This blog is a part two to an article I wrote earlier introducing the UXReactor Dream Machine Project (#uxreactordreammachineproject). I would highly suggest you get caught up before reading further. You can do so by
Our last story ended at the end of five weeks weeks into the dream machine project. Uncertainty was beginning to be replaced with excitement and belief. One dream had been fulfilled, and others were moving forwards. It felt good.
Four more weeks have passed. But have we continued on that pace? Are we still optimistic? Over the last four weeks we have had some dreams progress, we have had some speed bumps, and we have worked on some solutions.
Two steps forward
We have had some great progress and successes with some of our dreams. One teammate wanted to become proficient at using chopsticks. This is not a common skill in India.
So then we as a team decided we need to have a lesson for him. And what better time to do so than lunchtime? We invited Machiko Underwood to join us for a lunch to teach Vinay using her skills learned from a lifetime of living in Japan. And because it involved great food, as is always the case at UXReactor, a lot of the team joined in to help.
It was a great lunch, and everyone thought that using chopsticks properly was much harder than it looked. And Vinay vowed to continue to practice. We had other dreams moving forward as well. Our team mate Bala had a dream to learn to drive a car. He has begun the process of getting his leaning permit and we have found him access to a car when he receives it to practice.
Another teammate, Sairam, brought in a model of an all terrain robot he wanted to build. Within a week he was getting help advice and and help from teammates to get it built.
We have trips being planned to see real snow, pottery lessons being arranged and more. Things are moving forward and I can’t wait to share more with you when they are fulfilled.
But as any designer will tell you, you will always have problems.
3 problems. 3 solutions
Problem # 1 – Never enough time
When you work at a startup, the thing you never have enough is time. That has been an issue for the Dream Machine as well. Some dreams were not going forward despite plans to do so. Things were just not moving.
We had been tracking dreams but only with pen and paper. We needed to to start tracking better. Only in this way could we make sure that things didn’t fall between the cracks when our schedules got busy.
We needed to track our progress better. This was the only way we could identify who was having problems with time and offer support to get over obstacles. So we created an electronic checklist of everyone's dreams as well as their current plan. If someone dreams had stalled, we hope to be able to identify it quickly as possible.
We have only implemented this in the last few weeks, but it has had only marginal success. many dreams that were stuck still have not moved enough. we will continue to experiment and try new things. I will keep updating in future posts.
Problem #2 – What’s the line between work and our Dream Machine?
As we previously mentioned time is always an issue. As an international company, we often have calls early in the morning, or late at night. We are not a simple nine to five company. So work hours can get blurry some times. When was the appropriate time to work on dreams? How did we move forward without interfering with our work?
We also had some suggestions that we use official company trips and events to help people fulfil their dreams. The argument was that it would help expedite peoples dreams. But we weren’t sure if this was appropriate.
We needed to address these issues at our weekly meetings.
The first item we discussed was the appropriate time to work on when we would work on our dreams. We have multiple projects with multiple teams running at any one time. When one teammate maybe extremely tight on time another may be having down time. So when one person could help or needed help with a dream, the other may not be available. And of course we all are excited and want to help, so we don’t want to say no.
But we decided that we needed to set up a rule, that you cannot help with a dream when you have a pending project coming due. We have to make sure that we are all on the same page, that projects come first, and work cannot be delayed for the Dream Machine. This solution gave clarity, as well as alleviating any teammate who may be feeling bad about being unable to help at any given time.
The second issue was whether we could use official events or trips in conjunction with fulfilling a teammates dreams. On the surface this appeared to be a no-brainer. It seemed like the perfect solution. Is your dream to go hiking with friends in a particular place? Why not make that place the spot for our next special event?
But as we discussed it we realized this idea presented bigger problems. For example, whose dreams would be eligible for a company outing? Whose dreams would not? Would there even be a fair way to determine a criteria? These were flags for us.
We realized that we wanted to keep the Dream Machine at team level, rather than a company one. By sand boxing it that way, everyone would be treated equally, and fulfilling an individuals dream would still be an organic outcome.
Problem # 3 – Large Scale Dreams versus Smaller Scale Dreams
At the very beginning of this project we decided that a teammate could choose any dream they wanted. There was no set scope. This resulted in dreams as achievable as riding a roller coaster and larger more hard to achieve dreams like travelling the world.
What we found is that the smaller scale dreams were getting more attention and support. This was understandable from the perspective of ease, but it risked violating our intent, which is that everyone dreams would get fulfilled.
So we used a bit of product thinking to find a solution. When you have a big problem the first thing you need to do is actually understand it. We needed to look at these dreams and understand what were the initial impediments. We needed to ideate on these problems and think different solutions. And finally we had to make sure we had measurable outcomes that would make sure we were on track to achieve the dreams.
So last week we asked people to add information to their tracking checklist. they needed to identify what their first steps would be, what they say as obstacles, and what their metrics would for the dream to be fulfilled. Going forward we can use our design skills to take that data and create a dream road map that ensures we will keep on track to achieve all our dreams bug and small.
We also decided that for each dream, their would be someone whose job would be to track it. Every week they would give a short progress report. In this way we ensured that everyone would have someone other than themselves keeping up with the status of their dream.
I will keep updating on how this is working going forward.
The dreams march on
Despite these issues, the Dream Machine is still moving forward. The excitement is still strong. But we all know that road ahead will presents obstacles. And we will find ways to overcome them. Of that we are sure.
The amount of joy we are seeing, especially from those helping others, continues to give our entire organization a jolt of optimism and energy every week. Even with all those early morning and late night calls.