Hooray – It’s a dead-end
Written by: Anssi Grekula
It is a dead-end. Again. Lets celebrate.
A group of students were embedded at Fjord Helsinki for six weeks to develop an unseen concept around cash. Anssi Grekula, a student in Information Networks, explains why it turned out to be something completely different.
What is it in cash that still keeps it rattling in people’s pockets despite all the cons related to it? Is there some kind of deeply human behavior that could be emulated in the digital world to provide a top-notch service experience?
The topic for this year’s Aalto Service Camp, a six-week cross-disciplinary service innovation course by Aalto University, was “My Money, Our Money”. We set out to discover and design financial services for private consumers. Our group of four students, called team Blender, decided to investigate cash, and we got Fjord to mentor us. Our teacher was a bit cautious about our thoughts, but knew that “they like big ideas at Fjord”, and let us go with our approach.
The persistent myth of the Hero Designer insists that the designer pops out brilliant ideas from the top of his head while sipping lattes in a comfy studio. However, we were taught from the beginning to go and test our assumptions with potential users, since the wisdom lies in the smart, method-based utilization of user input. Fjord’s Service Design Academy introduced us many handy tools and methods to make our work more effective and facilitate communication inside the team.
So off we went to the streets, throughout the six weeks: endless questionnaires, interviews and experiments followed each other. We went downtown to ask people to break a note for us, to see if they are ready to help a stranger and if they carry cash with them. We acted as a walking ATM to find out about people’s needs of cash. We also set up a temporary currency exchange booth for travellers to understand how people deal with their travel money.
After weeks of research and iteration, an interviewee grabbed his phone and asked how to download our very rudimentary prototype app. We knew we had struck gold.
By then we had shifted our focus from cash to an aggregate service for money exchange for travellers. The final concept was developed during the last 2–3 weeks with help from travellers staying in local hostels and people gathered in a weekly Couchsurfing event. We came to the conclusion through investigating several dead-ends: from cash on demand to (offline) peer-to-peer mobile payments to “everyone can be an ATM” to pocket money and kids’ allowance and finally to peer-to-peer currency exchange.
The result was a prototype service that helps travellers with currency exchange hassle (have a look: http://blender.instapage.com). More important than the outcome was, however, for both the students and Fjordians, the process itself: a roller coaster ride with weekly end user interactions.
Throughout the course we learned that when the right target group is found, one can get extremely valuable insights from the users. The service doesn’t need to be polished and finalized before it is shown to people outside of the development team. On the contrary, a WIP-stage prototype invites user to collaboration and is open to better and even more fundamental user feedback than a polished MVP.
Thanks to Fjord Helsinki for having us!
Team Blender: Anssi Grekula, Liza Starovoitova, Amir Meirbekov, Erik Berdonces
Fjord Service Camp coaches: Philip Lindberg, Niall Shakeshaft, Paavo Perttula, Antti Routto, Hanna-Mari Parkkinen