Christa HolmborgChrista HolmborgApril 7, 2020
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11min2232

On Monday the 16th of March began the week that turned all of our lives upside down. Coronavirus hit the UK with a force and the circumstances forced entire companies to work, collaborate, and socialise remotely for weeks on end, and we are yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

While there is an unprecedented amount of uncertainty and most industries are suffering (with travel and hospitality in particular), it has also been encouraging to see both kindness and innovation flourish, with humans turning to virtual ways of connecting with others, and companies pivoting their operations in a very agile way, reaching out to their customers in new ways through delivery, technology and virtual connection.

Innovation has always run through the core of Hellon’s operations and that is what we help our clients do – innovate on services, propositions as well as customer and employee experience. However, much of our work has previously required face to face interaction, when conducting research and facilitating workshops and co-creation. For us too, the question on how to conduct these tasks in this new normal arose. Luckily, as a relatively small (45+ employees) and agile company, we took action very quickly, and true to service design logic, started thinking out loud.

On the first day of our remote work setup, we already had a company-wide workshop on the best remote collaboration and meeting tools. By the time of writing, we have already conducted 10+ remote workshops and customer research using digital tools, as well as internal collaboration. Here’s what we learned:

1.    By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail  

Whereas a rough agenda might be fine for face-to-face sessions, “winging it” isn’t an option for online workshops. Detailed planning is crucial, as is the creation of clear and specific instructions for each activity, a timeline of what is done in each phase (and by whom), as well as what tools will be used. Ideally, participants will already have registered for the tools in advance (e.g. day before) to ensure no one has access problems on the day of the session.

A test run with the core project team is also critical, especially if you are new to a platform, to go through the technicalities and potential scenarios that might happen during a workshop (e.g. someone can’t access, how to chat/ raise hand etc.). Our “tests” have ensured that we are well-prepared for a variety of hiccups which might happen in an online environment. Finally, keep in mind that discussions and exercises take longer online, so plan for less activities than you normally would for a face-to-face workshop, and ensure people get enough short breaks from their screen.

 

 

2.    Choose the best tools – for your company

There’s a plethora of digital collaboration tools out there to choose from, which can make the selection of a tool or platform feel daunting. When making your selection, consider things such as; What is the desired outcomes of the exercise I am planning and how do I share them? How many participants are there? Which tools are in line with policies?

At Hellon, we usually use a mix of tools depending on the objective of the exercise. Often, we use a video conferencing platform such as Skype or Teams for communication, and, another platform on which to collaborate or ask for feedback. Miro and Mural are great platforms for post-it-type workshopping, in which all participants can work on one canvas or template simultaneously, which works very well for journey mapping, ideation and analysis.

Howspace is another platform we use, on which you can build your own “page” using various widgets. Thereafter, a variety of functions can be added, such as images, videos, reports, chat, polling, voting etc. This is a good tool for e.g. showcasing concepts and asking clients/ customers to provide feedback in real-time. Finally, at times we also use a specific polling/ voting tool such as Slido or Mentimeter, to gain feedback and spark discussion. This is what works for us, now consider the needs of your company.

 

3.    The importance of facilitation

In online sessions, the facilitator’s role and ability to engage participants is emphasised. It’s important to create an inspiring and engaging online session, minimising participants’ desire to multi-task while on a remote call. Practice facilitation, plan engaging exercises with enough breaks and shorten the monologues to keep people active.

This is also where planning and preparation come into the picture. Ensure that the workshop has a clear structure, and that you are on top of the agenda at all times. Assign clear roles for the team if you have multiple people facilitating. For larger groups, a clear lead facilitator is required as well as supporting facilitators to communicate and assist with smaller – predetermined – groups (e.g. breakout rooms). Also make sure that the exercises are simple and easy to understand, and that there are clear instructions for the participants to follow. Finally, nurture the energy in the “virtual room” and build a connection with the participants, even though they are not face to face with you. Icebreakers can also be added into a virtual workshop, which will create a more relaxed atmosphere, and interactive activities ensure participants are engaged and focused.

4.   Remote research doesn’t have to be boring

If you thought qualitative research was phone interviews and focus groups only, think again. Today, the likes of Google Hangouts and Webex allow us to conduct interviews over video, through which we can observe reactions and feelings towards a topic similar to an in-person interview. There are also multiple other innovative research approaches which do not require face-to-face interaction.

At Hellon, we’ve had many discussions on whether this situation will lead to the rise of design probes, which allow people to self-document their experiences and then share them with the researcher e.g. through a diary, or by taking pictures and completing tasks.

