Written by Gayathri Gopalakrishnan.
Weather has a great impact on human beings. The impact is so profound that we have terms like winter blues and even psychological disorders like Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short (the acronym really speaks for itself :P) that are influenced by weather.
I am from the south of India, which implies that my city is blessed with ample sunshine throughout the year. The Parisian winter and even spring had left me longing for a nice warm sunny day. That is when I thought…’Hey! Weather is a nice and obvious representation of how people feel!’ That was the beginning of Weather Check!
The initial idea was to use the ambience to provide feedback about how employees in a team feel, especially about diversity and inclusion. Feeling excluded in the workplace happens more often than we think. This is one of the topics that do not surface during discussions. A person who points out that they feel excluded is often seen as weak. So, fitting in is something everyone tries to do but no one talks about it. The idea was to have team members anonymously fill in a short survey about how they feel within the team and then use this data to generate the weather. If a significant portion of the team claims that they feel left out, the overall weather turns out to be stormy or rainy. The expectation was that, upon seeing this, the team would make an effort to be more inclusive overall. As the team members interact more they would alter the input to the weather system, which would eventually reflect in the weather that changes from stormy to sunny.
The way I initially imagined it, the weather would be projected on the ceiling thus making it an integral part of the workspace, like in the image (all the better images are copyright protected, but if you are looking for a better image google sky ceiling tiles/wallpaper).To put this in context, imagine walking into the coffee room and seeing the sky above you nice and sunny. It is a subtle reinforcement that the team is getting along well. That brings us to the question…what if you walk into the coffee room and you are greeted by a stormy ceiling. In this situation, our concept seems more counterproductive!
This led us to the realization that it was not just enough to provide feedback. It was also necessary for us to offer a solution if the weather turned out to be bad. Inspired by another concept that Jesse has been working on, we started discussing the possibility of a tool that is linked to the weather check. This would typically be an app that groups people together (in pairs or small groups) and offers activities and fun team building exercises that happen over a period of time. At regular intervals, the users would also be asked to fill out the weather check survey form. Ideally, the activities and exercises would reflect in a positive change in the weather.
Once Jesse and I discussed this idea, we started working on a prototype (Well, Jesse did: P). What we needed initially was a way to validate if users could relate to the feedback. To test this, Jesse built a nice minimalist version of the first half of weather check: A simple form that takes input and displays the weather.
After the first version with simple hand drawn clouds, Jesse rightly pointed out that the feedback was incomplete. Users were being told that there was a problem, but it was not clear what the problem was. So in the next version, it was decided that the pain points mentioned by the users would be visible on the clouds. At this stage, there is not going to be a fancy ceiling but a simple projection of the results on the wall.
As the next step, we have been working on testing this version with some users from the GLASS summer school. We are hoping that this would help us substantiate our theory that this kind of representation would spark a healthy discussion within the team. If that works, the next step would be to develop a version with the part that generates activities and team building exercises.