For the last five weeks I have been involved in a project at work called #uxreactordreammachineproject. It’s a small project, but has become a very rewarding one. But what is this project, and what is the onus behind it? I have gotten that question from quite a few people.
Perhaps a bit of background on me and how I got here might help. I had been teaching at University in Japan. Then about a year ago, UXReactor, a design consultancy from California, offered me a chance to help develop their customer outreach system. They also had offices in Hyderabad, India. To get the job I would need to move to India for at least a year to learn the industry before shifting back to the US.
Now what would motivate a 43 year old, with 2 young children, to change careers and countries? In a completely new industry to boot? The answer comes down to one thing: shared beliefs.
UXR believed that if you get the right people together, with the same intentions, no problem is truly impossible. In other words, with the right partners all is possible. And they wanted employees who believed the same.
So after more than few discussions with my amazing wife, we decided to take the leap. And we’ve never looked back.
What does all this have to do with the Dream Machine Project ? As it turns out, everything.
Dreams & Design
As a design firm, what is our job? We look at problems from every possible angle, iterate, and ultimately find the optimal solutions for our partners.
And what keeps us from attaining our dreams? Problems. It might be lack of time, uncertainty of where to start, or a million other things. But still it’s always some sort of barrier.
Based on these principals our CEO Prasad Kantamneni approached me and other teammates about trying an idea out at UXReactor. (He will be writing an article in the near future about what his thoughts and intent were with the project, which he had already been doing in conjunction with our sister organization UXDAcademy.)
The idea was simple, and he only shared it with us at a conceptual level. Why not, as a team, share our dreams, discuss the problems, and start tracking them to see if we could solve the problems standing in our way?
Would UX design principles work as well on an individual level as they had been working on a professional level? He knew that UXDAcademy has already been running a project for the students and getting great results.
As a team we thought it might be worth trying out. So we created an experiment. We called it #theuxreactordreammachineproject.
We decided to create a process that was as organic as possible. There would be no set criteria about what kinds of dreams we would share. No dream was too small, no dream was too big. We would listen, and offer help or suggestions where possible. The only thing set in stone was our intent. Find ways to make them possible.
The first few weeks, you could feel the uncertainty among the team. Sharing dreams can be personal, and not everyone was sure that this experiment would even be successful. Would the Dream Machine sputter out before it even really began?
Weeks one and two we simply shared our dreams with each other by writing them on a whiteboard in our main office room. Some people shared why they had their dreams and others why they hadn’t achieved them yet. People were encouraged to share, but it wasn’t compulsory. We had dreams ranging from driving a car all the way up to making a dent in the universe.
At the end of the second week we decided to give anyone a chance to change their dream. This was because as people got more comfortable and understood the project, some wanted to change to something a bit more small in scale. They believed that this would help build momentum to their other larger scale dreams. Others stuck to their bigger scale dreams.
A momentum shift
But I could feel the uncertainty being slowly replaced by just a bit of excitement. People were sitting up straighter and asking each other more questions.
At this point we also decided to establish a few rules. They are as follows:
1. Money — our job is not pay for someone’s dream, but offer support. No one is expected to pay for anyone else’s dream, though a “pass the hat” approach is OK if the group decides that may help.
2. After the third week, you cannot change your dream without the group agreeing. The purpose of this is to ensure people don’t quit for a dream being difficult. That said, we all agreed that sometime circumstances change, so with a good reason the dreams could be changed by agreement from the group.
3.Though there would be different timelines for different dreams due to their scale, no one’s dreams would be forgotten, and we track everyone. This ensures that we all reach our goals.
4. Rules can be changed as needed, but our intent to make all of our dreams come true could not.
At week three we began tracking our progress on the dreams. We started offering suggestions, introductions to outside help, and our time. Slowly you could feel the doubts slipping away, and the excitement growing even more.
We are now at our fifth week of the project. We have already begun achieving some of our dreams. We had a team member ride her first roller coaster thanks to help from other team members. Some have donated musical instruments, others their time to teach various topics. Others are helping plan weekend trips. Overall we are still tracking over thirty individual dreams.
What has been amazing to me is seeing the team transitioning from talking primarily about their own dreams, to talking more about helping others achieve theirs.
The first week of this project the most common question I heard was “How long will this meeting take?” Five weeks later the most common is “When will we be starting today?!?”
Helping and leadership are contagious. We are demonstrating that our professional UX ethos also applies to our personal dreams. And it’s awesome to be part of it. I can’t wait to see where we are in 6 months, a year, or even more. What effects will this have, if any, on us as an organization? I look forward to writing more to update you.
How about you? What are your dreams? How are you working on achieving them? Please share with us.