Canberra Global Service Innovation Jam 2012

Jam /dʒæm/  (1) a preserve

(2) to press or squeeze tightly together

(3) to interfere with a signal

(4) to co-operatively design new solutions

A series of small square pictures placed across a blank wall, with couches and a table in the foregroundOn 24 February, 2012, people interested in service design and using design-based approaches to problem solving and creativity came together in cities all around the world as part of the 2012 Global Service Jam. In a spirit of experimentation, co-operation and friendly competition, teams had 48 hours to develop brand new services inspired by the secret shared theme – hidden treasure.

Mik Griffiths and Wayne Larkin at the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education organised the Canberra Jam. I came in the week before the event, with little experience in service design– talk about a baptism of fire! It all came off though, and we had more than 60 Canberra Jammers over the two days at the incredible Inspire Centre at the University of Canberra. The external front of a colourful building with four caucasian people standing and talking near the front entrance.

The JAM kicked off on Friday night with some fun activities, the revealing of the theme, and pizza. The free form style of the Jam, and the ability to write all over the walls at the INSPIRE centre, meant that teams got down to brainstorming right away, pizza in hand. We then went through the rapid prototyping process over the next 48 hours, from customer journey mapping, through street creding – where Jammers took their ideas to the public – to the final pitch on Sunday.

Group work was interspersed with mentor talks from leading service design thinkers in Australia including Michelle from Arup, Damian from Protopartners, Ari and Matthew from Different, Sharon from ATO, Nate from DIAC, Sarah from ANU and our amazing illustrator Gavin. It was exhilarating and challenging but loads of fun! Feedback was incredibly positive – and I’ll leave the last words to some of the Jammers – engaging, dynamic, challenging, rewarding, intense, fun, interesting, social, fulfilling, cooperative and collaborative.

Check out videos of the Jam here and here and photos, more videos and some amazing timelapse.A pile of assorted overlapping workbooks, with the page of one depicting graphically different stages of a process

All photos courtesy of Danny Munnerley – thanks Danny!

[Edited 28 March 2012 to include attribution for photos]

Posted in Events, Innovation in Practice and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Mik and Ruth are brilliant – can’t wait for this. these girls are so enthusiastic, creative and innovators!

  2. Guys,

    This getting a bit silly, epscially cause I really like what you’re doing at innovation.govspace. But your spam eater still eats anything with two links on it. So until it’s fixed we’l have to resort to communicating across blogs.

    • Simon – as per our stated moderation policy, our settings are such that any comment with 5 or more links will be put in moderation (as this is common for a lot of spam). If you want to include that many links then the comment will be let out of moderation as soon as possible during working hours.

      • That’s fine Alex,
        All we’re talking about then is a little notice, as is pretty common on most blogs, where a user would be issued with a “Thanks, you’re comment is under moderation” when they hit the “comment” button. (tends to be the best way to go, even with just one link). Most people never read the “policy”.

        No probs. We’re both just trying create a better world. All the best.
        PS. It would be nice to consider standardizing on the layout tools and policy for comments. It’s a bit hard when you have every agency doing something different. e.g. Here’s agimo’s approach.

        • Simon, as noted previously, the vast majority of comments do not go into moderation. We do not have the ability to send such a notification to the small number that are held by the system in moderation. Alex

  3. The Jam at Inspire was great. A really innovative place to collaborate. Here’s a short video of the space:

  4. Hi Simon,
    I’ve just joined the APS and I certainly haven’t been trained to hide the treasure, – in fact I think it’s the other way around, in Oz we have treasure everywhere so we don’t tend to publicise it so well! I’m glad you liked what the Jam produced – some tangible results in 48 hours is a pretty good result, and the energy, networks and skills built are still happening within the APS. You’ll have to forgive the lateness of the post – we have been planning some exciting things along these same lines so it’s been busy busy. Watch this space for news about it, and I promise it won’t take me so long to write about the next one – maybe you’d like to come along? 🙂

    • Hi Ruth,
      You’d understand that I was joking when I suggested it was part of APS training to “hide the treasure”. You’d also understand that you missed one important link when you wrote this report. This one. Without it, a reader would think you just had a talk fest. That’s all I meant. No biggie, just FYI.

