Workshop on Positive Psychology and Service Design

Edite Amorim invited me to sit in on her workshop exploring the connection between positive psychology and service design. I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with this branch of psychology but Edite quickly dispelled any misconceptions about the practice and instead framed it as the study of what makes people thrive.

She and her researcher Rita Pureza facilitated an activity based on the theme of “interconnectedness,” one of the basic concepts of positive psychology. She challenged the group to identify strengths in their fellow attendees. Each participant received a set of post-it notes and guidelines to circulate throughout the room, interacting with others and jotting down first impressions which were then affixed to their target’s back anonymously. The observations didn’t need to be strictly accurate as long as they were positive and made in good faith. No criticism allowed.

The ensuing activity reminded me of team-building exercises I encountered during my time as an RA in college. The attendees mingled easily, laughing and making new connections.

According to Edite the exercise was about acknowledging others, paying attention to what’s good and filling each other’s “positive bucket.” This served as a point of departure for attendees to reflect on things they were grateful for in life and to use that insight to identify the potential for new services incorporating those values.

This workshop was the only time I observed any technical difficulties during the conference. The presentation system was offline for most of the workshop and although the conference staff eventually rigged a stop gap measure it meant that the projector was unavailable for most of the presentation. This led to Edite valiantly describing the contents of her slides for the audience to imagine. It worked surprisingly well and to my mind the graceful recovery engaged the audience more than if the slides had worked in the first place.

Edite’s workshop was concerned with exploring the intersection between positive psychology and service design. I can definitely see the overlap. Some of her photographs resembled traditional design research activities such as card sorting or affinity mapping. My impression is that, for designers, the differences would lie with the form-giving activities which follow the initial research and analysis.

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