Make Umuzi Better

Cohort 12 tackling real Umuzi issues.  

After a hugely successful kick off to Make Umuzi Better, we started out Day 2 in a state of zen, with a wonderful meditation session that guided us to a space within, to connect with our inner child. Upon taking our final deep breath for the session, we then opened our eyes to a room full of mixed emotions. Some of us felt very calm and centred, while some of us also felt totally out of place as we have never engaged with a meditation session before.

Our official proceedings for the day kicked off with a sharing session from some of our C11 recruits who recently went through the Make Umuzi Better experience earlier this year. They impart some wisdom from their own experiences and shared some vital survival tips for our C12’s on how to get through the next three weeks.

As some of you may know, Human Centred Design (HCD) encompasses many steps and iterative processes, and this time round, we decided the best way to introduce HCD would be to run a “mini design sprint” end-to-end with a relatable example, for our recruits to understand what each step entails and also get a feel for what’s to come over the next three weeks. Needless to say, our C12’s blew us away with their enthusiasm and the way they grasped each step of the process with a willingness to solve the problem of designing a better commute to work. To provide some context, we covered three week’s worth of work at a very rapid pace in 2.5 hours today … #impressedmuch?!

After refuelling our energy reserves on a well-deserved lunch, our friend Erin Rapacki, who is visiting from San Francisco, took us through some of the thinking behind why HCD is relevant in today’s world. Erin shared some wonderful examples of what bad design looks like, which helped our recruits identify with the importance of user testing and empathising on user needs.

Upon completion of the previous round of Make Umuzi Better, we conducted a retrospective session to understand which areas of the experience we could improve, as well as which areas required more emphasis from a training and understanding perspective. Empathy was at the top of our list. While we understand and appreciate that one cannot simply snap their fingers and hope to achieve instant empathy, we are also aware that without a better understanding of what empathy is, we cannot possibly become better at solving everyday human needs.

As such, we rounded off our second day with an afternoon of activities dedicated to educating ourselves on the topic of empathy. We split up our teams across three main activity stations that tackled empathy using different approaches. Our C12 recruits shared different perspectives on how the various activities had affected their personal understanding of empathy and even sparked some very topical debates within the broader group. Have we become more empathetic? … let’s see how the next few days unfold as our recruits start to grapple with their design challenges.

Housing, food & parents

make for debates about story, process and the need for receptions in Crèche’s  

Energised, well rested and coffee in hand,  the #MUB crew kicked off with a lot of heart.   We opened with a reflection session that resonated appreciation.  Appreciation of the opportunity to be part of Umuzi, of the people to learn with and of the content to learn from.  The previous day’s exercises on empathy seemed to have burrowed to a tender part out our hearts and here it really showed.  

We then turned up the Jazz, and collected to discuss our topics; namely-

#MUB for recruits in umuzi housing

#MUB for umuzi recruit’s food culture  

#MUB for parents of Umuzi

Unpacking each topic, we discussed the user who would become the foundation of decision making in the weeks going forward.  Understanding that our user represents a collection of people, we searched for a persona who we could hypothesise a user experience for.  Armed with this we called in the professional- Cayton Bond, the product manager of Umusi’s ez’ntswembu – to guide us thugh the User Journey process.

Clayton run us through what ‘good’ looks like with a series of relatable examples. He introduced us to Draw Toast,  a great resource for understanding user journeys.

After a short tea and smoke break, we tackled our complex problems head on, each group grappling with the theory in practice.  What quickly emerged was a level of complexity that the morning commute exercise did not achieve. We had to dig deep to empathise with the story of another, while practicing discretion to ensure the steps remained on topic of making umuzi better for our user.  Exhausted, we took lunch.

Each group presented their user journeys with poise and precision, but hardly elusive enough to avoid the critical eye of the group.  We engaged in constructive criticism, learning something unique from each group while ensuring each user journey was of the highest standard.

Debates about story, process and the need for receptions in Crèche’s ensued.

To restore the calm and truly take in how we had personally grown today,  we did an exercise of journaling in silence.

Calm after the storm… until tomorrow.

The human at the centre.

When we become the user at the centre of our own user journeys  

As the week draws on, we start to notice just how much energy and emotion our recruits are pouring into their days on Make Umuzi Better. We started our morning off with a beautiful reflection session that ventured towards the topic of knowing when to say “no” to someone else and “yes” to yourself, in both the personal and professional aspects of our lives. Some of our recruits have openly admitted to feeling very far out of their comfort zones. It would appear that our user journey exercises of yesterday have opened some very raw points of personal reflection for some of us. When we become the user at the center of our own user journeys we gain a renewed sense of appreciation of just how much we accomplish in a day.

