The Show Business side of Service Design 1

Next weeks podcast guest, Adam St. John (aka Adam Lawrence) of Work-Play-Experience discusses the theatrical aspect of service design and how theater can play a vital role in developing your customer experience. Adam is a professional comedian, business consultant and writer with a background in psychology and the automotive industry. For years he has been using expertise gained in the world of theatre and film to help companies influence their customers. Adam St John

An excerpt from the podcast:

Joe:  Theater seems to be the convenient analogy. Is there a deeper relationship between service design and theater?

Adam:  Very much. I always say it’s not a metaphor, it’s the same thing. I really do fervently believe that. That’s my first point, again, really with the comedy. Let’s widen up comedy and talk about all kinds of show business whether it’s theater or film or music or dance or any of these things. What are they all about? They’re all about setting up a process, if you like, or a set of stimuli or a story, whatever you want to call it, setting up a sequence of events which influences somebody’s emotion and makes them feel the way you hope they will feel. It always interacts with their own experience, of course, but you’re trying to guide them along a certain emotional path. I think service design is the same thing. The experience end of it is a very clear parallel. What do I see, what do I feel, how is it presented to me? That’s very clear.

You’ve got to understand, also, theater is not just performance. Theater is a development tool. Theater is a tool which you can use to model any kind of human interaction very, very quickly, very, very cheaply, and actually quite effectively. It’s not just the performance side of theater which interests us; in fact in our work we hardly ever use performance techniques.

What we use are rehearsal techniques which is how a theater goes out there and uses the resources it has on a limited time frame asks itself a question. We have a process here. It’s a play in this case but it could be a service design, of course. It says how might this be, how might this turn out in the end, and looks at all the options of doing that in a very fast, very iterative, very full bodied ?? they use their whole body, you don’t sit down and think and rehearse, you get up and do.

That brings in much bigger emotional level as well. I think that really is a very big overlap there. We took these tools out of theater, like the rehearsal and other things we can talk about, and said let’s apply these to business processes. How can we rehearse a business process?

I just want to point out there rehearsal is not practicing something but it’s always the same. Rehearsal, again, is developmental, how might it be. Then you start getting these really, really great insights into the emotionality of things and also the options that you have open to you.

Joe:  Are we scripting everything?

Adam:  That’s a very good question because absolutely, emphatically maybe. It depends what you mean by script. I never believe in giving somebody words they have to say. As an actor, of course, I get that all the time. I have a job as acting still and then I get precise words I have to say, but it’s always up to me to interpret those. I think in a service environment customers have a very, very good nose for anything which is inauthentic, anything which is not your own words in a very simple level. We believe not in scripting a process down to the word but in exploring the ways it might be, maybe setting up a palette of options that somebody in a front line situation could use with this service and then encouraging them and helping them, again through a rehearsal process, to find their own way to make it authentically theirs and bring it to life.

There’s a tension in many people’s lives between show business and authenticity because a lot of people think show business is fake. They think it’s about a façade, about being sleek, about pretending to do something. That’s not a good understanding of actually what show business is.

I love Anthony Hopkins. Sir Anthony Hopkins, one of my favorite actors. When Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Hannibal Lector if he were pretending it wouldn’t be scary. The reason it’s scary is because he shows part of himself, something that’s inside all of us, to make that role possible.

Theater is really not about pretending to be something. It’s about choosing which aspect of you to show. It’s actually about getting better at showing who you really are and that, I think, is something service design can really use, that point of what values do we have here? How can we show those values in a controlled, conscious way to make a rock and roll experience for our customer?

Related Information:
Gamestorming for Service Design
Service Design via a Design Thinker ebook
Do you co-create value with your Customer?
A Service Design Thinking Primer