In workplaces, organizations often deploy one-size-fits-all solutions to encourage positive thinking and acts of gratitude. (For example, consider a workplace where the walls are covered with inspirational or motivational phrases.) Sometimes these kinds of solutions may come off as superficial, unconvincing or uninspiring to an organization’s members, which can lead to superficial, unconvincing or uninspiring acts of gratitude.
During stakeholder interviews with architects, designers, and other spatial strategists who design workplaces, the need for better tools to support human-centered, data-driven design came up in nearly every interview without any prompting. Oftentimes, the need for more and better quantitative data was prioritized as their first need, in order to help justify new and innovative approaches to clients. Another primary need that was often expressed was the ability to capture continuous, seamless feedback without interrupting people’s lives. Longitudinal studies currently require constant surveys and other interruptions in order to understand how people’s perceptions change over time. The image below shows top pain points for 30 stakeholders interviewed in the past few months.
Multimer captures human experience in the workplace in a more seamless manner. With its insight on spatial, biometric signals, Multimer provides these customers the tools to support human-centered, data-driven design. Multimer collects data from custom, ergonomic brainwave sensors designed in-house, and from off-the shelf wearables like heart-rate straps, Apple Watches, and Fitbits. This continuously collected data allows for the analysis of basic emotional data from populations as they move through a city or building, allowing organizations to understand what people are actually experiencing throughout the day. Multimer has been applied to monitor outdoor space for urban and transit planning, and in recent months it has been piloted in indoor and virtual space as well.
For the project "Gracious Spaces," we aim to work with a partner organization to determine best practices for quantitative, continuous, uniform, ways to measure and support gratitude. Specifically, we would like to work with a partner organization to
- Identify the physiological and experiential “signature” of a small team within that organization. This would be visualized as a spatial map and timeline. (For example, for a previous outdoor study, the "mood map" of New York City's cyclists is visualized as raw data points here and as block-by-block categorized data here.)
- Develop new functionality within the Multimer app to measure the team as a network. Specifically, the new functionality will track each team member's "synergy" with other team members: proximity, synchronicity of biosensor data, and expressions of gratitude.
- Offer, through a customized, white-labeled Multimer app, unobtrusive, physiologically- and environmentally-triggered prompts to encourage substantive acts of gratitude.
- Offer a final report, including interactive visualizations, to help the team reflect on the flow of gratitude. These visualizations will include group and individual spatial maps, timelines, multi-index network graphs of all collected data. An multi-index network graph by our team is explained in this paper and poster, and the live visualization is here.
How Will Our Idea Inspire Gratitude?
Organizations frequently encourage collaborative interactions and creative activities that can lead to innovation outcomes. However, the pressures of the modern knowledge-intensive workplace - characterized by tight deadlines, multi-tasking, and frequent disruptions - minimizes the level of quality time and energy that people can devote to these important activities. These cognitive demands continuously trigger the body’s “fight or flight” mode, which lessen our ability to participate in more renewing work that can generate ideas. These demands also lessen the likelihood of prosocial behavior. Our idea starts with the premise that more deliberate statements and sentiments of gratitude have a positive cumulative effect that may help overcome the effects of these cognitive demands and help nurture a work environment where people can consistently generate better ideas in team based settings.
Our biosensor technology Multimer can measure aspects of the autonomic nervous system that controls “fight or flight” mode, including heart rate, movement, and certain kinds of brainwaves. Moreover, it measures these physiological metrics across large groups, large spaces, and long time periods. By measuring a group’s physiological metrics in this manner, we can better understand a team’s current state before, during, and after a program of structured, time-appropriate, responsive gratitude prompts. Our ultimate aim is to reduce “flight or fight” mode through customized, genuine acts of gratitude.
Potential Obstacles and Considerations
- Privacy Issues - Our proposed solution may raise concerns about end user privacy. The capture of visual, audible, and physiological data from individuals may cause some initial discomfort or reluctance. Like any smart technology such as wearable health trackers, personal assistants, smartphones, or just about any other web-enabled device that people use throughout the day, we believe that familiarity of use and the benefits received will help overcome any initial reluctance. Multimer’s protocols for ethics, privacy, and human subjects has been vetted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Biomedical Research Alliance of New York (BRANY), based on guidelines laid out by the Belmont Report and HHS.gov’s Office for Human Research Protections. One primary component of our solution, which has been refined through the review process at NSF and BRANY, is that personal data is stored in a completely different system and manner from usage data, and access to each of these datasets is strictly limited to only those who must work with the data.