There is also an opportunity to do online listening and online ethnography to understand customers’ online behaviours related to a topic, as well as customer reviews and sentiment online. After all, this is where most of your customers are in these times.

5.    Take care of each other!

While we are definitely trying to find the positive side to the current circumstances and keep our spirits high, many of us are of course struggling with adjusting, which is completely normal. Many of us are working and home-schooling kids simultaneously, we miss having in-person connections, and some of us are going slightly stir-crazy at home. But we check in on each other and we build a social closeness online.

It is important to set daily routines that bring everyone together while being physically apart, and it is crucial to see your colleagues most days and talk about non-work-related things with them to sustain the “normal” office chat.

Our company Slack has been “on fire” in the recent weeks; we share our crazy home outfits and “my kid interrupted the meeting” (or emptied an entire bag of flour – true story) stories, we organise virtual lunches and an after work drink here and there, and we embrace the “humanness” in each other – human-to-human business is our mantra after all. And that, I believe, makes all the difference in these difficult times and brings the light “into the tunnel.” Be kind to one another!

Hopefully these tips are useful for both conducting remote research and collaboration for everyone out there who is experiencing the new normal with us.

 

 

 


Christa HolmborgChrista HolmborgMarch 9, 2020
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10min1692

Most of us have fond memories playing (or arguing) our way through a game of Monopoly with the family or bringing together a group of friends for a game night.

That said, few people would associate the term “board game” with business, although gamification has the ability to bring people together to discuss challenges in an objective way, and to enable participation of a variety of stakeholders.

Additionally, the ‘out of the ordinary’ setting of a game creates a more relaxed and informal environment, which fosters learning, creativity, and idea generation. It is therefore unsurprising that design games are increasingly being adopted by organisations as a method for meeting business objectives, especially related to co-creation and collaboration.

Design games are tools which are created for a specific context and purpose, e.g. building consensus, training, or project planning. The purpose, as well as the research during the game planning phase, influence the look and feel of the design game and the types of prompts/artefacts which are used.

However, they include a physical ‘board’, game pieces, cards (e.g. question or ‘what if’ cards), profiles (e.g. different types of customers), and future scenarios. These prompts help trigger ideas and reactions and help players approach a topic from multiple perspectives, while game rules help maintain a focus and downplay potential power-relations and contradictions between interests, improving collaboration.

Hellon has created a large number of tailored design games for a variety of organisational contexts and aims such as: training and development, project planning, future scenario building, embedding strategy, and facilitating ideation. Irrespective of their context, design games can have a massive impact in a business setting, whether through developing new innovations or improving internal processes.

The benefits of gamification in a business setting

Making the unknown tangible: Design games can present a variety of potential future scenarios which help ground future alternatives into reality. This enables discussion around future opportunities and challenges, to guide e.g. policy making.

A recent example of a ‘futures’ game includes the Nordic Urban Mobility 2050 game Hellon created for Nordic Innovation. The game presents a number of scenarios for what the future might look like in 2050 when it comes to mobility (transport modes, infrastructure, energy) and acts as a conversation starter for municipalities, businesses, and policy makers. It facilitates co-creation and consensus-building on how to meet future mobility needs in urban cities.

Gamification promotes creativity: Design games are visual and playful tools, which facilitate exploration and idea generation. Most people like to work in the safe field of knowledge, which unfortunately limits innovation.

Through the prompts and artefacts of a game, people are enabled to improvise, question habits, and consider different perspectives, giving rise to ideas which might not even have been thought of before.

Facilitating ideation and co-creation: Through gamification, organisations are able to participate a wide range of customers in the planning of new services or gain their support in coming up with new ideas.

The City of Helsinki, for example, used a design game created by Hellon to enable citizens to generate ideas on how an annual citizen-allocated budget should be spent. The Participatory Budgeting Game concretises budgeting for players, which enables a more varied group of people to participate and helps people come up with ideas using cards as prompts.

The game resulted in an unprecedented number of ideas on how the City of Helsinki could be improved, out of which a selection was shortlisted and then voted on by citizens.

Learning through playing: Design games can be used as engaging and inspirational tools for learning. The hands-on approach of a game, as well as a relaxed environment, opens up the field for discussion and thinking outside of the box, enabling people to show their personality and participate to a much higher extent than traditional lecture-based learning.

