PSS for Dummies

By Gijs Ockeloen. Download here to find out about injecting morality into your professional life.
Gijs Ockeloen
De Volharding
Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You can mail-order a € 4,99 paperback copy at

You can download an E-reader version at

You’re no dummy, but there’s something about Product Service Systems (PSSs) that makes you feel like one. Understandably! Unlike today’s generation of digital natives, you didn’t grow up in a world where every kid managed a social network or stored music in the cloud. You are a proud, creative professional who designs REAL stuff: material goods that require top-notch design, classy ergonomics, and sharp marketing. But now people are saying that you’re a dinosaur, and on the road to extinction!When it comes to PSSs, Gijs Ockeloen used to be a dummy too. But participating in CRISP taught him a thing or two, and that’s what he’d like share with you. Creative professionals reading this book will no longer feel helpless when their colleagues start acting superior, as if they belong to a chosen few. With the help of this book, everyone can join the PSS conversation.Much of the talk about PSSs has become filled with hyped-up buzzwords such as design thinking, experience design, and co-creation, all of which has very little to do with PSSs. This book removes the buzzwords and brings out the cataclysmic transition that every creative professional should understand. It explains what a PSS is and why its arrival was inevitable. It anticipates both societal turmoil and an increasing influence of creative professionals who will become more accountable for the course of history than preceding generations. The book’s subtitle ‘Inject morality into your professional life’ warns the reader about the book’s moralising tone.

The book does not answer the question of how to design for a PSS. Only a real dummy would expect to learn how to ‘design’ by leafing through an oversized comic book. But once you start looking through a PSS lens, you will discover that a PSS is nothing new: from the moment the first hominid began chipping spearheads, products have been undergoing processes of servitisation while, similarly, services have been undergoing processes of productisation. Servitisation emerged when someone offered spearheads with some sort of warranty, instructions, or perhaps even a sharpening deal. Services predate products, as hominids must have guarded, groomed, and laboured for each other, whether by force or by choice. When tools became available, guards with spears or knives were actually productising their offering, becoming more effective than guards with nothing but their bare hands.

Products and services are placed on opposite sides of a continuum, and these extremes have been moving towards each other without anyone taking much notice. What really caught our attention was the moment when computing components became so small and cheap that they were stuck into our day-to-day products. This allowed them to generate and process information and reach out to other products. We could have noticed earlier, when mobile internet became a reality, around the introduction of the Nokia Communicator in 1996, but back then most of us were too busy designing chairs.

The question whether PSSs are good or bad is either pretty dumb or very smart. PSSs are like the weather, an autonomous development that unfolds whether we like it or not. Unlike the weather, though, we have some control over how PSSs will evolve. Some people worry that PSSs might result in a dystopian, unconscionable contract: opaque, gated, and a threat to our privacy. They probably remember how the arrival of the printing press plunged Europe into a century of war and civil unrest. Likewise, PSSs will lead to a multitude of problems because we will have to reinvent all our classic institutions: money, ownership, taxes, citizenship, mobility, and justice. We are living in lawless gold-rush frontier towns, where any local barman can grab the opportunity to bring offenders to justice according to their private beliefs. You and I may end up in jail for starting a public transport company or trading in an unofficial currency.

But as creative professionals, we can make a difference by getting in the driver’s seat. PSS for Dummies attempts to engrain a moral obligation into the minds of the creative community in order to make life on this expiring planet a little easier.

PSSs offer several opportunities to make our lives easier. The classic boundary between user and producer will enable an osmotic exchange of responsibilities and power. Asset ownership will soon be an aberration. Managing risk reduction, maintenance, and consumables will become a job for system providers. Accurate feedback on the actual use of a PSS will support a shift from mass production to mass customisation. Producing these tailor-made solutions will require more versatile production methods.

And lastly, PSSs favour a circular approach to business and production. Their proper maintenance and responsible use will be in the interest of all stakeholders. When a product’s economic life is over, all matter is expected to return to the factory’s doorstep, because the user never paid for it. The greatest benefits offered by PSSs are what they can do for society as a whole.



© Reframing Studio