What would you learn about your employees and company if you could communicate and collect data from a building? This was put into test in an experiment between a pre-startup stage team called Go-Far-A-Day and a large company in smart building business Granlund.
In the experiment Granlund challenged their employees to avoid using the elevator for one month. Go-Far-A-Day provided Granlund with statistics about the progress of the challenge using the simple technology all employees were familiar with: SMS. At the same time the two companies explored what they could learn from each other. Ken Dooley (KD) from Granlund and Lucia Nazzaro (LN) from Go-Far-A-Day tell what happened.
1) What was your experiment about and what were the results?
LN: From our point of view, the experiment consists of testing the viability of setting up an SMS gateway to host a challenge for Granlund employees. Basically, the results lied within the SMS messages we received as answers to this challenge.
KD: We wanted to have an easy way for people to interact with the building where they are sitting, working or shopping in, to explore easy ways for people to give feedback. If you have to send an e-mail or download some app that takes a QR code for communicating that “this is the room I’m in”, it’s just slow and there’s a technology barrier.
2) Was there anything that surprised you?
KD: It was a big surprise how much information and impact we got in the end. All the users had to do was to press “Y” (“yes, I’d like to be involved in the challenge”) and “yes” or “no” (I completed/did not complete the challenge). The challenge was sent to 391 people and in the end about 250 people joined the challenge! We got very good data on which department and what percentage of people got involved. Having that level of penetration within the whole company is really cool. If it would require downloading an app, then only tech people would have actually downloaded it.
LN: We were concerned that May, especially as it starts with the May Day celebration, would not have been the best month for this type of challenge. We are very glad to see it turned out otherwise!
3) What were the key learnings from the experiment?
KD: We learned that we should just test a hypothesis – the simplest possible hypothesis, the very first half a question. In this case we sent an SMS to the entire company. A lot of people got involved. From the user perspective they didn’t hate it, that’s all we know at the moment. From a company’s perspective, we understood a lot. We also got feedback that people now use the stairs all the time, so it became a habit. Apparently, 30 days is a good period of time to adopt a new habit. That was quite nice!
LN: We learned that the SMS gateway had no problem hosting this kind of challenge and that the processes were just as simple as we imagined.
4) The experiment was part of the Bees and Trees project that brings startups and corporates together. What made you join this initiative?
KD: We spend a lot of money on innovation and development. That means mostly internal things like training and fixing our processes. We also do a lot of large EU research projects in our industry, which can obviously be really slow. Therefore, it’s important to put some quick turnover experimentation in there as well and especially to have open source technology. Everything is changing fast now, so we really need to do this to keep up.
LN: Granlund invited us! We simply couldn’t skip this opportunity. It’s important to explore new grounds and thanks to this experiment we’ve been able to do it on the ‘safe side’.
5) What were the challenges in the collaboration process? How did you overcome them?
KD: We had interacted with GFAD previously and given them tips on their future business. The challenge here was not to steam-roll them by saying “do this”. Instead we wanted to give them something they could have an ownership of and that could be their niche area in which they want to grow.
LN: The biggest challenge lied within the shortage of time dedicated to analyzing the results and sending out the answers.
6) What kind of advice would you give to other early-stage teams or startups who would like to try collaboration and to do experiments with companies?
KD: Big companies and people in big companies can’t think lean. They can’t start before they’re ready. It’s not about skillset, it’s more about mindset. For startups, my advice would be the following: big companies are good at startup mapping. You need to pick a subject area and launch your startup. If you are in any way visible, companies will find you!
LN: Make sure everyone involved has the time for this experiment. Everything else can be improved along the way. Find a company that doesn’t lack the resources to carry out the experiment and most of all be sure to do something that everyone truly likes and finds useful.
Bees and Trees is a part of Tekes’ Cleanweb program kicked off in autumn 2016. The Bees and Trees is tackling the issues and mapping the possibilities for cooperation between small (Bees) and large companies (Trees). It is part of Demos Helsinki’s Peloton Club Accelerator.