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Zone of Gratitude [Update 12/08 - User Feedback Survey Results]

Establishing a space within a workplace where gratitude is celebrated and openly expressed.

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Written by

To serve as a constant reminder of gratitude in the workplace, this idea seeks to establish physical spaces as zones of gratitude, where gratitude is celebrated and openly expressed. This may include:

  1. Profiles of employees that have conducted acts of gratitude for others and/or championed initiatives that add value into the lives of their co-workers.

  2. Display boards with pictures of events that have been conducted around gratitude, and the stories that have resulted from these initiatives.

  3. "Complete the story" boards where a gratitude-themed story is started and employees interact with the board to collectively create a story focused around gratitude.

  4. A compliment box that provides a fun outlet for employees to offer compliments to each other.

  5. A "Wall of Gratitude" where employees can anonymously post what they are appreciative of.

  6. An "Idea Wall" where new and innovative initiatives are highlighted and their originators recognized, as a means of celebrating their successes and contributions to their teams.

    7. "Gratitude Sleeves" that go around coffee cups and have words of gratitude written on them. Employees can hand these to their co-workers once they have finished their drinks.

In addition to the creation of this space, we hope to introduce two additional concepts that would supplement our Zone of Gratitude:

  1. Pop-Ups - along with a space that is more concrete and permanent, we would test and prototype new ideas through pop-ups around the company. By doing so, we hope to design for the micro-cultures within a company, keep people guessing as to where the next pop-up could be, and build a sense of excitement that keeps our space fresh and relevant.

  2. Gratitude Champions - these would be individuals who would help bring ideas within the space to life, and organize pop-ups around the facility. These gratitude champions would also serve as advocates for the importance gratitude within the company.

Key human elements that we are designing for

  1. Public versus private expressions - our space would serve as an outlet that would meet people where they are. By implementing an idea like the "Wall of Gratitude", where gratitude is expressed privately, and also implementing an idea like the "Gratitude Sleeves" where employees would be encouraged to interact with each other, we seek to offer low barriers to entry.

  2. Authentic - by presenting a space that encourages but does not enforce gratitude, we hope to inspire intrinsic motivations for the expression of gratitude. Each idea within the space is designed to be voluntary.

  3. Intuitive - our idea of a space is just that ... a space. By marrying this idea of a space with a part of an employee's everyday work experience, our idea seeks to induce behavior change in a manner that is natural. Can a user experience in the Zone of Gratitude become the new normal?

  4. Fresh and exciting - through the use of pop-up locations inside the company, or by providing employees with the opportunity to create their own space, our idea seeks to make employees crave gratitude, and to keep them coming back for more.

Feedback from User Testing

*Details about our prototype are mentioned further down the page. We encourage you to read that section first before reading the feedback below.

At the end of the prototype session, we sent out a survey to the participants to get a gauge on how the experience made them feel. Here are the questions that we asked, and a brief summary of the responses that we received.

How did you feel walking into this activity?

The collective feeling was one of curiosity, but also one of uncertainty. Participants expressed that they didn't know what to expect going in, but they felt comfortable exploring the possibilities that this experience held.

How did you feel walking out?

The feeling of curiosity remained, but now with an added sense of hope. Multiple participants expressed that they left the room feeling optimistic about the potential that this idea held, and were interested in learning how it would evolve with future prototypes and pilots.

How do you personally like to give or receive gratitude?

Most participants responded to this question by saying that they preferred to both offer and receive gratitude in the form of verbal or written expressions. Additionally, some users mentioned an affinity towards performing acts of service or giving gifts to show their appreciation.

What specific part of this experience elicited the strongest feeling of gratitude within you? Why?

This was a more difficult question to answer for participants, but the ones who did answer it mentioned that the interaction with the barista was the most uplifting. It allowed them the instant gratification of knowing that their kind act would help create an impact, but at the same time giving them the space to choose how they wanted to express it.

Was there a part of the experience that felt forced? Did it challenge you to get out of your comfort zone?

