Building a Culture of Experimentation (kokeilukulttuuri)

Writer Ken Dooley is the Sustainability Group Manager at Granlund Consulting

There is no doubt that digitalisation will continue to disrupt established industries and the construction and real estate industries are no different.

We are all aware of the impact that Google has made on advertising, Uber has made on the taxi industry and AirBnB has made on hotels, so how do established companies keep up with the disruptors in this increasingly digital age? The answer is experimentation.

Large companies are beginning to look at start-ups for inspiration and one marked difference is in the agility of development processes.  Big player companies have established internal processes and spend vast amounts of time and energy planning their next steps. In contrast, start-ups are empowered by the lean methods of people like Eric Ries and are able to try new things and experiment much more often. This is depicted by the mindset of the lean start-up movement which is embodied by phrases such as “get out of the building” and “start before you are ready”. This approach advocates speaking to customers and building ad hoc solutions that solve real world problems. It is totally opposite of spending large portions of time and money developing a product in-house and showing it to customers for the first time on launch day. The expectation is that the products and services developed by the lean approach are more customer oriented as they are incrementally developed with real customer feedback. This is why experimentation is becoming a popular development tool and even the Finnish government are conducting experiments which they call strategic policy trials.

Experiment 1: Hackathon

One of Granlund’s first attempts at experimentation was last year’s Behaviour Change Hackathon where the aim was to develop insights and tools for reducing user energy consumption in buildings.  The event was a departure from a traditional real estate industry workshop as it encouraged participation from a diverse range of backgrounds with extra emphasis on the inclusion of behavioural psychologists, software developers and energy experts. The event generated 5 concepts and on the day Granlund promised to bring at least one idea to the level of a prototype.

Experiment 2: Location

The idea from the hackathon that was chosen for further development was a concept called WarmEnough which was described in the hackathon as a solution to “optimise indoor temperature based on crowdsourced temperature feedback via mobile app”. Granlund worked with local start-up Nomenal who were part of the original hackathon team that came up with the WarmEnough idea.

The resultant smartphone app enabled building users to send a very simple feedback message which had 3 possible comments (1) I am too warm, (2) I am happy with the temperature or (3) I am too cold. The most important part of the app was that the feedback was location enabled. This meant that each feedback item could be tracked to the position in the building that it was sent from so that building managers could look for trends and prioritise areas with multiple feedback cases. In all, 2 separate apps were developed in order to test the best method for attaching location to the feedback. One app was developed using iBeacons and one app was developed using IndoorAtlas. A screenshot of the app may be seen below along with the map of the building showing where feedback has been sent from.

Dooley feedback
On the left: a screenshot of the warm enough app, on the right: a visual representation of the 3rd floor feedback generated by the app.

Experiment 3: Games

The local gaming ecosystem is one of Finland’s biggest success stories of recent years and so Granlund have been experimenting with how gaming can improve the user experience of our products and services. One way that gaming can be used in our business involves a “playable” user feedback survey and this concept is currently being developed with Oulu based gaming company PlaySign. The core idea is that taking part in the survey has to be fun and it must also give an immediate visual representation of the feedback that has been received.

Dooley feedback 2
Screenshots of an early prototype of the playable survey showing (left) neutral starting point at the beginning of the survey, (middle) setting showing that the area is marginally cold (right) setting showing that the area is very cold.

Experiment 4: More Location

In order to build on our expertise in the field of indoor positioning Granlund have also been experimenting with indoor mapping in our headquarters in Helsinki. Using the Steerpath technology of a local start-up Granlund have been developing an smartphone indoor mapping system that understands a users location and can direct them to parts of the building such as meeting rooms that they have never been to before. It is essentially a google maps for indoors.

Experiment 5: Occupancy

The latest concept being tested in our headquarters is real-time methods of measuring occupancy in buildings. More on this later!


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