Prototyping and Soliciting Feedback in a Virtual Sprint — Lessons from Using Sprintbase in a Smart Home Project
Two major components of the innovation process are prototyping and soliciting feedback. How would you execute these components in today’s global digital environment? Jane Pritchard and Marie Laffitte of Treehouse Innovation discussed with us how they used Sprintbase, a virtual design thinking platform developed by Treehouse, to understand needs, explore ideas, and gather feedback for smart home renovations at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. Treehouse Innovation works with leading businesses around the world on strategic innovation projects to help them reimagine their products, services, and strategies.
KAUST is a post-graduate university with a multi-cultural research community. They have envisioned a goal to be the first to convert conventional homes into smart homes that meet the Platinum standard for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The design challenge:
How might we provide all members of the community with a useful, intuitive, adaptable, and delightful smart home experience?
Jane and Marie worked with a large variety of stakeholders from the Kaust community including, residents, professors, students, and site maintenance experts. Their aim was to understand current resident needs from a human-centered design perspective. Jane and Marie approached the project with an important lens:
“Technology isn’t really a need…it’s more about technology being the solution to a need.” — Jane
At its core, this endeavor required a lot of in-depth research and interaction with many stakeholders. Ideally, this work would happen on-site, in person — but it is 2020. How could the global smart home team conduct this research in the middle of a pandemic?
Jane and the Treehouse team used Sprintbase to conduct, organize, and process their research, then develop strategy and prototypes from their findings — all virtually without ever traveling to Saudi Arabia. They conducted community brainstorming events and individual interviews, and worked over 150 hours in virtual / Zoom meetings! A key function of Sprintbase allows participants without Sprintbase licenses to contribute to the virtual workspace at any stage. Members of the KAUST community were invited to add their feedback in Sprintbase; they then used the workspace to collate their notes.
How did Jane and the team translate their insights into prototypes? They had a highly global and collaborative team of architects, industrial designers, and innovators representing Swiss, Argentinian, Spanish, Saudi Arabian, Canadian, and British geographies. As input came in, the team developed emerging themes which they formed into design principles. For each design principle, they then generated “How Might We” brainstorming topics. Team members created storyboards and visualizations to illustrate and communicate the ideas when soliciting feedback from KAUST residents. Sprintbase was a central location to gather these “virtual prototypes” and cluster them with relevant insights.
Jane and the team solicited feedback about the prototypes in a series of community group calls using Sprintbase’s whiteboard feature. They began sessions by sharing an overview of what to expect: the goals, the feedback they were looking for, and the framework they would use to capture feedback. They provided the prototypes so participants had context and visual aids with which to evaluate the ideas. For example, the visual depiction of an external pod helped them better understand the pod concept and how it could be used as a lounge space or guest bedroom. Participants could then share directly in Sprintbase what they liked, and what questions they had.
It was important for Jane and the team to approach prototyping and feedback as an iterative process — getting new input from feedback, incorporating the input into new prototypes, and starting the cycle again. They also curated the content they shared on Sprintbase so as not to overwhelm participants, and used targeted prompts with specific imagery to facilitate the feedback they received. All of these components together made for a powerfully effective process.
“We had a discussion guide that was designed. We didn’t [say] to the residents… ‘Hey, what would you like in a smart home?’ …we said ‘Tell us about what it’s like living at KAUST.’” — Jane
The collaborative project with the Kaust team was made even more challenging by pandemic conditions. The team leveraged the power of Sprintbase as a collaboration platform to focus on understanding problems the KAUST residents faced and thus improving their experiences. Sprintbase’s organizational and technical features enabled them to efficiently process their content and findings, and its virtual nature allowed them to work with people from many corners of the planet and truly harness the power of global collaboration.
Thank you for sharing with us, Jane and Marie!
Sprintbase supports amazing virtual design thinking workshops and projects that yield tangible results. Find out more about Sprintbase here.
About the InnoDays
The InnoDays bring companies and talent together to prototype ideas with a positive impact in 48 hours. We guide our participants’ innovation journey with our training program before and after the event with inspiring input and helpful methods. Find out more about InnoDays on our website.