Three distinct insights emerged from the responses to this question:

  1. For those who came alone, there were parts of the experience that felt awkward or forced. For example, giving a compliment inside the compliment box would seem natural if there was someone in line with you, but would seem confusing if you were going through the prototype experience alone. The same held true for some of the games that we had laid out while participants waiting for their drinks to arrive. This helped us gain important insight into the need for designing an experience that catered to users who arrive alone, with a co-worker, or with a group.
  2. The interaction with the barista, although one of the favorite parts of people's experience with the prototype, had an important aspect that we would need to design for. While users are having the interaction, how are the people waiting in line behind them feeling as they listen to the conversation? For any active listeners, is there a feeling that they need to follow what the users in front of them did, and will that deter them from coming to get coffee in the future? Maybe writing the instructions down, instead of having the barista explain it to the users could help address some of these concerns?
  3. One of the participants spoke about the importance of designing for those coffee drinkers who preferred to have black coffee. These users don't typically want to wait to receive their drink and are less likely to interact with any external stimuli once they have paid for their drink.

How might we improve this experience in our next prototype?

The most prominent response to this question was to test the next prototype in a more realistic scenario, maybe in an actual coffee shop. Prototyping with real money instead of tickets, and bringing in a larger crowd of people were suggested. The importance of establishing measures of success was also expressed.

Idea Title

The Zone of Gratitude

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

By establishing a frequently-visited space within an organization where gratitude is openly celebrated, this idea hopes to offer constant reminders of gratitude in the workplace.

Who are you innovating for?

Any and all employees within an organization.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

Medium or large organizations that might have some space to spare for establishing this gratitude zone.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

Through smaller, department-only displays of gratitude that are then scaled up to a company-wide space.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

Availability of a permanent space that could be established as a "gratitude zone" could be seen as a major investment. However, creating smaller prototypes in temporary spaces that may be available can serve as a useful tool in gathering feedback and showing a return on investment for a larger space.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

Break a larger, centralized and resource-intensive space into smaller spaces spread throughout the company. Each small space will include one of the ideas that can be quickly tested with smaller groups. This will provide flexibility in scaling the idea while still offering a means of testing key assumptions, gathering user feedback, and iterating on the proposed idea.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

1. Continue implementation of the idea in smaller spaces spread throughout the company to understand how employees are reacting to the idea of a space where gratitude is openly expressed. 2. Connect with mentoring organizations to understand the intrinsic and extrinsic behaviors that can be observed, and use it as a tool to iterate on the ideas. 3. Use this information to present a case to management, and pilot a larger scale gratitude experiment.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

A group brainstorm as part of the Chief Gratitude Officers initiative!

Tell us about yourself

Our team consists of a mix of engineers, designers and HR professionals working within different groups at an automotive company. These groups include engineering development, product design, company branding, and vehicle testing.

Where are you / your team located?

Auburn Hills, MI

Tell us about your experience

A Design Engineer by profession, I use design thinking methods and innovation tools to design products for the automotive industry, and help train and recruit professionals to do the same. I also help lead the OpenIDEO Detroit Chapter.

Please describe, in detail, how you will test and get feedback on your concept.

Our prototyping journey is highlighted in the images above. Two key questions that emerged from the UX maps were: 1. How might we keep this experience feeling fresh for users, so as to keep them coming back for more? 2. How might we create a space with a low barrier to entry, where all forms of gratitude are celebrated and openly expressed? To address these questions and mimic the real-life experience of purchasing coffee, we created a self-directed user journey in a conference room. Two key pieces of feedback that emerged from observations, interviews and surveys were: 1. There is a need for creating an experience that doesn't make people go out of the way to express gratitude. How do we cater to the black coffee drinkers, and the ones who prefer lattes? 2. People who come alone might interact with the space very differently from those who come with friends. How might we cater to both? We hope to answer some of these questions through future prototypes.

Please describe specifically how you plan to scale your idea. What are the key next steps you will take, and how will those steps inform the evolution and growth of your concept?

