Can You Design Happiness at Work? Hacking Happiness with OpenIDEO

This morning, I attended a Hacking Happiness session organized by the OpenIDEO Barcelona Chapter. OpenIDEO is IDEO‘s platform for open innovation. Their goal is to solve complex challenges in society by using design thinking as a tool. Design thinking allows practically anyone to find innovative solutions to problems in a human-centered, yet feasible and viable, way (IDEO).

In today’s mini-hackathon, our challenge was: How might we integrate the happiness of the employees as a key value at work? We worked in small groups to complete the first three steps of a design thinking process: empathizing with the users (employees), defining the specific question we wanted to solve, and generating new ideas.

The topic was of course extremely broad and most of the time, design thinking processes take a long time to complete, easily several months. So what could we really achieve in a few hours?

We found concrete solutions.

In a matter of a few hours, we actually managed to develop concrete solutions to the problem. My group’s solution to the problem was to develop a program to increase empathy in the workplace. This program consisted of specific activities, such as:

  • Internal job rotation within the company. This helps the employees to understand better the challenges their colleagues are experiencing at work and consider how they could help solve those. For example, you might notice that the way your own department is communicating with others is causing confusion. You will possibly not realize this before really putting yourself in the other person’s cowboy/cowgirl boots.
  • Listing every team member’s strengths where others can see them. This helps employees to understand that everyone has their unique strengths and skill sets – not everybody is good at the same things. Visualization of skills can also help to identify and re-allocate talent internally.
  • Gathering feedback from the employees through various channels. These channels could include not only the yearly employee satisfaction survey, but also a feedback box for anonymous ideas and areas of improvement, one-on-ones, and so on. And just as important is to show that the feedback is being taken seriously and changes are being made. This helps the employees to feel that their needs are heard and that they can impact the decisions that are made within the organization.

Our solution is obviously not finalized in any way and it would need prototyping and testing before putting it into practice. However, if a small group of people who didn’t know each other beforehand could put this together in a few hours, what could be achieved in a real workplace?

We left with something to think about.

One of my favorite things about this kind of mini-hackathons is that they make you think about the actions that YOU could take right NOW to make a CHANGE. Sometimes, big problems seem impossible for one person to solve. But the more people there are making small changes, the bigger the impact will be, as you probably have heard.

And when it comes to happiness, in the end, YOU are the only person in charge of your happiness, at work and in other parts of your life. What might you do today to make yourself happy?

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