Hellon created a design game to support personalised and engaging training at Stockmann, a large department store chain in the Nordics and Baltics. The Diamond Game presents salespeople with various scenarios through a board game and cards, which allows them to use their own personal approach as a starting point, followed by suggestions on how to improve their skills without losing their personal traits. The game is also taught through a train the trainer methodology, which allowed the game to be used to train over 3,000 salespeople (see main image).

Building a common language: Design games create a common language in multi-disciplinary teams who may use similar terms but mean different things by them.

Games concretise the meaning behind the words and generate a common understanding of the language which is used. This is particularly useful in, for example, training customer service teams or embedding a new strategy, which was the focus for a development discussion game Hellon created for Airpro, a company providing aviation services across a range of Finnish airports.

The game set a structure for development discussions, but also supported the grounding of a new strategy by engaging employees to think about how to manifest the strategy in their specific roles.

The game as a safe space: Design games allow participants to step out of their ordinary working day and, because people associate games with play, encourage a more relaxed and informal setting. This enables people to speak out, even on difficult and sensitive topics.

The focus is on the game and its outcomes, rather than on any specific person. As a result, it is easier to explore various feelings and ideas and to think of the “art of the possible”.

Design games are fun: We recently heard a conversation between two designers, who discussed the outcomes of a design game which had been introduced in a large UK public sector organisation. In addition to a variety of business outcomes, one of the unexpected results of the project was that the process of playing the game was seen as very enjoyable.

In the world of spreadsheets and reporting, why shouldn’t we embrace an element of fun into our working lives – especially when the benefits attached are plenty?


Christa HolmborgChrista HolmborgFebruary 7, 2020
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6min1560

In 2016-17, leading Irish food retailer Musgrave Group were in the midst of a price war within the parental shopping segment, with competition heavily focused on price and many products sold at or below cost.

To build a competitive edge, Musgrave turned to customer-led service design to create a compelling value proposition and differentiating customer experience. Ultimately, the aim was to increase footfall and time spent in-store, driving significant revenue growth in the segment across both baby products and in-store spend overall. Hellon, the world’s most awarded service design agency, was selected as the partner for the project.

The identified business challenge was tackled with a human-centric design approach including insights, ideation, and prototyping phases.

Insights were gathered through diary studies, in-depth interviews, and mystery shopping to understand parent shoppers’ underlying needs, motivations, and challenges, their main drivers for selecting where to shop, as well as exploring best practices in the industry and beyond. Analysis of the insights revealed stress to be a key factor in the shopping experience, also influencing time spent in store and basket size. As readers with young children might be familiar with, when a kid throws a tantrum in-store, parents just want to get out as quickly as possible.

Ideation and co-creation, together with Musgrave stakeholders, therefore focused on generating solutions which reduce the feeling of stress and make parents’ shopping experience easier. The concept borne out of the ideation phase was the Parent VIP-hour, a time of the day during which parents received additional support in-store, including ideas such as free fruit for kids, sweet-free aisles, help in packing groceries, and preferential parent parking.

Following ideation, the VIP-hour was tested during a prototyping phase (LiveLab) and trial period in two stores. Hellon designed and ran a LiveLab, in which Hellon designers and Musgrave employees brought the VIP-hour concept to life in-store by using physical mock-ups (such as temporary signage for parent parking), service gestures (e.g. free fruit/ tea/ coffee, advice on baby products) and visual prompts (e.g. guidance) to test the concept with real customers to gain their feedback on the live experience.

Following the LiveLab, a six-month pilot was launched to further test the commerciality of the VIP-hour and its effect on shopping behaviour and revenue.

Analysis of sales following the pilot revealed a 3.3 percent increase in baby category revenue and 5.2 percent increase in overall store sales when compared to pre-pilot figures.

Seventy percent of shoppers also indicated lower levels of stress during their experience and 90 percent said they would spend more time in-store or make more frequent shopping trips.

The impact on brand impression was also high, with an increase of 643 percent in social media reach and 512 percent in engagement during the project. For the stores involved in the service design project and commercial pilot, the total annual revenue impact reached €678,000, however, based on the improved customer experience and new solutions, Musgrave estimates an incremental revenue of €4.84 million annually as a direct result of the Service Design project.

Several initiatives have also been deployed across Musgrave stores nationally, such as free fruit for kids, doubled parking spaces, and hotel grade baby changing rooms in all new build stores.

The project has also gone on to win awards for customer experience design, proving the approach as an impactful way of solving complex business challenges.

Hellon is a service design agency based in London and Helsinki, with a track record of over 1,000 successful projects across 20 countries. Eager to understand how service design could impact your business? Get in touch with us!




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