CTF blog: The service concept for the innovation of meaning2020-04-07
Innovating the meaning of services means dealing with the vague and intangible nature of meanings: companies risk not being able to transfer them from the strategic to the operational level. By leveraging the main characteristics of the innovation of meaning, our research provides a new concepting technique to keep service development teams aligned on the new meaning conceived.
What is innovation of meaning?
The innovation of meaning is a framework that aims at innovating the “reason why” people use a product or service. Taking the example of Wii, which was launched by Nintendo in 2006, the company innovated the meaning of game consoles: from providing a virtual world in which to play as a way to escape reality (typical of their competitors, Microsoft and Sony), to providing a virtual space that is an extension of the reality and enables people to play with friends in the real world. Thus, they changed the reason why people play with game consoles, providing new meaning to customers.
The problem of alignment in the innovation of meaning
Meanings are intrinsically vague and subjective, and it is likely that different people would interpret meanings in different ways. For this reason, meanings require visualizations to be effectively shared among teams, reducing the risk of misinterpreting them. In design studies, the organizational task of maintaining alignment on the meaning at a strategic level is given to metaphors and images. Through those tools, people can refer to the meaning envisioned, reducing the risk of strategic misalignment. However, metaphors are not useful anymore when it comes to service development. Development teams need to produce concepts and practical solutions to translate the strategic meaning into elements of the new service. Being distant from practice, metaphors and images would give limited insights on how to do it. In consequence of that, the service designed is often only incrementally innovating some features, instead of proposing new meanings to customers.
The moment of meaning as a new technique to foster alignment and scalability
In our study, we understood the need of creating a concepting technique that would combine the descriptive power of traditional service design tools (customer journeys, blueprints), with the symbolic function that metaphors and images play at the strategic level. In other words, we envisioned a concepting technique that would function as a metaphor for the service at a practical level. Abstract enough to embody a symbolic function, practical enough to guide service development.
In our article, we proposed what we called “Moment of Meaning”: the design of a single interaction during the customer experience. This interaction, or moment in the experience, should be the practical translation of the new meaning into a part of the solution. It is intended to be an example of how the meaning can be translated into practice, allowing for a reduced risk of misinterpretation of the meaning by development teams. In turn, the definition of a single meaningful moment would also allow higher scalability of the new service concept. New services can be tailored to the different contexts by starting from keeping the moment of meaning as a pillar for the new customer experience.
The Moment of Meaning works by defining a cornerstone: a highly designed interaction that perfectly embodies the meaning conceived. In this way, companies can control the effective implementation of the meaning in the solution, while adapting the service system to contextual and individual factors.
Artusi, F, Bellini, E. (2020) Design and the customer experience: The challenge of embodying new meaning in a new service. Creativity and Innovation Management, pp: 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1111/caim.12364
PhD Student in Innovation Management, Politecnico di Milano, Italy