Rethink Space at MICHR.
A human centered approach to workspace design.
 
Overview | Hear | Understand | Create | Deliver
 
Hear

UNDERSTAND. SURFACE THEMES.

“We may not know what that answer is, but we know that we have to give ourselves permission to explore.”

Patrice Martin, Creative Director and Co-Lead, IDEO.org

This phase involved surfacing themes from all the user research we had been through. It also involved spotting opportunities and converting them into stories to be shared. Here is how we did it and what we found.

 

Team room.

Rethink Space Team Room

In order to externalize our knowledge and use it in our discussions, we turned one of the empty offices into a team room. We used to the room to uncover and share insights gained from the "Hear" phase, identify opportunities, synthesize themes and hold meetings. The team room contained affinity notes created from our interviews, grouped by categories and marked with insights. It also contained the various artifacts that were generated from the "Hear" phase constantly reminding us of all that we had learned and making sure that we were always thinking about it. We also opened the team room to all MICHR-Staff, promoting transparency and co-ownership in the process.

Themes.

Rethink Space Team Room

1. Spatial co-location within teams

As you can see from the map in the left, where colors denote teams, we were spread out in a haphazard way. People from a team were not always sitting together and this was not only causing them inefficiencies but was also leading to a lack of communication within teams. It was also having an adverse effect on team morale.

Image showing lack of spatial colocation Image showing lack of spatial colocation
Need for flexible work spaces

2. Flexible work spaces

MICHR has a variety of units that do very different work but collaborate often. To support the roles that we play everyday at MICHR, we needed flexible work spaces that support small and large places to come together, horizontal and vertical work surfaces, program specific spaces to focus, brainstorm and collaborate and quiet spaces to hide in.

3. Signage and wayfinding

MICHR has a large area and is located amidst many other units. It is often confusing for people to navigate within MICHR and to other units. We have a row of cubes and there are few landmarks within our space for guidance. People also stop by looking for major meeting rooms that are shared with other units, sometimes disturbing the workers. Signage and way finding became a recurring theme through our user research.

Image showing lack of signage and way finding
Diagram showing concertric circles with MICHR's internal and external services

4. Difference between internal and external services

As most other organizations, MICHR has internal and external facing services. However, our internal and external services are interspersed with other making it harder for staff to find these services. As an example, if a staff member had a question related to HR, there was nothing in our space that indicated where he/she would go to find someone who can answer it. This was true for our external clients as well as they found finding external services harder because they were mixed with internal ones.

5. Noise Level

While we assume that quiet is the default mode of operation for people, innovation and collaboration sometimes need a little bit of noise. This is what we learnt when we spoke to staff at MICHR. They thought the space was "library quiet" and they did not feel that they had the permission to go up to someone and ask them a question.

Image showing a sticky with a quote that implies that it get too quiet to collaborate
Image showing a sticky.

6. When can I interrupt someone?

Staff found it hard to understand when it was ok to interrupt one another. Some staff had offices with glass doors while had offices without openings. Most of the staff had cubes and there was no good way to tell if it was ok to interrupt someone or not.

7. Whose table is it anyway?

We realized that there was a lot of uncertainty over who owned which piece of space and what could or could not be done in our space. This lead most staff members to feel reluctant to experiment with and use the space we had to suit their needs.

Image showing a sticky with a picture of a table
Next:Create
 

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aalapd@umich.edu

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