- Adoption Issues - Without an organizational advocate(s) as described in the previous question, it will be challenging to understand the organizational norms and culture, and to be sensitive to the needs of the organization, which would in turn affect the adoption of this solution. In addition to the power of an advocate(s), we believe that a period pilot use, training, and education will heighten our solution’s long-term adoption.
- Incentives - the major incentive will be the feedback that users receive and the benefits bestowed to individuals and teams in the form of more effective work, reduced cognitive pressure, and less workplace stress.
Testing and Prototyping Plan
- Research best practices for physiological monitoring in the workplace, studies on the measurement of gratitude in the workplace.
- Gratefully receive mentoring and brainstorming from the Greater Good Science Center to determine best approaches to working with and co-designing this experiment and potential solution.
- Interview members of partner organization to determine their goals, expectations, and capacities (mental, physical, emotional) to participate in this pilot and even co-design it.
- Design internal prototyping sessions where we modify our systems, namely our wearables and the UI of our mobile app, to best monitor the study group within the partner organization. If applicable, we will invite members of the partner org to co-design these modifications.
- Run/prototype these testing sessions with the entire study group to ensure that every member will be comfortable to use our system over an extended time and space. After making needed iterations and adjustments, this will culminate in a pre-pilot session.
- Run a pre-pilot with 2-3 people for 2-3 days. Issues we hope to work through include:
- Determining use of survey and qualitative data
- Checking that the data results in a satisfactory control / baseline set
- Examining data modifications and program hardware and software revisions or changes.
- Comparing data between participants, times of day, rooms, etc. We will re-examine the strategy and run another pre-pilot if needed.
- Throw a small launch party to celebrate the start of the pilot and perform some light training so that all members of the study can record data uniformly and accurately.
- Control Week: Multimer system only passively monitors participants’ biosensor readings, survey feedback, and proximity to other participants.
- Calibration Week: based on the results of Control Week, the Multimer app will be modified to show notifications when a user’s physiological feedback is “unusual” and/or they are in time/space where there have been many “unusual” kinds of feedback. These notifications will query the user as to if this is a good time to consider an act of gratitude.
- Tech Adjustment Week: based on the results of Control Week and Calibration Week, the Multimer app will be adjusted in preparation for Experiment Week.
- Experiment Week: during this week, the Multimer app will ask respondents a series of daily questions about their experienced patterns of giving and receiving gratitude with other participants. These questions will create data that can be aggregated into a network map and overlaid with respondent biometric and location data.
- Analysis: The implementation team will compare, analyze, and visualize the results of Control Week, Calibration Week, and Experiment Week to suggest the efficacy of responsive, custom prompts. Resulting visualizations will include group and individual spatial maps, timelines, and network graphs to highlight social relationships as reflected by proximity, physiological/cognitive factors, and gratitude flow.
- Dissemination: We will share a report of the results with all participants and stakeholders. Once stakeholders see what they helped accomplish, it might encourage others to participate in subsequent rounds of testing/iteration. This may also help determine if the process can and should be replicated in the organization and/or scaled to other orgs.
- Reflect week and wrap party: A time to celebrate and express gratitude for the process, and especially for the participation of all stakeholders.
In early November, our team held a series of UX Feedback sessions to gather feedback on the existing Multimer system for data collectors (please see video above for demo). 23 users who contributed biosensor data via the Multimer app were in attendance. This was about 1/5 of the total number of participants in the Multimer 2017 NYC outdoor study. Overall, users suggested improvements to the training process, ergonomics of the headset, ease-of-use of the mobile app, and comprehensibility of each user's real-time User Stats page. Link to the full report. Below is a screenshot of Arlene's User Stats page.
Stakeholder Interviews with OrganizationsAs part of a National Science Foundation SBIR commercialization bootcamp, we conducted 30 stakeholder interviews (customer discovery) this past summer, and have conducted 20 additional stakeholder interviews since then. Interview participants have included architects, urban planners, spatial strategists, and others who design spaces, including workplaces. Link to the analysis summary slideshow.
Initial UX Map for Gracious Spaces
Based on findings from the Multimer UX Feedback and Stakeholder Interviews, we drafted an initial UX Map for how Multimer could be integrated into the Gracious Spaces concept. The UX Map follows Allie, a 39-year-old workplace strategist. "Allie Runs A Gratitude Experiment" (slide 9) is the newest and least developed part of the concept, so we decided to explore this in the UX Feedback Sessions for this OpenIDEO challenge.
