the phone? What happened once they arrived at the shop? Did they find the location easily? Did they like the coffee and magazines that were offered? And were they happy with the haircut and payment options?

These are just a few of the possible interactions that can make up a customer journey map, and when you visualize all these touchpoints in a timeline, they can provide valuable insight, as well as opportunities for improvement.

Let’s say that your number one complaint is that customers feel like they have to wait too long to receive service. They don’t appreciate having to sit around while you make coffee and sweep the floor in between customers.

With the help of a customer journey map, you could easily figure out how to improve their experience and change some of these individual touchpoints. And since the map presents the full picture, you’ll know how a change might affect the other interactions to which they’re connected. So maybe you need to hire another member of staff to sweep and make coffee, allowing you to see customers earlier.

In this way, a customer journey map is a tool for seeing both the big picture and each of the individual touchpoints, which is necessary if you’re going to successfully improve your service.

Whether you’re hoping to make a big improvement or just a small one – like redesigning your website – a customer journey map will show just how that improvement will affect all the other aspects of your service.

A stakeholder map is a great way to avoid and solve problems.

You’ll remember that the third principle of service-design thinking is to make the process co-creative and to consider input from all stakeholders. But sometimes this is easier said than done.

A stakeholder map, the first tool in the toolbox, can obviate confusion.

A stakeholder map provides a visual representation of every stakeholder that is involved with your service. It shows every manager, marketer, government agent and employee.

You can generate this map by making a thorough list that includes every possible stakeholder along with a notation of what that stakeholder’s relationships is to the service and to all other stakeholders.

You can then draw lines and use symbols to illustrate those connections, making a visual guide that allows you to fully grasp the complexity of your service.

The map can also use circles of influence, centered around a bull’s-eye. The closer a stakeholder is to the bull’s-eye, the more influence the stakeholder has.

A stakeholder map was of great help when the service-design company DesignThinkers was working with the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. Specifically, they were working with the NL Agency, a troubled department that was in charge of a policy aimed at building better relations between the government and international business.

DesignThinkers was hired to help the NL Agency reach their goals, and they used a stakeholder map to help figure out why the agency was running into problems. The map was a great asset. It allowed the team to consider the complex relationships between all the businesses and government agents and how they affected the work.

The map made it clear why the agency was mired in conflict and confusion: the managers were spending too much time dealing with confused staff that were trying to follow agency orders as well as those from the influential outside forces.

This allowed the NL Agency to refocus on what was truly important: the customers, businesses and educational institutions that the agency was designed to help.

Use things such as souvenirs to extend the service, and think holistically to find new ways of improving.

Now that we’ve covered the first three principles of service design let’s turn to the last two – evidencing and holistic thinking.

When designing a service, it’s good to think of a tangible item, or physical evidence, for your service. This is something that can prolong the service and act as a reminder for a customer after they’ve used the service – a sort of service souvenir, if you will.

Tourists and travelers bring home evidence from their trips in the form of coffee mugs, snow globes or postcards that depict the places they’ve been, whether it’s a hotel, the French Riviera or Niagara Falls.

Your service souvenir should function similarly. It should extend the experience into a post-service period and remind your customers of the great time they had, thus increasing the chances that they’ll become return customers.

Finally, to help you see the complete, big picture of your service, it’s time to take a holistic approach.

So far, we’ve mostly covered methods to help you see every tiny detail of your service, the goal being to overlook nothing. But it’s just as important not to get lost in the details and fail to see the grand design.

For example, you might be thinking a lot about what people see – but don’t forget what they hear, smell and even taste while interacting with your service. All of these senses can ultimately play a part.

Going back to the barbershop, customers are sure to be affected by the interior design, so rather than having harsh colors, you might want to choose a calming pastel.

Thinking holistically will also help you see the potential for alternative sequences that could improve how the service begins, ends or unfolds.

For instance, what if there was always a pot of freshly brewed coffee in your barbershop? Customers would not only have the option to enjoy a cup; the fresh brew would also fill the shop with a pleasant aroma. Talk about making a good first impression.

Now that we’ve covered the five principles of service-design thinking, it’s time to break out the toolbox.

Successful service design uses a co-creative environment as well as sequencing to catch all the tiny details.

When creating and designing a new service, it’s important to involve not only customers in the process but other stakeholders as well.

This brings us to the second principle of service design: it should be a co-creative process.

