You get what you measure — how tool and method selection affect the workshop outcomes

In HEAL Lab’s most recent post: “Lessons learned on turning your end-users into co-creators” we introduced the background and the idea of inviting 12 Architects to Helsinki for a one-day workshop. In this follow-up post, we will dive into the discussion on why we chose two of the workshop methods we used, and which proofed to be very successful. Furthermore, we explain some of the lessons learned from these activities.

The devil is in the details
Seemingly small details can make or break an ambitious workshop. You could be provided with the wrong type of pen to write on post-its, a lack of coffee could occur, or you would have to stay in a space without natural light (not to mention lack of proper indoor air). With the advantage of an inspiring workshop location in downtown Helsinki at Stora Enso’s office in Kanavaranta right by the historical Helsinki Market Square and harbor, we had a lovely starting point to create our afternoon dedicated to creative workshop.

An empty notebook brings worth the unknown
The first 60 minutes of the workshop was dedicated to exploring our existing digital demos to which we hoped to receive valuable comments. We carefully drafted feedback questions which would surpass the obvious development areas that were already acknowledged — such as a missing back-button in one application.
As a strategic decision, we gave all workshop participants a blank notebook with our feedback sheets tucked inside. These sheets asked targeted questions about the demos, so we could learn where we could improve our work specifically from an architect’s point of view.
However, we recognize not all information can be captured in check boxes, and we can’t possibly consider all the important questions to ask. This is where the notebooks found their purpose. Allowing the architects to take freeform notes about their experiences with the demos showed us a different angle than our feedback sheets. In their own words the architects described which demos were successes with potential, and which fell well short of the mark.

Visualisation helps in seeing the big picture
The second part of the workshop included more open and creative explorations. Ideation exercises can be entertaining, and simply “playing house” could have been a fun activity for architects who might not get to do enough of freeform creation in their day to day work. We wanted to capture such energy from our participants, but at the same time channel it into a discussion concentrated on what HEAL could offer as a platform for the entire building value chain.
Therefore, we created an activity that supported the discovery of enablers and blockers to achieve sustainability in architects’ work. These blockers and enablers were mapped onto a timeline sheet which subsequently helped to understand the larger context. For example, prefabricated building elements were seen as a great opportunity to eliminate changes made after the design phase. Another highlighted phenomenon that would empower people was a mindset change towards embracing sustainability in all parts of life.

Desired outcomes determinate the method selection
The week following the workshop we dove into decoding our securely guarded mountain of post-its and timeline sheets which we carried back from the workshop. In terms of methods used we found that a balance of giving space for new ideas and a consideration of how to collect and document feedback allowed us to gather the most valuable information. These learnings can be condensed into the following:

  1. Feedback needs to be considered from the very beginning, and it should be both structured and freeform. Tick boxes help to collect quantified feedback, but the most fruitful comments are usually gathered through open questions.
  2. Visual representation of well-known processes can help people to think differently. The timeline sheet worked as physical documentation of pain-points and showed visually which part of the architect’s work is affected the most.

Above all, we were left with the feeling that HEAL Lab’s mission is valuable and taking in stakeholders in the early stages is an important step. The participants and organizers shared a mutual understanding that connecting stakeholders and knowledge will enable changes in the building industry. HEAL Lab is looking forward to facilitating more cooperation across the value chain, considering what we learned from this first workshop concerning the content and methods used.
In the final chapter for this 3-part blog series our UX Lead Mikko Rajala tells what has happened since the workshop day as far as implementing the workshop ideas into our actual tools.
The writer Jutta Menestrina works as a Service Designer at Trä Digital.

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