How to cook up an LSC workshop for 550 people

Nelli Myllylä • LSC Growth Hacker

The 31st of January, Finlandia hall in Helsinki was filled with 550 people from over 300 different organisations and businesses. These 550 people were about to attend Ahto’17, the biggest ever Lean Service Creation workshop. Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, and Futurice created Ahto’17 event to boost customer-centricity and innovation in Finnish business for the next 100 years.

Here we share our secret ingredients for organizing a 550-person Lean Service Creation workshop, so you can host your own Ahto! Just add 550 people, sprinkle stardust and voilà!


  • 1 Ripe and interesting topic for all to work on
  • 1 Fresh organising team
  • 65 Precooked volunteer coaches
  • 550 Hot attendees
  • 100 Sets of basic workshop tools


Preparation: 3 months                      Cook: 1 day
Ready in: 61 days

Put a ripe and fascinating topic and a fresh team into a pot. Heat and simmer uncovered.

To get 550 people to gather in one place, you need to have something interesting to share or teach. The topic is a crucial part of a successful workshop day. It needs to be something that is relevant for the attendees either in their leisure or professional life. The Lean Service Creation (LSC) methodology had attracted a lot of attention during 2016, which made it a perfect topic. LSC is the Futurice way for creating digital services. It combines lean, design thinking and user-centricity.

The core organising team consisted of five enthusiastic Futurice company culture and service design professionals: Risto Sarvas, Hanno Nevanlinna, Juha Pesonen, Eeva Raita and Nelli Myllylä. All of the core organizers were very familiar with LSC and mentoring it. Creating a huge workshop demands a core team of hard core doers and a lot of experience with the subject matter.

The team carefully cut the schedule and content to size. Preparing the interplay between the content and the schedule was very important to make the day flow well. It went through numerous iterations. Since the LSC process is so rich in content, the organizing team had to try out different versions of the schedule and different parts of the process - and then imagine how everything would work out for 550 people and 100 groups. It was, at times, challenging and stressful, but all the work and musing payed out on Ahto day. The final schedule:

The timetable of the Ahto day.

When the schedule and content were nailed down, focus was shifted to defining the business problem. Each team, consisting of 4-6 participants, received the business problem and a target group definition to make it easier for the organising team and the coaches to manage the day and what people learnt. The business problem was chosen beforehand, so that the main focus of the day could be on learning the methodology, not solving the participants' specific business problems. The business problem had to be easily understood and one that would work on for all the groups, as the defined problem lays out the ground for all the following work done during the day.

To begin with, there were at least five different business problem options on the table. The final business problem was found by trying to see the workshop day with the eyes of the attendee. The final formulation is below. Additionally, each team decided whether they wanted to approach the task from the perspective of the grocery trade, telecommunications or logistics/postal services.

The business problem for Ahto day.

The LSC Canvases were an important tools for the day (by the way, you can easily order these from Helsinki Business School’s printing service! Just call them at +358 447756008 and mention, that you want to have a set of canvases from LSC\wall_by_Futurice_1.73_ and they’ll make you one!). The structured format of the LSC process also enabled a steady and controlled progress for everybody simultaneously. The LSC handbook was also shared to each and every team at Ahto to support the activities during the day.

Prepare the voluntary coaches before putting them into the pot.

The tasty coaches are the most important ingredient of this recipe! When cooking, don’t forget this ingredient! (Big thank you to all of you!!!)

The coaches were volunteers from Futurice’s client companies, who are currently, or have been, utilising LSC in their work. Thus, they were already aware of the possible standstills during the creative process of LSC. There were all together 65 coaches present at Ahto. All of them had a partner and together they facilitated the work of four teams. The coaches were recruited by contacting Futurice’s client companies and offering the possibility to come and practice mentoring.

The organising team created a guidebook to support the facilitators in their work. The guidebook summarises the most important aspects of each canvas, provides some tips for solving unclear situations and, naturally, includes jokes! The coaches were also invited to Futurice office for a prep meeting, which included a cursory run through of the whole process. This was an important step for the organising team as well. It helped us understand in greater depth what kinds of questions and worries the coaches had. Each of the coaches received an LSC hoodie to wear on Ahto day, so that they would be easily recognisable.

Add some attendees into the pot and stir.

To cook a workshop for 550 people, you need, well, 550 people. To reach the potential crowd, utilise all the means that you feel are appropriate. Communication about Ahto’17 started autumn 2016 when the idea appeared. All the networks were utilised to let people know about the event. The customers familiar with LSC were also contacted. Social media channels, such as Futurice Facebook page and Twitter were also actively utilised for informing. Tekes also marketed Ahto through their own channels.

According to the collected feedback word of mouth was an important channel as 56% of the respondents had heard about Ahto through a friend or a colleague. Other important channels for reaching the right crowd were social media channels (26% reach) and the newsletter of TEKES (8% reach). To assure that the participating companies and individuals are able to take some of the learnings of Ahto further in their company, we recommended at least two participants from each company. Change is easier to spark together with someone than alone.

The workshop day itself offered great learnings. The beginning of the workshop and the tasks given worked well. They were very clear and easy to relate to, mainly thanks to Risto’s very clear briefing of the tasks and focus of each phase. The coaches were invaluable during this phase. They advised each group whenever necessary. The Business Goals and Limitations -canvas was also partly pre-filled for the groups, so that getting to work would be easier. The need for coaching is definitely biggest in the beginning of the day and decreases towards the end. Having enough breaks was vital to keep the energy of the attendees high the whole day. The organizing team actually had to improvise one additional break to the day, where the whole Finlandia hall was emptied and all the people were asked to go out for 15 minutes. The timetable and rhythm of the day was supported by having a huge digital timer visible the whole time, showing the time remaining for the current task.

Sprinkle stardust and workshop tools on top!

Here you have an extensive list of what tools the attendees were provided with. The material is ready for you behind the links! Go ahead and arrange one of your own! :)

  • Canvases
  • Partly prepared interview structure
  • Description of the business problem the teams were focusing on
  • Guidebook for coaches
  • LSC Handbooks
  • Altogether 50 000 post-its
  • 600 pens
  • Stickers for laptops (‘coz it’s fun and ‘coz we love stickers)
  • Empty A4s
  • Hourglasses, 1 min, 1/team. We advised every team to start every phase with one minute in silence, so that everybody would have a chance to gather their thoughts. Each team also chose an Hourglass Master from their team, who would be responsible for the time in silence.
  • Huge digital timer on the screen, displaying the time remaining for each task
  • Hoodies for coaches

Enjoy the meal!

Ahto’17 was crazy tasty and we are already brewing up Ahto’18 Yay! All feedback and ideas regarding the material presented here is more than welcome! So check out the LSC Handbook, the Guidebook for Coaches and the canvases. If you have a suggestion for a new canvas, modification ideas for the existing ones or ideas for a totally new canvases, hit us with a drawing or an email. All comments are very much appreciated. If you want to arrange an Ahto of your own, stay in touch. If there is anything we can help with, we would be glad to be there for you. :)

While waiting for the next Ahto, we want to thank everyone involved. This was something we all created together. No Ahto is an island. For good memories and summary of Ahto’17, go and check out our first video of the event!

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