A stakeholder is anyone who’s involved with the service – including managers, marketers and engineers, as well as possible private organizations and governmental agencies. Of course, customers can also be counted as stakeholders.

All these people should have a direct or indirect say in the creative process of service design since they all play an important role in the successful development, operation and usage of the service.

If providing a public-transportation service, you’d need to cooperate with an array of individuals: government officials to make sure you adhere to regulations, engineers who could confirm that your buses are safe and perhaps a marketing firm to promote the new service.

These are just a few of the people you might need to consider for your co-creative environment. The purpose of such an environment is to ensure that all your stakeholders’ needs are accounted for, which shouldn’t be seen as a burden since each stakeholder has the potential to contribute valuable expertise and ideas.

The third principle of service design is sequencing, that is, the sequence – or timeline – of providing a service.

You can think of sequencing like a movie. Every movie is made up of a series of still frames that, when put together and played in sequence, tell the story of the movie.

As all movies are composed of a sequence of still frames, all services are composed of a sequence of touchpoints or interactions; when put together, they form the complete service.

Sequencing is helpful because it allows you to break down each step of the user experience – all the interactions, all the touchpoints – to get a detailed overview.

Details that might otherwise be overlooked often get caught in the sequencing process. For instance, if you were opening a new barbershop, a service-design sequence will make it clear that the floor needs sweeping between each customer, and that you should provide things, such as magazines or TVs to keep customers comfortable if they arrive early.

Service design should revolve around customers, while keeping in mind their potential differences.

What is service design? Well, there’s no single definition; it’s an evolving and interdisciplinary approach that combines multiple methods and tools to design new services.

However, there are five common principles that most everyone agrees on.

The first is that the process of service design should be user-centered. Or, to put it another way, when designing a service, the customer should be treated as a crucial piece of the process.

Unlike a physical product, a service is a process – an interaction between the service provider and the service user, the customer. So any successful service will recognize the customer as a central part of the process.

For instance, let’s look at a public transportation service, such as a bus. This is a valuable public service that benefits countless customers; the service would be of little value, however, if the bus didn’t stop at and travel to locations convenient to these customers.

Okay, so what if you’re trying to design a successful service of your own. There’s one pitfall, in particular, to be wary of: an overreliance on quantitative data, such as statistics.

Statistics are undoubtedly a great source of information, especially for discovering popular trends, such as when during the day people are most in need of a bus, but this isn’t enough to provide a valuable service.

Let’s say there are two people with very similar traits. They’re both married and financially successful men, they’re both around 70 years old, and they were both born in the United Kingdom. But based on these statistics alone, you wouldn’t know which one is Prince Charles and which one is Ozzy Osbourne, and it goes without saying that these men are quite different from one another.

This should remind you that no two customers are exactly alike. Each one has a culture, a set of habits, a range of motivations. If you want to fully understand your customer base, you can’t underestimate these differences; this qualitative information must be considered in combination with statistics in your efforts for a successful service design.

A good design thinker always asks, “Why?” and is willing to take her ideas to the masses.

Much to the chagrin of parents, children always ask, “Why?” even about the simplest things.

Discovering and trying to understand the world from their own developing perspective, children are always looking for insight that will help make sense of what they’re seeing and experiencing.

Similarly, a good design thinker always asks, “Why?”

Such questioning allows us the opportunity to reframe a problem, understand its constraints and use the information to find a more innovative solution.

Instead of accepting the world “as it is” because “it has always been thus,” we should ask whether a current solution to a problem is the optimal one, or indeed whether we’re even addressing the right problem in the first place.

Before organized agriculture, humans gathered fruits and vegetables from near and far. This exhausting, sometimes fruitless task was simply the way things were done for thousands of years.

Eventually somebody asked: Why do we spend so much time wandering around for food when we know that plants grow from and also produce seeds? By asking this simple question and using it as a springboard for innovation, agriculture, and thus civilization, were born.

But good design thinkers aren’t satisfied with just having discovered a solution to a problem. Rather, they want to share their ideas in the hopes that the ideas will be built upon by other innovators.

It’s easy to get possessive about ideas. After all, we’ve put so much time and energy into them that we start to see them as parts of ourselves. Thus we try to monopolize the development of our ideas and bar others from tinkering with them.

But this is terrible for innovation! If an idea is shared freely, it will quickly improve – and that’s a situation in which everybody wins.