Initial UX Feedback on Gracious Spaces
For this OpenIDEO challenge, we held 4 extended UX feedback sessions to learn how gratitude could be best measured, calibrated, and encouraged by Multimer. We tested many kinds of possibilities, particularly for new gratitude functionality in the Multimer app. Major lessons learned:
- It’s important to show appreciation when people spend their time for you or on your behalf.
- Reciprocity is important in the flow of gratitude (expression/reception) and the flow in hierarchies (managers/members).
- Gratitude should be encouraged as a network effect.
- Real-time group metrics are desirable and perhaps as important as real-time individual metrics.
- A lack of gratitude, especially in a hierarchy, can affect employee retention.
Below is one feedback sheet. Feedback sheet templates are here.
Second UX Map for Gracious Spaces
Based on feedback from the initial feedback session for Gracious Spaces, we created a secondary user journey to follow Rob, a worker for the company that Allie (our user from our first UX map) is studying. One priority in creating this second journey is to reduce the obtrusiveness of the app notifications for the user. Link to the second user journey here.
More About Us
Arlene Ducao is a creative engineer who makes technologies that examine the relationship between the natural landscape, our built environments, and ourselves. She is a Principal at the DuKode Studio, a scientific and environmental design firm in Brooklyn, and the CEO and cofounder of Dukode's affiliate company Multimer. At Multimer, she developed her invention MindRider, the geospatial mind-mapping system profiled in WIRED, New York Times, Discovery Channel, MSNBC, Fast Company, Science Channel, and many more. A recipient of the South by Southwest Winburne Community Service Award for her work on satellite mapping in Indonesia, she teaches at NYU and MIT, where she presents a range of topics, from multidimensional data visualization to digital fabrication and its cultural underpinnings. She holds degrees from UMD, SVA, and MIT.
Pete Bacevice is Director of Research for HLW International. In addition, he is a research associate with the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where he has been involved in a long-term study of coworking and the growth of the mobile workforce. Pete divides his time professionally between New York and Ann Arbor, Michigan. He holds a PhD in Education from the University of Michigan.
Multimer’s team also includes Ilias Koen (CTO), Tania van Bergen (UX and Data Collection Management), Yapah Berry (Hardware), Scott Sheu (Business) and Tommy Mitchell (UX Assistance). The team has a mission-driven background and its members have worked for organizations including MIT, MOMA, AMNH, NYU, Deutsche Bank, Amplify, and Best Buy.
More About Our Relevant Experience
Our team has a mixed interdisciplinary experience, as described in the “tell us about yourself” section. Regarding the relationship between human experience and the environment:
- Pete: With a background in social science research combined with over 7 years of professional experience in architecture, design, and workplace strategy, Pete is skilled at discovering new ways that the built environment can positively impact organizational and social outcomes. He connects the dots of academic research and design practice in order to explore big questions while explore practical solutions. Increasingly, Pete’s professional work has put him in touch with innovative ways to use big data methodologies that can provide fresh insights into how people respond to and are supported by workplace settings. This work connected him to Arlene and led to the collaborative pursuit outlined in this proposal. Pete has a part time academic appointment at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and full time “day job” as Director of Research for HLW International where he supports a global team of design strategists and architects.
- Arlene: after studying computer science, art, design, and engineering, Arlene began her professional career as a scientific software programmer and animator in a science documentary unit at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), with a specific focus on using infrared satellite data to track ecological and ecosystemic change. The rise of the Maker movement, and some of Arlene’s experiments with sensors on bike helmets, brought Arlene to MIT, where she researched how new kinds of distributed sensor and mapping systems can support the monitoring and analysis of human experience amidst a changing built environment.
- Multimer: Arlene and her co-founder Ilias Koen, another AMNH alum with an art and engineering background, have helmed a team that originally focused on how brainwave data can support cycling advocacy and sustainable transportation. The results of their 2015 and 2016 studies, available at http://book.multimerdata.com, showed promising results for the use of EEG data to predict traffic accidents and collisions. With the support of MIT, NYU, SOSV, and the National Science Foundation, and with initial outdoor customers including Sustrans UK (who works with the London Department for Transport) and Harley-Davidson, the Multimer team has been refining its algorithms in the outdoor context. With collaborators like the Associated Press (see their recent report that uses Multimer to help determine best practices for journalism and VR) and Pete Bacevice of HLW and University of Michigan, Multimer has been expanding its reach to indoor workspaces.
Fun Fact: The New York Times recently published a 360-degree (VR) video about Multimer and two of its participants. https://nyti.ms/2zeO1EJ