Product as a Service

How might we create a preferable future narrative for services having custodianship of products that benefits the businesses, people & planet?

Geared towards creating a speculative narrative for Product as a Service (PaaS) as a preferable business model for a circular economy, I took the speculative design direction.

Extrapolating the strategy of Product as a Service on the scale of TIME might lend us a future roadmap of a circular reality. Under the lens of preferable future for PaaS, we can filter what we want to see happening and what we don’t want. Speculative design is an incredibly useful design tool for social dreaming while addressing bigger issues in the world.

I planned an online Participatory Design Workshop considering speculative design tools as engagement exercises and chose to include the voices of industry experts in – Technology, Design & Business. This workshop was designed for speculating the future scenarios where businesses will have the custodianship of products. The aim was to co-speculate the transition of the economy from a linear-product based model to more circular-service-based. In particular we looked at how a Product as a Service (PaaS) business model will look 30 years from now, discovering together while rethinking the ownership model for a more circular economy.

In order to compose imaginable future scenarios, envisioning the ‘Product’ as ‘Services to be used/performance’ is the first step. Considering Hygiene products will be transitioned as a service in the next few years, the participants delved further into enquiring its production, consumption and impact in the next 30 years. This exercise revealed some thoughtful insights such as an aspiration of a preferable future with zero waste production, strong directives & regulations, and scope for innovation in bio-design. This timeline also indicated the not-so preferred directions which needs to be considered as the challenges for example water crisis impacting hygiene, another pandemic related to hygiene, impact on animals leading to their extinction, as well as the uncontrolled filling up of landfills.

A complex scenario comes with multifold consequences. Future Wheel is a great tool for widening the perspective and extending the ability to map and recognize these repercussions. The participants were asked to study this future wheel for PaaS which I had extrapolated and further pin point the unintended consequences which they could speculate in the future.

By this time the participants had a heightened sense of understanding about speculating ‘Hygiene products as a Service’ and the repercussions of it for people, businesses and environment. The next engagement tools enabled the participants to speculate a future narrative with an ‘I’ statement.

Desire for a better, kinder and greener future motivated the participants to define the roadmap for ‘Product as a Service’, engraving some key expectations into its framework, elaborating these aspirations for a preferable future for ‘hygiene’ as a service.



Product as a Service

Product as a Service (PaaS) is a circular economy strategy that enables the producers to sell the use or performance of the product as a service, thus providing a stronger incentive as owners of the product to prevent loss by minimizing waste. Reverse logistics, Life Cycle assessment (LCA) and digital revolution play the key roles in mobilizing the circularity of materials and resources in the system where the producers retain the ownership of the product.

Value based scales

While evaluating the business model of ‘Product as a Service’, I came across many questions which I could map against the three major scales of value that this transition might raise. Since the PaaS business model is still at its nascent state, it is essential to speculate its impact on the economy, society and the environment in the long term. While brainstorming the consequences of PaaS for this project, the question raised here helped me to hypothesize the context more holistically.

Reimagining Future Scenarios

The first engagement tool made the participant to reimagine the products around them as a service and collectively vote for the one that they think is relevant in the next 30 years. The participants mutually agreed on the fact that hygiene products are lacking in innovation, are a major source of waste which goes into landfills, and lack a sense of responsibility from both the user and manufacturer’s end.

Factoring Time

This engagement tool was a timeline which questioned how they foresee the ‘Hygiene’ as a service in the near future. The participants were asked to reimagine the future of their selected service, mapping them against the following two questions: What you want to see? What you don’t want to see?

Future Wheel of Unintended Consequences

Discovery and mapping the consequences of the phenomenon of ‘Product as Service’ as the main driver of the economy. I have used the Future Wheel mapping strategy to demonstrate various orders of consequences and the relation between them. This wheel helped me to see the emerging intended and unintended consequences in a future scenario when Paas is implemented across different industries and businesses. Mapping the consequences in the order of magnitude is highly instrumental in speculating and widening the perspective around PaaS.

Preferable Future Statement

The speculated narrative presented towards the end of the project illustrates the future roadmap for ‘Product as a Service’ with few proposals for businesses to implement while ensuring a favorable impact on the economy, society and environment. A key indicator of progression towards a circular economy.