Smart teams and an inspiring work environment are the basis for successful innovations.

Google has pink flamingos and inflatable dinosaurs. Pixar has beach huts. Start-ups all over the world have “chill-out” lounges and ping-pong tables.

Such perks are the marks of creative company cultures. However, you don’t necessarily need a beach hut or a comfy sofa to create an environment that fosters innovation.

Innovation happens when an organization supports experimentation and accepts failure as a part of life.

When people are afraid to try new things, no breakthroughs will happen. People won’t dare to develop or test ideas for fear of the consequences of failure.

New ideas require an environment where failure – and thus learning – is an acceptable step on the road to innovation.

Innovation too requires the right kind of team. Specifically, collaboration in diverse, interdisciplinary smart teams helps to unlock an organization’s creative powers.

Any project requires input from as many people as possible, including designers, engineers, marketing managers and so on. Bringing all these people together at the beginning as part of your smart team allows you to capitalize on interdisciplinary thinking.

Indeed, designers will offer different ideas, perspectives and insights than accountants or software engineers will, but their ideas are no less viable or relevant. It’s important to incorporate these ideas as soon as possible for the sake of expedience.

Smart teams will need space to work, and companies should provide a designated space for doing so. The internet as well offers tons of possibilities for teams to work together and innovate.

One such online platform is Innocentive, where any research & development team can post a challenge, to which thousands of scientists, designers and engineers can contribute solutions.

In a physical office, however, companies should simply designate a physical space in which people from different departments can come together – away from their own private desks – to get the creative juices flowing.

Design thinking uses storytelling to make ideas and products more relatable to consumers.

Our love of storytelling starts at an early age, and stories are at least partly responsible for how we understand ideas and concepts.

Thus it should be no surprise that storytelling too plays an important role in design thinking.

Design thinkers use stories to make a product more relatable to customers. To develop a good story, a design thinker must consider how a product came into being and how a customer will use it over time.

Importantly, the storyline must involve the customer at every step, reaching as far back as the very beginning of the product’s life.

For outdoor wear company Icebreaker, this meant attaching a code to each of its garments, with which a customer could track, for example, the wool in a jacket to its source in New Zealand, even to the exact farm where the Merino sheep are cared for.

The ways in which a customer uses a product over its lifespan should also be considered when developing a story.

To sell a project that was essentially a predecessor of a modern GPS system, IDEO designers told a story about a sailor navigating from one port to the next. Each “chapter” in the story described another important problem the sailor encountered along his journey, and each solution was a feature that was to be developed for the system.

But the most meaningful stories are those which customers can write themselves. By engaging customers as active participants in a product’s story, they will be more inclined to use the product or service.

The American Red Cross used this to its advantage when it invited people to share stories and motivations for donating blood – a mother’s life was saved thanks to a blood transfusion, for example – thus reinforcing the goal of getting donors to return.

These stories remind donors of the good that they do, and motivate new donors to contribute as well to this “common commitment.”

Think with your hands, not just with your head! 

A prototype will get your idea out there faster. Many of us played with LEGOs as children, building our own dreamworlds brick by colorful brick.

As adults, however, we do most of our inventing in our heads long before we employ our hands to realize our ideas concretely.

Yet thinking with our hands, or prototyping, is a powerful strategy for design thinkers as it can generate better results faster. By actually building an idea (with materials, rather than with only our minds), we quickly learn its limitations and see the many possible directions we can take it.

Thus prototyping shouldn’t come at the end of the process but at the beginning!

The earlier you start prototyping, the more rudimentary your prototypes will be. But consider that a ball from a roll-on deodorant and a plastic butter dish was all it took to prototype Apple’s first mouse!

Once you have a prototype, you should put it out in the real world and observe how people use it.  This way, you can quickly discern whether it “works” or how people actually would use it.

When T-Mobile started social groups via mobile phones, for example, the company launched two prototypes simultaneously and observed how users interacted with each. Thus the company was able to get a deeper understanding of which solutions customers found more compelling.

The reason prototyping is so powerful is because it occupies all three spaces of innovation at once.

It is always inspirational, in that using and observing a prototype gives birth to new ideas and potential improvements. Playing with a prototype is a way to test and develop your idea. In other words, it fits solidly in the ideation space.

And prototyping demonstrates the viability of an idea, showing that it can actually work and that it belongs in the marketplace, discoveries that live in the implementation space.