We kicked off the formalities of the day with an introduction to interviewing users, and how to scratch beneath the surface to uncover more about what people need, and more importantly, why they need it. The hardest part is finding where to start with an interview. How do we approach a perfect stranger and begin questioning them about their social and personal habits, preferences, needs and everyday life activities? How do we get people to open up to us in a way that we can truly understand what lies beneath the surface of their everyday routine? How do we get people to see past what they accept as the proverbial norm and actually question why things are the way they are? It’s A LOT harder than it looks.

With User Journeys in mind, our recruits broke up into their respective teams and began constructing their interview questionnaires for the users of the Umuzi community. Upon reflection around the room, we found that most recruits are stuck between knowing what insights they want to uncover and then crafting the appropriate questions to ask in order to achieve those insights. HCD places a major emphasis on open ended more general questions from which to gather initial insights and then delve deeper into specific points raised during the interview to uncover more specific and insightful moments of fuel and friction for our users. Another big learning moment for us in this process is to treat a user interview more like a conversation and less like an interrogation.

After recovering from the post lunch energy slump, our recruits set off into the Umuzi studio to find their unsuspecting users. Approaching a perfect stranger is horribly uncomfortable! As our recruits reluctantly meandered around the studio, we encouraged them to work on a clear and succinct introduction when approaching their users, to clearly explain why they need to speak to them and clearly state what problem they are trying to solve.  

As the recruits trickled back into their working space, we see tired faces and perplexed minds avidly chatting around their tables trying to decipher and confirm some of the insights and stories they have just uncovered. A uneasy atmosphere settles around our recruits as they wind down their day, we have a feeling that some of these questions will follow our recruits home this afternoon.  

A massive lesson in confidence building is underway.

It's Friday Baby

But no getting off easy, we’ve got insights to uncover and user stories to dissect.

Finally, Friday arrives for what has been a packed first week for the C12 recruits at umuzi. But there is no getting off easy, we’ve got insights to uncover and user stories to dissect.

We open on Friday morning with a reflection on the previous days interviewing.  It’s fascinating to see what we expected to discover and what was discovered to be worlds apart.  The users interviewed would happily share far more than required, answering many pre-structured, ‘interview guide’, questions in one conversation.  More interestingly, they would shed light on aspects that we had not even considered in our Interview Guides. The learning- go off script; Interview guides help structure the conversation to remain on topic, but natural flowing conversations with the real users provide more insights in a sincere manner.

With some interviews conducted and data captured, it was time for David Brauer- our head of strategy and recruitment- to help us decipher what value lay in the user stories.  David ran through examples of observations vs. insights leaving the recruits with a clear understanding and the desire to ask WHY until obscurity.

The #MUB for Umuzi housing group practised observation and immersion in a tour of the current housing at Jules street.  Both concerned and inspired to make improvements, we jumped back into interviewing before taking lunch.

Now for the download… and more sticky notes!  We scrutinised each interview determining what insights each uncovered, wrote it down and slapped it up on the boards.  Once boards were brimming, we started to make sense of the noise by bucketing the insights into themes. This helps to determine what pros and cons exist between multiple users within the same user experience.   

The boards displayed clusters of luminous notes, each with a valuable story of an experience at Umuzi.  A story of Umuzi that the C12’s are about to make even more extraordinary. Maybe not all heroes wear cloaks.   But for now, Heroes OUT.

It’s the weekend, baby.

Diving beneath the surface

We go deeper beneath the surface of the iceberg and really begin to understand and empathise with our user.

After surviving the icy cold “springtime” weather in Johannesburg this weekend, our recruits returned to Umuzi this morning ready to tackle their week of ideation. We opened the morning with our daily reflection session, where some recruits shared their own stories of how they are already applying User Journeys to their own personal projects in life. Some recruits also shared how they are becoming a lot more aware of their personal interactions with their families and communities, and are learning to empathise with what people around them need in their everyday lives.

After downloading insights from the user interviews we conducted last week, it was time for our recruits to update and refine their hypothetical user journeys into real user journeys. We then invited our Umuzi community of users to join our teams in the space where they were taken through the user journeys and asked to provide feedback on the accuracy and relevance of the various steps within the user journey.

Our Creative Director, Clayton Bond, led us through a post-lunch session on the “insight story” … once we have a well defined user journey in place, the next step is to overlay what our users are seeing, thinking, feeling and doing at the respective stages of their journey. This helps us unpack a new level of insight into understanding where the user’s true moments of fuel and friction exist. Our recruits very quickly discovered some massive discrepancies between what they thought the insights were and what the users shared as actual insights.

