UXReactor Dream Machine Project: Dreams, Problems and Solutions

Todd Underwood

November 30, 2017

This blog is the second part to an article I wrote earlier introducing the UXReactor Dream Machine Project -#uxreactordreammachineproject. I would highly suggest you get caught up before reading further. You can do so by clicking here.

Our last story ended after five weeks into the Dream Machine Project. Uncertainty was beginning to be replaced with excitement and belief. One dream had been fulfilled, and others were moving forwards. It felt good.

Five more weeks have passed since then. Are we continuing at the same pace? Are we still optimistic? Over the last four weeks, we have had some dreams progress, some speed bumps, and we have worked on some solutions.

Dreams that are progressing

We have had some great movement and successes with some of our dreams. One teammate wanted to become proficient at using chopsticks. This is not a common skill in India.

So then we as a team decided we should have a lesson for him. And what better time to do so than lunch? We invited Machiko Underwood to join us to teach Vinay using her skills learned from a lifetime of living in Japan. As is always the case at UXReactor, because it involved great food, a lot of the team joined in to help.

We had a great time, and everyone thought that using chopsticks properly was much harder than it looked. And Vinay vowed to continue to practice.

We had other dreams moving forward as well. Our teammate Bala had a dream to learn to drive a car. He has begun the process of getting his learner’s permit and we have found him a car to practice with.

Another teammate, Sairam, brought in a model of an all-terrain robot he wanted to build. Within a week he was getting advice and help from teammates to get it built.

We have trips being planned to see real snow, pottery lessons being arranged and more. Things are moving forward and I can’t wait to share more with you when they are fulfilled.

But as any designer will tell you, you will always have problems.

Problems and Solutions

Problem # 1

Never enough time

When you work at a startup, the thing you never have enough of is time. That has been an issue for the Dream Machine as well. Some dreams were not going forward despite plans to do so. Things were just not moving.

We had been tracking dreams, but only with pen and paper. We needed to do this more aggressively if we wanted to make sure that things didn’t fall through the cracks when our schedules got busy

Solutions

We needed a better process to track the dreams. This was the only way we could identify who was having problems with time and offer support to get over obstacles. So we created a digital checklist of everyone’s dreams as well as their current plan. If someone’s dreams have stalled, we hope to be able to identify it as quickly as possible.

We have only implemented this in the last few weeks, and it has had marginal success. Some of the dreams still aren’t progressing enough. We will continue to experiment and try new things. I will keep updating in future posts.

Problem # 2

Where do we draw the line between our work and the Dream Machine?

As we previously mentioned time is always an issue. As an international company, we often have calls early in the morning, or late at night. We are not a simple nine to five company. So work hours can get blurry at times. When was the appropriate time to work on dreams? How did we move forward without interfering with our work?

We also had some suggestions that we use official company trips and events to help people fulfill their dreams. The argument was that it would help expedite people’s dreams. But we weren’t sure if this was appropriate.

We needed to address these issues.

Solutions

The first item we discussed was the appropriate time to work on our dreams. We have multiple projects with multiple teams running at any one time. When one teammate maybe extremely tight on time another may have more flexibility. So when one person could help or needed help with a dream, the other may not be available. Of course, we all are excited and want to help each other, making saying no difficult.

So we decided that we needed to set up a rule. You cannot help with a dream when you have a pending project due. We have to make sure that we are all on the same page, that projects come first, and work cannot be delayed for the Dream Machine.

This solution gave clarity, as well as alleviating the feelings of any teammate who may be feeling bad about being unable to help due to projects. It was now out of their hands.

The second issue was whether we could use official events or trips in conjunction with fulfilling a teammates dreams. On the surface, this appeared to be a no-brainer. It seemed like the perfect solution. Is your dream to go hiking with friends in a particular place? Why not make that place the spot for our next company special event?

But as we analyzed it we realized this idea presented bigger problems than it solved. For example, whose dreams would be eligible for a company outing? Whose dreams would not? Would there even be a fair way to determine criteria? These were big flags for us.

We realized that we wanted to keep the Dream Machine at team level, rather than a company one. By sand-boxing it that way, everyone would be treated equally, and fulfilling an individual’s dream would still be an organic outcome driven by teammates.

dream machine explaining by Todd

Problem # 3

Large Scale Dreams versus Smaller Scale Dreams

At the very beginning of this project we decided that a teammate could choose any dream they wanted. There were no limits. This resulted in dreams as achievable as riding a roller coaster, and larger and harder to achieve dreams like traveling the world.

What we found is that the smaller scale dreams were getting more attention and support. We realized that this was natural, as people tend to do easier tasks first. But it risked violating our intent, which is that everyone dreams would get fulfilled.

Solutions

So we used a bit of product thinking to find a solution. When you have a big problem the first thing you need to do is actually understand it. We needed to look at these dreams and understand what the initial impediments were. We needed to ideate on these problems and think of different solutions. And finally we had to make sure we had measurable benchmarks that would make sure we were following the correct roadmap to achieve the dreams.

So last week we asked people to add information to their tracking checklist. They needed to identify what their first steps would be, what they saw as obstacles, and what their metrics would for the dream to be fulfilled. Going forward we can use our design skills to take that data and create and follow a dream roadmap that ensures we will achieve all our dreams big and small.

We also decided that for each dream, there would be someone else whose job would be to track it. Every week they would give a short progress report. In this way we ensured that everyone would have someone other than themselves keeping up with the status of their dream. It makes every dream a team effort.

I will keep updating on how this is working going forward.

Going Forward

Despite these issues, the Dream Machine is still moving. The excitement is still strong. We all know that road ahead will present obstacles. But we will find ways to overcome them. Of that we are certain.

The amount of joy we are seeing, especially from those helping others, continues to give our entire organization a jolt of optimism and energy every week. We all have a bit “more pep in our step”, even with all those early morning and late night calls!


And don’t forget to follow UXReactor on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn for the latest on our project.