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.

Project Background

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:

Leveraging Sprintbase

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.

Visualization of the project’s Sprintbase organization. Blue notes are insights promoted by KAUST members; yellow notes are design principles formed from emerging themes; red notes are brainstorming topics that address the design principles.

Prototyping

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.

Example prototype visualization which addressed the design principle of adapting to changing needs over time

Soliciting Feedback

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.

Prototype organization in the Sprintbase workspace

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