Clayton guided us through this exercise using a beautiful analogy of an iceberg. When we build a user journey, we only uncover the very tip of the iceberg i.e. we start to get an idea of what our users experience on a day-to-day basis. Only upon asking users to reflect on their feelings, actions and emotions at each stage of the user journey, do we then go deeper beneath the surface and really begin to understand and empathise with who we are solving a problem for, and what problem we are actually solving.    

Much like diving into a deeper level of understanding the users in our community, we find our recruits personally experiencing deeper levels of self-reflection … We’ll leave you with this story shared by Lebohang … Upon his journey to work this morning, he came across a homeless man sifting through rubbish and holding a tatty looking copy of the Stephen Covey’s bestselling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Having already had some exposure to the work of Stephen Covey, Lebohang commented to the man that this book was a great read and asked the man if he could offer him money for the book. After briefly exchanging a mere R5 for the book, Lebohang continued on his journey to work, but felt horribly conflicted. Had he just deprived someone of a wealth of knowledge by buying this book off them? Or, was the man in question merely not in the right space in time to receive that knowledge yet?

A Date to Debate

Some teams had flawless logic in justifying their decision, while others were quickly called out by their peers.

More User Journeys.  More interviewing. More insights.  Today we’re pushing to discover what part of the user journey to focus our investigation on.   What moment of friction or fuel could be improved to add maximum value to the whole user experience?

After applying insight stories to each frame of the the User journey,  the C12 recruits quickly began to realise that there are moments of fuel and friction every step of the way.   The challenging part is to determine which ones play a more significant role than others. As there are no right answers, we had to re-look at the insights- our raw data- and create a rationale to justify why one aspect may be more preferable than another.

This proved to test the group dynamics as teams debated back and forth.  However, the recruits where well prepared for this after our exercises on empathy, putting themselves in the user’s shoes through the insights collected.  The debates where on behalf of the user; and not a product of personal opinion.

The teams presented their refined user journeys and Moments of Truths  making the argument for each case. Some teams had flawless logic in justifying their decision, while others were quickly called out by their peers.  The feedback well received, we literally went back to the drawing board.

Last part of our user-centric, debate-filled day; choosing between friction or fuel.  

Would ‘fixing’ a moment of friction add the most value?

Or

Would ‘improving’ a moment of fuel add more value?  

This is a vital part of the process, as often with an HCD process we can easily be fixated on what’s wrong and intuitively want to fix it.   However, in some cases, the positives may outweigh the negatives, and improving something good may lead to a even greater impact value.

We asked the question-  if we address this, will it make a 10% improvement or an 80% improvement?

With no right answers, teams once again entered into debate.  Our last team to make a decision brought it to a vote, with a three to two split.  Down to the wire.

Talk about a stressful day!

Draw out the right insights to solve the right challenge

To turn a chosen moment of truth from our User Journeys into an insight statement.

This morning’s reflection session took a wonderfully unexpected turn towards uncovering the many hidden talents among our new recruits of Cohort 12. We touched on some of the internal conflicts and blockages we face when splitting our time between our day job and our side hustles to pay the bills, and were delighted to hear our recruits sharing so many stories of their own innovative business ideas and creative undertakings. Even better, our reflection session opened up into a vibrant discussion of topics ranging from networking opportunities, to idea sharing forums, to great resources where some of our budding entrepreneurs could even get help registering their businesses.

Onward to the day’s activities … our mission, to turn a chosen moment of truth from our User Journeys into an insight statement, that then becomes the foundation of our design challenge and frames the question of how exactly our C12’s are going to Make Umuzi Better. After countless cycles of converging and diverging thinking, our recruits finally homed in on their chosen moment of truth, and unpacked some further insight around the user experience at this particular moment.

We guided the recruits through an exercise on how to craft an insight statement for our chosen moment of truth, using a formula to help steer their thinking. HCD places emphasis on crafting an insight statement that is well balanced between not being too broad / ambiguous and too narrow / specific … although seemingly logical, this process is a lot tougher than it sounds, hence, the formula! The insight statement helps us succinctly frame the user’s need / challenge in that particular moment of truth, which, if solved through the design challenge, can revolutionise the user’s experience in future. But … we have to be certain that we are drawing out the correct user insights to ensure that we are solving the right user challenge.

Clayton guided us through this exercise using a beautiful analogy of an iceberg. When we build a user journey, we only uncover the very tip of the iceberg i.e. we start to get an idea of what our users experience on a day-to-day basis. Only upon asking users to reflect on their feelings, actions and emotions at each stage of the user journey, do we then go deeper beneath the surface and really begin to understand and empathise with who we are solving a problem for, and what problem we are actually solving.    

