After a hectic first month, our first design sprint is complete! We’ve made a lot of progress since our last update, and so here is a summary of what we got up to:
The goal of our first sprint was mainly to gather information about our problem environment.
The first part of this was to try to determine who our target audience is. Given our work assignment (the “Winning Way of Working”) and employers (an airline company), we identified a number of potential targets within KLM:
- Office workers;
- Ground crew (engineers, controllers…);
- Flight crew (pilots, attendants…).
Our other sprint goal was to find the specific problem that needed solving. Again, using what we knew of the company, we came up with a number of interpretations of the issue:
- Work style, office culture;
- Work space and environment;
- Being overworked, and a work/life imbalance;
- or a general lack of job benefits and non-monetary incentives.
In order to better find out about the problem we need to solve, we took these hypotheses and decided to put them to the test. But first, we needed a way to test them.
As part of the MediaLAB’s series of workshops, one of the first activities we conducted was to develop some methods we could use to gather data about our problem. We worked in the MakersLAB for three days to create two prototypes that could give us the results we needed:
Bad/Good, a research tool used to gather opinions on a broad range of topics relating to people’s experiences in the workplace. It assesses people’s opinions on 5 key topics, by asking them to rate them on a 5-point scale. Respondents use a length of string to choose their answers, and in this way, the tool gathers and visualises data at the same time.
Visual Ideation Toolkit (VIT), which is designed to help stimulate a discussion with respondents in order to gather detailed information about people’s experiences; while Bad/Good gathers quantitative data, VIT gathers a wealth of qualitative data. Respondents are asked to use the provided tools – pens, paper, and cardboard shapes – to tell a visual story about their work environment and their experiences within it.
In order to better understand our problem environment, we organised two pieces of field research.
First we visited the KLM offices at Schiphol Airport, and went on a tour, both of the customer-facing side (“over the wing”, as the airport staff refer to it), and of the operations behind the scenes (“under the wing”). We made a wide variety of observations relating our hypothesis that the main problem was the working environment. Although the customer-facing side of the airport was very open, with lots of natural light and space, the employee offices felt very dark and gloomy, and some areas were located underground. Despite this, we also noted high morale and a strong sense of camaraderie among the workers, and saw clear evidence of KLM’s efforts to promote a better working environment and their commitment to their employees.
One issue that was frequently mentioned by workers and also by Walter, was the lack of a feeling of connection between the workers in other locations – such as the offices in Amstelveen – with the “front of the house”, or the actual flight operations. People working in the airport itself get to experience the sight of planes taking off every day, and so can directly see how their work impacts the company, but this is not true for all.
We also visited the TonTon arcade and bar, located in Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam. We conducted research relating to gamification, creating interactive experiences and the engineering of pleasant spaces. We also visited to gain inspiration for potential ideas about creating an interactive installation or similar solution to target the issue of workers feeling disconnected from the end result of their work, as noted in the KLM tour.
We had planned to conduct interviews of KLM employees using our two prototypes. However, we had extensive difficulties sourcing participants for our interviews; we had very free contacts at KLM, and so had trouble finding employees who were able to attend our interviews.
However, we found another way; in lieu of gathering information about KLM employees specifically, we opted instead to conduct research into workers in general. We created an online survey, modelled after our Bad/Good prototype, and used our own contacts to find participants. We received 46 responses in total, and managed to gather a large amount of information about issues that people find in the workplace.
At the end of our sprint, we visited the KLM offices in Amstelveen to present our findings. Our stakeholder, Walter, was very impressed with our methods, but re-emphasised the issue of their workers not feeling engaged with the end result of their efforts.