Matias Ferrero
Leonie Hesse

Global Service Jam at Fjord Berlin

Last weekend Fjord Berlin hosted the Global Service Jam, a global event with over 1200 jammers from all over the world taking part at the same time. The GSJam invites practitioners from diverse backgrounds to come together for 48 hours of pure creative thinking, making strangers become friends and transforming ideas into tangible prototypes.

I talked to our colleague Matias Ferrero, interaction designer at Fjord Berlin and one of the five co-organizers, about this exciting and insightful experience.

Global Service Jam–What is it?

At a jam musicians meet, improvise and play music. The Global Service Jam is the same thing: People that don’t know each other get together to create something in a short period of time. They have only 48 hours to go from brainstorming to actual functioning prototypes for services based on a secret challenge that is revealed on Friday evening, at the start of the event.

To onboard the participants to the mindset of truly free and collaborative thinking, Mauro Rego gave 8 tips in a kick-off keynote. As we want people to focus on the doing, there was a learn-as-you-go mentality. Each exercise had a quick three-minute introduction that could then be directly used and applied. The whole idea is to share and learn from each other. Globally everyone uploads their process and ideas as well as their final demos under Creative Commons – free to share and use by all participants.


What was the secret?

The secret topic was a sound. A “blub”, like the noise an object makes when it falls into water. And that was it.

What did the people make out of it?

They chose very interesting areas to work on. From a flying barista service for the S-Bahn, to a home styling service for new-Berliners with empty flats, to a Pfandflaschen (bottle recycling) service, combining brand recognition, charity and a platform for artists.

Sounds like they focused on public space and social issues…

There is no overarching topic for the Global Service Jam. There are jams with a very specific focus like the sustainability and the government jam. In our case it was very free, but of course the participants bring in their backgrounds and everyday-lives. Berliners are quite aware of people who gather bottles in the streets to make money, so that was a very strong concept.

GSJAM sketch

What was your role?

I am a co-organizer in a team of five. We come from different companies and met at a design community event, having a beer at betahaus. The GSJam has been taking place since 2011, but the original team wanted to hand it over. So we said: Let’s do this! We got together that same night and for the past one and a half years I have met up once a week with these four wonderful guys to make this happen.

You are pretty active in the community. Tell me more about it.

The service design community in Berlin is small, but cozy. And it is growing. Within the community it is really important to share, rather than to preach from the top of a stage. At the end of the day, we all work together. For me, being active in the scene means that I get to see other points of view, to learn from others and to share experiences, getting to know people with similar interests and tastes and in the end making friends.

What was the biggest learning for you? What do you take away from the GSJam?

Organizing is quite a tough job, but when the participants demo their prototypes at the end of the event, all the hard work pays off. Seeing that there are so many amazingly talented and open people, that you can create anything with if you have the mindset to do so, was a great experience. I realized that if you approach this with an open mind, a free spirit and put all your energy and your heart into it, you can do something really amazing in only 48 hours.


What makes that particular situation special?

It’s a different spirit! When you are at work, there are a lot of things that are not part of the creation that affect the overall process and result. Those things are realities, our business, our politics, our stakeholders. For the creative process this is not always helpful. To come up with truly innovative ideas, you need some space to think without the boundaries of the contemporary feasible and–let’s say– ignore some of the realities that are limiting your ideas. Throughout this weekend we ideated around the ideal result. That way we can really come up with solutions that push the boundaries. It produces really cool stuff, but you need to be willing to be free when thinking. The context of the GSJam tells you that it’s all good, it’s all free. That’s the right context for creativity.

Who was there?

We were five organizers, all service designers, interaction designers or design thinkers, seven wonderful coaches, project managers, a product owner, a coach of coaches, who helps design thinking coaches to coach and facilitate. And of course the 35 participants were really interesting as well: Amongst them a couple of designers, developers, some students and a neuroscientist. To have the point of view from a science or developer perspective was great, as it produces questions others wouldn’t think of. I also really appreciated the Fjordian support by Jennifer, who engaged as a coach and Anne and Mike, who also participated.



Matias Ferrero
Leonie Hesse

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