Much like diving into a deeper level of understanding the users in our community, we find our recruits personally experiencing deeper levels of self-reflection … We’ll leave you with this story shared by Lebohang … Upon his journey to work this morning, he came across a homeless man sifting through rubbish and holding a tatty looking copy of the Stephen Covey’s bestselling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Having already had some exposure to the work of Stephen Covey, Lebohang commented to the man that this book was a great read and asked the man if he could offer him money for the book. After briefly exchanging a mere R5 for the book, Lebohang continued on his journey to work, but felt horribly conflicted. Had he just deprived someone of a wealth of knowledge by buying this book off them? Or, was the man in question merely not in the right space in time to receive that knowledge yet?

On fleek. Digging deep.

Some recruits rocked up in pyjamas,some with shoes that did not match. Yes; and, putting our heads together, we pushed the limits on what where already good ideas.

Today is ‘Mad Swag Day’, where we’re getting a little silly to bring out the creative side of ourselves. Some recruits rocked up in pajamas,some with shoes that did not match and others in character of ultergeoes, anime characters and cartoons.  We looked good, but felt even better. We lit up Umuzi with contagious energy. Best believe, C12 has officially arrived, and we’re well on our way to Making Umuzi Better.

We opened with a discussion around some ideas of brainstorming, discovering different processes in everyone’s unique creative journey.  Some felt that brainstorming was challenging. That great ideas only come when in the right frame of mind, as if you can’t just turn good ideas on.  Others felt comfortable with what lay ahead, as well practiced creatives engage in brainstorming every day. We then moved to the park and got silly before Clayton took us into the unknown of our own creative selves.

We ran a creative brainstorming tool called sprint, from google ventures, where group members individually came up with ideas as rapidly as possible.  Ideas, clayton told us, as like digging for gold. Sometimes you may dig a hole and find some gold. But if you dig too deep and the gold runs out, then it’s difficult to get out of the hole you’ve dug.  Rather, dig many holes, looking for as many places gold may be, and only then decide which hole may reap the most reward. In this exercise we dig as many small holes as possible in a set amount if time.

We then voted anonymously on our peers ideas.  All the ideas had similar themes, a testament to how well framed our HMW questions where.  Taking into account manny aspects of each idea, we found the golden thread between ideas and teams began to collate our creative genius into single innovative ideas.  The recruits delved into the strongest ideas, searching for ways to build on them by asking- ‘Yes; and?’ Putting our heads together, we pushed the limits of what where already good ideas.  Many packs of sticky notes later, consensus was reached.

The gold mine had been found,  it was time to dig out holes deep.

Shooting for ten stars

We then go beyond and push the ideas further by asking what a 10 star nirvana version of the idea would look like.

 

With the weekend finally upon us, we rolled into Friday morning with some sense of relief that our challenging day of intensive brainstorming was finally behind us … or was it?

Here at Umuzi we’re all about being extra and pushing our ideas as far out as we possibly can, so we can test, learn and implement the best aspects of those ideas rapidly. After watching our recruits confront the challenge of brainstorming and stretching their ideas to all possible realms of the absurd, we opened our morning with a discussion on the Ten Star Experience. Andrew Levy our MD, joined this morning’s reflection session to talk us through examples of how companies go from great, to exceptional, in the way they create unique experiences in an innovative way for their customers / users.

What does this have to do with Make Umuzi Better you ask? Other than generating innovative ideas to help make Umuzi a better place for our current and future recruits, the Ten Star Experience is a great thinking tool that helps our recruits push their brainstorming ideas even deeper into absurd territory. Essentially, we walk our ideas through a series of incremental stages and build on them as we go. We start with the five star experience, where we define what a “good” version of our chosen idea looks like. We then go beyond that and push the idea further by asking what the 6, 7, 8 and 9 star version of that experience looks like, until we reach our 10 star nirvana version of the idea.

The goal of this exercise is not to go out and prototype the Ten Star version of the idea, that wouldn’t be feasible. However, through pushing our ideas we have been able to define what a great experience looks like at Umuzi, we have focused on identifying the important aspects of that great experience, and we have pushed ourselves to think beyond making marginal improvements to our ideas. In identifying the important aspects of that great experience, we can now distill some of those aspects into a minimum viable product and rapidly test these on our users right away.

As we closed out a hugely successful week of ideation and brainstorming upon brainstorming, our recruits left with tired minds, but an eager anticipation of what awaits in their third and final week of Make Umuzi Better … How are we going to bring our multitude of sticky notes and rough drawings to life in the Umuzi community? Visit our page next week to see more.