Co-lead the project, starting with developing the project proposal with the Creative Director.
Co-designed and facilitated the stakeholder workshops, often pivoting during execution to drive engagement towards key problem areas for the team.
Analysed each workshop stage to extract learnings, insights, and call attention to gaps and opportunities for the team to explore further.
Challenging stakeholders to consider their users and concepts through open-ended questions can help transform ways of thinking— curiousity removes bias.
It's important to simply spend some time during workshops to drive discourse around key interactions by the team to reinitiate alignment on a shifting/growing project.
Giving stakeholders some homework is not a bad idea! Everyone needs some time to reflect on workshop processes and having the space to continue building your team's explorations at your own pace can be beneficial towards fostering better team and concept connections.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted significant shifts in our work lives— affecting not only how we work, but also where and when.
With commuting becoming less prominent, how can we help a team previously centered around this idea to imagine a different approach for the future?
Having previously successfully collaborated on a project re-strategization with pointA, the team again approached DoUC on a larger and more complex program offered by their organization. The "Smart Commute Program" was facing a shift and the team was struggling to understand how it could evolve to address the changes caused by the pandemic. Users are regularly navigating combinations of remote, hybrid, and in-person models of work— so how can the program flexibly adjust and consistently respond to evolving requirements?
Working closely with the Creative Director, I helped build the 3 workshop co-design structure to reconsider how the program had previously existed, the changes that are currently impacting it, and how it can move into the future— and for whom. We wanted to take the time to understand what the team was truly struggling with and bridge those gaps at each stage of the process.
Often adjusting our approach to suit the dynamic needs of our stakeholders, we were able to reimagine the program by evolving the vision, goals, and values to become more user-centered. Allowing room for open and free ideation first, and filteration through user profile and service blueprint generation later, we were able to help the pointA team connect their new vision, goals, and values to ideas ready for user testing.
How has the team approached the program in the past? How have things shifted? What are the key pain-points the team is struggling with?
Challenge: A commuting-based program caught in a pre-pandemic past, and a team struggling to think beyond their previous ideas.
Starting with a conversation with the program director, we began to understand the needs of the project and the team. It was important to recognize here that we were not going to be designing anything— we needed to create a strategic process to engage the program team and allow them to generate their own solutions.
What do you understand about hybrid and remote work? How does it connect to your program?
Using the first workshop, we built a structure to facilitate the team in questioning and defining what new ways of working meant in the context of their Smart Commute Program.
Without limitations, we wanted them to ask as many open-ended questions as possible to later connect for understanding. With input from 10+ participants, we noticed that everyone had many questions, often surprising each other on their approaches— showcasing to us, DoUC, that there was lots of room to bridge team alignment through the workshops.
Asking open-ended questions can be tough, but this strategy can be applied repeatedly by the team to continue to explore more and better questions with each iteration.
Many of these questions can be posed to both the team themselves, as workers who experienced a shift during the pandemic, and more importantly, to their target users (both previous users and newly defined users from later workshops) in order to better understand the nuances.
The team needs additional guidance, both through facilitated and independent processes, to better understand the program's vision, goals, and values vs. their own personal ones— there is nothing wrong with overlap!
Now that we have pieces of the problem, how do they connect? What are these connections, or lack there of, telling us?
To move forward with some clarity in understanding how the team's questions connect to their concept of the program, we facilitated them through a process to first identify key themes by grouping the questions and later strategically connecting values to these themes.
Which values don't connect to any questions? Which values are most repeated under the questions? What needs to be examined further?
What can we imagine for this program? How far can we take it?
Now for some fun— time to ideate openly, no filters! To help prompt the team, I took the themes they had previously identified and generated open-ended questions to inspire strategic thinking around the program.
Several themes had very few ideas— are they complex themes that require further exploration? Or, are they not currently feasible?
The ideas generated by the team had potential to be tested and assessed over a short-term, mid-term, and long-term period to better understand their users needs, improve their offerings, and deliver continued success.
What is worth moving forward with? What needs to be shelved for now?
In order to understand whether the thematic ideas had relevance, the participants further compared them to their values. Allowing us all to clearly see which themes, values, and ideas are already being prioritized, and which need further work or removal.
The pointA team requires additional independent facilitation to better understand and refine their defined values— using a bridge exercise, we created a structure for them to pick their most important values, clearly define them, and connect the relevant thematic ideas.
With 7 final values and connections, the team was clearly able to identify that they wanted the program to move towards a sustainability-based foundation. Including customizability and establishing equity while addressing user-needs.
Some ideas had the potential to be integrated into all values and become multi-dimensional offerings that create holistic approaches to addressing their users needs.
Who is the program speaking to? What are their habits? What are their needs? What kind of work/life do they have?
With a comprehensive set of themes, values, and connected ideas it was important for the team to begin connecting them realistically to defined users.
At this stage we did not prompt the team to create user personas— as we had not conducted any real user research throughout the process. This was more about getting a sense of what this program could become, who it could help. Instead, we created audience profiles— a generalized place to start. Think of these as starting points to highlight research gaps and later become accurately detailed personas.
Some key points used to generate the profiles:
To consider users the team has already interacted with in the past.
To consider relevant people in their lives as starting points.
To consider themselves.
To consider relevant articles and news media, and use the people discussed within them.
To consider types of businesses as end-users, the typical roles and work styles that exist there.
How do the ideas connect to the end-users? How can they be shaped to address real needs?
With defined profiles, we began to strategically connect ideas to examine how the user would experience a program offering through a service blueprint. Allowing the team to quickly understand which ideas have the potential to be examined further to move forward with user-testing, which can be combined with others for more value, and which needed to be shelved for now.
It is important for the team to remember to reference their audience profiles and considerations for any secondary audiences and partners to build out the idea. All potential stages explored in the blueprint should point towards fulfilling an audience need.
What is necessary to continue the work begun during this process for further development of the program?
To deliver our assessment to the client, I collected the entire strategic conceptualization process into a document that communicated our intentions and insights through a clear narrative. As a resource, this document can help the pointA team re-examine the process and even re-attempt it to continue building the Smart Commute Program.
Some final thoughts:
The strategic development of their definition of work, program vision, values, goals, and relevant themes allowed the team to build a distinguished proposition that connects to their users.
The process has provided a way for the team to examine and communicate their best concepts to their board and funders to move forward with user testing.
With accurately structured user personas and refined service blueprints, the team can define their core offerings that connect to their values to establish an evolution of the Smart Commute Program that address post-pandemic needs and continues to evolve into the future of work.