      I’m just glad to see that you’re having some “open learning” going on inside (and between the hallowed walls of departments/agencies of) the APS; adding some “digital lubrication” to the sticky machinary. (as one of my UK correspondents would say ) I spend most of my time watching, and participating in, the changes in different govs (and edu systems) around the world, particularly in the EU, so innovation.govspace is going to be my domain in Oz from now on.

      BTW, you know you’d never find the COPs/learning ...

      ... groups, unless this page made it more obvious. All the best.

      • Simon,
        Despite the fact you were kidding re your comment on hide the treasure, I think you have a point about enculturation and how difficult it makes change. One of the great things about being new is having fresh eyes, right.
        Thanks for pointing out the link to the project too, and I hope all other readers check them out. I’m glad you’ll be keeping your eyes on, we love input and discussion (such as we are having now). In the end, we all know things need to change and we are working to the same goal. So keep in touch!

        • Gotta say Ruth,
          I don’t think change, whether it’s about culture or anything else, is really all that hard. It just needs a few people like your team to illustrate how things can be done, in the open, and by doing so, influence others to change their spots; utility and inclusion being the guiding principles.

          The greatest problem in all of this is to make the ‘illustrations’ easy to discover, so the habituated (less imaginative) can get to see there are better/easier ways of approaching a problem. I’m fortunate to see, from the outside, what the various people in the .gov-space are doing, I also know enough about media to see that eventually the inhabitants are going to notice how, by collaborating, they’re going to implement some standard innovative operating methods.
          E.g. Alex is now pointing to the shared spaces, which is good. But to make it plain to outsiders ...

          ... you need to point to the directory

          The next step is to consider the govspace subdomains from an outsider’s perspective. They’re/we’re still divided by their/our agencies, which is a natural response. But that just retains the existing habituations. e.g. “I’m from xxx agency, so i only look after the (xxx) govspace (sub) domain”. The real fun starts when teams start to consider things from the perspective of the domain above their usual one, and consider how duplications can be done away with, by collaborating with peers in other agencies and departments.

          In the EU it’s quite a challenge as the “domain above their usual one” is trans-National and that comes with some real language challenges. At least that’s one thing you don’t have to contend with. ¡Le deseo todo lo mejor

  5. Bloody Aussies! The worst communicators in the world.
    Well, not all of them.
    A month after the event we get a report, and buried in all the global good and bad we find this.
    If it was crap, i’d hide it too. But guys, do you realize how good this is? El dorado is 9/10 (and I’m the hardest of judges)
    Geez yu gotta dig hard in Oz. All the Treasures are so well hidden.Is that part of the APS training?

    • HI Simonfj,
      I was one of the contributors to El Dorado at the jam and pleased you liked the concept. Back at our workplace we are taking this and starting to make this come true for ourselves. It will have a two fold affect. Its an environment to help a group think through an issue, actively work through it and encourage or motivate one another to follow through. The first positive affect will be groups that can collaborate across any expanse. The second is that companies or agencies can use this as a structured means to harness group thought for productive time and outcomes.

      With regards to APS training – there is a lot more that can be done. Successive years of financial constraints, service pressures and under-staffing, I believe has resulted in less than adequate and substantial training in foundation subjects. I’ve seen that the Nordic or Scandinavian countries, UK and ...

      ... parts of the US promote actively design based methods for innovation and business improvement in a whole raft of domains. I don’t see this here as much, but the work that DIISR are doing might change that.

      I think there should be a new approach, one where courses are beyond the staple subjects. These should be ‘how to’ and ‘when to’ and ‘why you would bother to’. Rather than waiting for someone else come to the party, I thought, how can we bring about sooner a new age in thinking, cooperative working and social-business ideas that benefit a broader group of participants? Of what point is it to ask successive generations of workforce to be more effective, efficient and provide more desirable services? How can you be more innovative if you haven’t received an injection of new means of acquiring insight, understanding or ways of generating concepts?