Using the feedback collected from the prototype, our team plans to iterate on our concept and assumptions, and using these insights to prototype spaces in different parts of the company, eventually scaling to a company-wide initiative. Our immediate next steps include: 1. Designing prototypes for conference rooms and coffee shops around our facility to continue user testing and gathering feedback. This step will help us uncover important insights that relate to the micro cultures that exist within larger organizations. 2. Identify and recruit "gratitude champions" within the company. These individuals will serve as co-creators for different gratitude initiatives within the company, all the way from brainstorming new ideas to implementing them. Their experiences working within different parts of the company will also help inform design iterations that cater to a wider range of employees. 2. Use the employee feedback gathered from these prototypes to loop upper management into the concept and make the case for prototyping this idea in a larger space within the company. 3. Establish a semi-permanent space within the facility as a gratitude zone and collect information that will help support the claim for a larger, more permanent space. 4. With support from upper management, pilot a permanent space within the company. 5. Eventually, establish permanent gratitude spaces within all national and international facilities that are a part of our global network.

As we have seen in the Challenge, there is a tension between authentic expressions of gratitude and mandatory gratitude. How does your idea inspire truly authentic expressions of gratitude versus mandated ones?

By establishing a gratitude space or zone, employees are reminded of the powerful positive effects of gratitude, without enforcing expressions of gratitude on to them by a person of forced behavioral change. The reactions that this space elicits in employees is a function of intrinsic motivators that are triggered by stimuli that exist in this space.

Gratitude often thrives when opportunities for connection are created. How will your concept create new opportunities for human connection?

This idea created new opportunities for human connection in two ways: 1. By establishing a space where employees are likely to interact with their colleagues or other employees (outside a coffee counter, or inside a conference room, for example) and one that is frequently visited, this idea presents an outlet for employees to express gratitude in a non-obtrusive manner. 2. Employees can be inspired by stories of gratitude in the space to reach out to other employees.

Who (specifically) will benefit from your concept, and how they will interact with it? What design considerations have you included to ensure easy and intuitive interactions? 

Our idea hopes to cater to individuals whose expressions of gratitude lie somewhere on the spectrum between private and public. Instead of introducing external gratitude motivators that people have to go out of their way to interact with, our space instead supplements an experience that an employee at the company would go through on a regular basis, like purchasing coffee or attending a meeting in a conference room. Going through the prototyping journey, we unearthed some key points that we want to design and iterate on: 1. How might be keep this idea feeling fresh? The idea of pop-up locations, suggestion boxes, and a themed space were proposed. 2. How might we encourage expressions with low barriers to entry? By implementing ideas that each allow a different form of expression, we hope that this space encourages participation by meeting users where they are. 3. By incorporating this into common experiences, our space could induce behavior change and accelerate acceptance.

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Top Idea. Be specific.

If selected, we hope to use the prize funding as a means of gathering materials and resources to implement prototypes and pilots around our company. Additionally, our idea could greatly benefit from a partnership with organizations like the Greater Good Science Center to help us gather insights and provide their expertise in incorporating feedback for our design iterations, so as to build a zone of gratitude that is robust, and one that encourages lasting, meaningful expressions.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Vikram Vysyaraju

This is a great idea! Obviously, your recommendation is based on physical areas in an office environment that serve as reminders to express gratitude, but could you envision a potential electronic counterpart? This would allow employees not frequently in the office, such as in high-travel occupations, to check in and feel more connected to the office if there was a "newsfeed" of gratitude.

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Hi Vikram Vysyaraju !

Thank you for your feedback, and I love your thought! With the exponential growth in electronic forms of communication over the past few years, there is a potential for this idea to be implemented as an app or website, to name a couple of methods.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on how we might be able to make this a natural part of someone's life. For example, opening up an app or navigating to a website might be a barrier to adaptation as employees would have to take an extra step to visit these electronic platforms, but maybe there's a way to incorporate this into a natural "workflow" of a user's day-to-day experience?

Thank you for your provocations! Excited to see where this conversation goes!

Photo of Vikram Vysyaraju

Excellent point! I think an opportunity would be to incorporate a "Gratitude Newsfeed" as a part of a company intranet like FB Workplace so that it's seamless for employees and it becomes part of the company culture to encourage participation on the platform.

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