Service designers love to fail

Service designers don’t believe they are experts. We’ve already covered that. But if they are not experts, it means they know that they will come up with solutions that will not work the first time they try them out. As the great writer Ernest Hemingway 👨🏻said 

“The first draft of anything is shit”

Service designers know that the first draft of whatever they create was built just to see where there is more potential 🔎. So, instead of being sad about the fact that the first draft of anything is shit, they embrace it! Service designers embrace the fact that they will need many more drafts until they arrive at something that is really usable. 

Thomas Edison is the best inspiration for that. Before he arrived at the design of a light bulb that really worked, he made about 10000 prototypes or drafts 🤯. And here is how he felt about these failed attempts to make a light bulb:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.”

Service designers have the same attitude. They consider failure as learning 🤓. Each time they fail, they investigate why it didn’t work. And knowing why it didn’t work leads to another idea of how it could work.

Mistakes are just part of the innovation process.

Mark Twain, another great writer, said:

“Name the greatest of all inventors: Accident.”

Okay, it’s quite easy to throw a quote from a smart dude and then say “This is how it works!” I admit that. But I also believe that many service designers would agree with Mark Twain’s idea. But let’s not only believe this one person. Let’s do our homework and see if there are other studies out there on the topic.

Author Pagan Kennedy in his book Inventology explored what is behind many of the inventions and innovations we use every day.

Kennedy found out that 50% of the patents in the world are the result of “serendipitous” processes—in other words, happy accidents 🤦‍♂️.

Interesting, right? A huge part of innovative ideas come from happy accidents 💡. There are countless innovations that we use today which were invented by happy accidents.

Two examples of innovations by mistake

Penicillin exists because someone forgot to clean before going for a holiday.

Alexander Fleming went for a holiday without cleaning his desk. When he returned, he had a bunch of dirty Petri dishes on his desk. Of course, as he was gone for several days most of the dishes were contaminated. 

But there was one Petri dish that grabbed Alexander’s attention. In a dish with staphylococcus, there was an area free of bacteria. This area had penicillin. Today, we still use this antibiotic that was basically a happy mistake 💡.

The pacemaker exists because someone took the wrong piece out of a box of equipment.

Wilson Greatbatch was working on a machine that recorded the heartbeat. He reached into a box of equipment and took the wrong equipment out of it: a resistor of the wrong size.

When he installed it on the circuit, the machine started to make a noise. Wilson realized that the noise that the machine was making was pretty similar to the rhythm of a human heart beating ❤️.

Before this, pacemakers were the size of a TV and this tiny mistake changed the lives of numerous people around the world.

What does this mean for service designers?

If we look at this in a simple way, we could come up with the following principle:

If you want to make more discoveries, you need to make more accidents ⚡️. And to make more accidents, you have to try out more stuff.

That’s what service designer do with prototypes and this is why they love to fail.