      Many workers seldom receive any new training to be better at their current roles – lest being more innovative to break the back of complex issues. If each year passes without addition in new IP, then each year passes without any real increase in result. Yet, some managers find it exceedingly difficult to grant training or education to their workforces. Often, from my experience workers go on the usual training providers around towns usual line up of two-day $3000 courses only to find themselves too embarrassed to mention how bad it was for fear that they might not go on a token course next year. We have to break this cycle!

      Mary Ann a colleague of mine says, “You have the means to learn, why don’t you teach yourself and do it?”. If you think El Dorado is good, then consider our approach where we have developed over the years a simple thinking model that helps people approach problems, understand them and work out a meaningful way to address them. I’ve fine tuned this model and begun to extrapolate numerous pattern-forms on it, ones that can be used to approach problem situations by the formed questions you ask of it. This method also allows you to think strategically and apply a design thinking approach to it, using any tool-technique you wish.

      It has come about when I asked numerous people whether they knew of any structured way to solve problems, think creatively, facilitate ideas and how to think strategically like some management consultant. I was depressed to hear that many people I regarded didn’t have this understanding. So I went about researching, re-creating and testing this approach. It works for me and allows me to get around problems in a fraction of the time it would have earlier. The key to it is third-forces: a little bit above in contrast against a little bit below requires something to reconcile the two in order to make change. I’ll leave that bit of deep thinking for those that know what I mean.

      Some of the jammers may have seen one half of a triangle used on our wall. This helps frame ‘purpose’ against supposed problems, experienced by people in context of some happening where-ever. When ever I work with people, I never use the old brainstorming method – I use the canvas I’ve put together and practice what I preach to others. This also helps me improve the method. We used this indirectly to come up with El Dorado which is a different concept build collaboratively with Mary Ann Paytner, John Paytner and Steve Christie who are my colleagues as well. I like the concept of group think and group do and surprised myself that a beautiful reference model for design thinking can be reapplied and used with my pattern based method which I see helped shape it in the early stages of Friday night! Talk about circuitous!

      What to do with this method and the APS – well, the method is in its fourth draft and I am about to teach two operational teams within our business this as well as a graduate group in May. I also plan on using this with the El Dorado concept internally and spear head ‘micro jams’ in order to prototype the feasibility of business concepts prior to business case. As one of our risk guys said “its high risk at the early stage but that’s what you’d expect for no cost. As soon as the concepts firm up and we see the benefits, we invest more, the cost rises – however the risk decreases”. These micro jams will play a two fold affect again – one, people learn as they do on a real world agency problem. Then the organisation gets a possible solution as well and the sense that their people are fulfilled by contributing, participating and shaping outcomes.

      Its simple, straight forward and I believe effective. I think that is the new APS way. To support each other master how the future will be, and demand excellence of ourselves for the benefit of others. There is no point working for just a pay check, life is short and mindless activity is corrosive to our potential. People need to be able to meet their potential in life.

      For those that have made it this far and interested, send me an email and lets talk…I mean write!


  6. This was my first Jam and it was fantastic. The best part was working so rapidly – we were encouraged to ‘just do it’ rather than dwell on any aspect of our designs for too long. The InSPIRE Centre was an ideal place for such collaboration. Full size writable walls makes it easy to plan and adjust ideas quickly. Kudos to the team from the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education for putting the Jam together and making it such an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.

    • Thanks Nat,

      I did try and reply to you. But innovation.govspace’s anti-spamming software seems to eat everything as usual. I’m simply staggered that the guys aren’t simply moderating every comment and issuing a “thanks for your comment. It’s in the list for review”. It really is ‘interactive 101’.

      So I’ve posted to the ‘comments’ on this blog entry. This one got eaten as well, when i tried to post it. If you want to reply you might want to have this conversation over there.

  7. Great job Ruth!

  8. You also did a fantastic job Ruth. So happy to have such a vibrant and talented graduate in our team!