My drive for being a design-researcher is the excitement I feel when I step out from the world of books and theories and apply what I developed. Vision 2020 workshops were such a rewarding experience in that sense. We applied the Value Design Method to define the FieldLab services,with 5 consequtive workshops at 3 different countries. I must say, it was a marathon. Many design changes, observations, results, improvements… Eventually the results were enlightening. While I am stuffed with inspiration, I wrote some about it on the ProFit blog. The rest will be for the papers and the thesis 😉
The future is about collaboration. Interactive technologies and connectivity define such a dynamic context for product/service development so that it is getting harder to achieve innovation through isolated approaches.
This is where the core value of FieldLabs lies. FieldLabs bring together partners from the government, knowledge institutes and businesses to create innovation and provide a more active lifestyle for the citizens. These partners have complementary skills and resources and have different perspectives to a problem, which is a key to reach innovation through collaboration. That’s why maintaining stakeholder involvement is an important aspect of FieldLabs, from the beginning of the collaboration process and through the whole product development cycle.
However it is challenging as it is appeals. There are many uncertainties in the early stages of the collaboration process: the stakeholders may have different interpretations of the problem, different expectations form each other or from the outcome or simply may not be aware of the dimensions of the problem at hand. These uncertainties can be barriers for initiating collaboration as the objectives and actions are not clearly set. Or simply, even when there is an agreement, the uncertainties may obstruct the potential disagreements, which may me harder to resolve at the later stage.
In defining the services provided by the Field Lab, we are also faced with the same challenges. Although the FieldLab concept is well defined, how it will be implemented locally is very much related with the local dynamics and relies on the involvement of the key stakeholders. Each FieldLab has a unique focus which is empowered with the contribution of local partners. And their involvement relies on the mutual agreement on the outcome and process of collaboration.
That is why we organized Vision 2020 workshops in each FieldLab in the ProFit network, in Delft, Eindhoven, Kortrijk, Ulster and Sheffield. The purpose of these workshops was to involve the stakeholders in the definition of FieldLab services early in the process, to collect insights to enhance the proposal and reduce uncertainties to achieve agreement.
We organized the workshops by applying the Value Design Method that is being developed through Pelin Atasoy’s PhD study on supporting multi-stakeholder collaboration through a design process. The method aims to combine the user insights and business insights to involve stakeholders in the design of the value proposal. Participants from businesses, knowledge institutes, end user representatives and government worked together to define the value provided by each local field lab, the services that can be provided, and the challenges ahead.
Every workshop provided different insights which are valuable for involving the stakeholders in the innovation process:
• Each Field Lab has a unique focus, coming from the dynamics of the local collaboration, and the needs of the local citizens. Analyzing the different dynamics and challenges coming from these variety enriches the Field Lab proposal.
• These differences are also valuable when the FieldLabs are connected via a network. It is a very valuable opportunity for the companies to implement their products in different locations, test with different profile of users and to reach different markets.
• There are a wide variety of services that can be provided by the FieldLabs, from concept development to testing of a prototype and even reaching to a new market. What is important is then to communicate the possibilities with the stakeholder network, and achieve agreement on the services that will be provided.
• Covering these services and also maintaining the FieldLab operation requires flexibility for the product development. Different research questions may require different approaches or project life-cycles, which should be taken into account from the early stages of collaboration.
• It is important to involve stakeholders early in the process, not only to create a shared understanding, but also to spot the challenges ahead to act on. It is a challenge to move from the abstract level to the concrete actions that should be taken. Although it may seem like everyone has an agreement in the early stages, the differences in understanding may be revealed when a specific product/service scenario is worked out. Therefore stakeholder dialogue should start early in the process, and carried out as one of the main activities of the FieldLabs.
The Vision 2020 Value Design workshops were valuable not only because they allowed the stakeholders to share their understanding and expectations regarding FieldLab, they also helped to reduce the uncertainties for defining FieldLab services. It was a great opportunity to involve the stakeholders to discuss on how to realize the FieldLabs and related services. Our insights from the workshops will be integrated into the Vision2020 document for defining the FieldLab services. We are enthusiastic about the upcoming steps.
Published on the ProFit blog on 7.7.2014: