Monday, September 17, 2007

Reflection on Workshop: Experiential Innovation Protocol

by the Ideal Factory @ Jurong Medical Centre


The Programme
  • In the 1st day, we met our 'customer' and 'step into their shoes'. By making analysis and inferences, we identified the key area of concern and started generating ideas. By the end of the 1st day, we shortlisted 3 ideas to be further developed in the 2nd day.

  • In the 2nd day, we started to work on the ideas - to detail out the plan and to develop the prototype. Then came the 'climax' when the groups take turn to 'sell' the product/idea to Dr Liat, the CEO of Alexandra Hospital.

The Innovation Protocol

(re)Perceive > Ideate > Evaluate > Prototype > Assess > (re)Perceive... and the cycle continues...


In this workshop, we experience and learn the Innovation Protocol through the tool known as the Customator.

  • One key feature that this tool employs is ethnography.

  • This is a new word to me... but have heard about this process, whereby one 'lives' with the community so as to gain a good understanding of the community. Just a few days after the workshop, I came across an article that an author joined one of his colleagues to live with an untouched community in Indonesia for a few days and in fact, having stayed with the community for a few days, it has changed his perception of the inhabitants there. Having understood them better, he made an effort to share the 'facts' to dispel the hearsay. Yes, ethnography is powerful!

Getting to know our Customer... the very first step... Setting up and Understanding the Context

  • Brief 'Orientation' of the context (by Dr James Low) on the current situation (in a larger context)
  • Video clip: Life is Short

A few points were emphasized over the 2 days:

  • By 2030, 1 out of 4 in Singapore will be over 65 years old.

  • In fact, the Singapore population is aging rapidly. Based on data, in 2005, 8.2% of the population is above 65 years old while 71% was in the age band just before this.

  • Another related concern is, the fertility rate was 3.07 in the 70s and it has drastically reduced to 1.25% in 2005.

  • Current effort: To help the elderly to age graciously and live comfortably. Well, well, we are not too far away from this... so, it's also getting prepared and helping ourselves.

It was pointed out to us that

  • Because of old age, there are changes to physical, cognitive and psychosocial state of one's well-being.

  • Ailments common among the elderly include strokes (which is in the lead), diabetes, High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure.

  • Of observable change would be mobility - which is reflective in the daily activities. The most basic activities are the daily routines such as eating, dressing, walking and toileting. In particular, eating will probably be the last activity an elderly could lose. Other more complex (instrumental) activities such as going marketing and shopping are among the first being affected as old age creeps in.

We have also been reminded:

  • The elderly are heterogeneous - they come with different ability and capabilities

  • They are Human!!!

  • They are multi-dimensional.

Hence, the approach adopted in this exercise is to assess the situation in a holistic and empathatic manner. We will therefore see the situation from different perspectives: the elderly (when we visit and talk to them), care-givers (those who have been looking after the elderly - what kind of support do they need) and ourselves (when we put all the hear-and-see together and think and plan for the future).

One useful point brought up was: If the elderly are able to tell us what they want, then it would not be something that requires much innovation because they have seen it and therefore they can tell exactly what they want. More importantly, there are times they need something, however, they could not quite articulate... and this can only surfaced after interaction and through inference - and there's where we put in more thoughts and effort to come up with something.


(re-)Perceive through Home Visit
New ways of perceiving the environment we work in.

For our team, our Inspiration was Mdm Tan, 75. During the visit, we have the opportunity to interact with her, as well as her daughter.

Putting together... Mdm Tan's story in a Persona Mandala - another new term learnt in this workshop. A mandala is an abstract symbol that symbolises a person at the centre of their world. It is a Sanskirt for circle, polygon, community or connection. Well, according to the facilitators, we did not really create the mandala, but the idea is similar, simply putting our inputs like a montage.


Ideate through the brainstorming session

  • Through the interaction with our customer and our discussions, social interaction was surfaced as one key area to be addressed to. In fact, lonely elderly has become more and more common issue. It's sad.

  • For many elderly today still hold the belief of living with their sons (note here - son!) Yes, it not only happens to our customer, but to many of us. For instance, my grandma would stick to her 4 sons - and fortunately she has 4 sons... and all agreed to take turn to take care of her until her later years when we had to put her under the care of a home. Yes, the Chinese (at least) believe in living with their sons and follow them.

  • In our customer's case, because that's her only son, she follows her son each time he moved. It was obvious that she missed her good old days in the kampongs, where she could chat with her friends. As they moved to a younger estate, there isn't many of the same age group will come together, say at the void deck to interact.

  • Well, a close examination of the infrastructure provision shows that yes, chairs and tables are nicely set up at the void deck, and there's even a television - but do not know if it's used or not.

Some ideas generated to improve the quality of the life of the elderly:

  • Campaigns to heighten the awareness and importance of family bonding. For instance, at the neighbourhood level, have family gathering activities at the park (enclosed by the flats); at the national level, hype up campaigns like "Eat with Your Family" to become a monthly or even weekly affair!

  • National Policies like Incentives for dining with family members! Oh yes, this takes after the incentive (by HDB) for children who choose to live near parents.

  • Providing training to the maids who accompany the elderly to the clinics for the latter's physiotherapy sessions. In a way, the maids are trained (or at least given tips) how to take care of the elderly at home. Or better still, they can help the elderly to do simple therapy back at home!

  • etc.... and more (see below for the 3 that are eventually prototyped)


Evaluate the ideas - to select and streamline

Our key considerations were...

and eventually we shortlisted...


Prototype the ideas through visuals and concretes

We propose a lifestyle. Riding on the 'change' of profile over the next few decades - the digital immigrants will make up the majority of the elderly population. Hence, a lifestyle that socially connects everyone - virtually as well as physically.

This caters to a heterogenous group of elderly - if we were to look at mobility. At home, it caters for everyone - mobile or not so... where they are connected virtually; whereas those who are physically mobile can opt to leave their home and meet up at the club or hub.
- o - o - o - o -o - at home - o - o - o - o -o -
Tapping on the technology (ie. video-conferencing) and call centre/helpline concept
  • Imagine all homes are equipped with computers (that come with a webcam).
  • To address to the failing eyesight, each system will come with huge buttons when connection can be activated at a press of the button.
  • The video conferencing is adopted so that they can view and talk at the same time - talking will be a better communication means as their fingers may not be as agile then.
  • All elderly at home have their records (eg. name, health status, family make-up) sitting on a central database.
  • There, at the call centre, the facilitator will regularly contact the elderly during day time (when children are at work) to find out how they are getting on.
  • On the other hand, the elderly can also contact the call centre for the facilitator to help connect to the people whom they want to chat with.
  • Why we call them the "facilitator" instead of the telephone operator? It's because they would be engaged in the chatting session as well, to monitor the interaction and emotion of the individuals. They may even give advice on health matters too... especially when the elderly talk about aches and pains... or there's some myths or misconceptions.

Apart from that, to ease the operation of entertainment set such as the television, we suggest a remote controller that is voice-activated - something similar to the voice-activated dial-up feature of the handphones nowadays.

As of companions, when everybody's out of the house, we suggest a robot that takes voice of the children and dressed like them. The intelligent robot will be able to respond to the elderly when detected certain words. Then it will prompt the elderly for further inputs, hence strike a conversation. Intelligent?

Afternote: A recent article (Digital Life 25 Sep 2007) reports that there already exists a similar type of robot in Japan - for the elderly. However, it is not popular because of the high cost.
More readings: Japanese robots assist handicaps and elderly , Robots turn off Japan's elderly

- o - o - o - o -o - coming together...face-to-face- o - o - o - o -o -
The team also suggested a community, a club where the elderly (who are still mobile) can come together to socialise. On top of that, create an opportunity whereby they could either cultivate a new hobby or use their forte for some constructive purpose. For instance, for someone who is pretty old in telling story, he/she can be engaged to do storytelling at assembly talks (for NE). Alternatively, those who are good at calligraphy can teach others, too! In the course of doing so, they can also generate some revenue to support their activity.


Assess with inputs from professionals of the field, another iteration cycle...


Last but not least...

  • On the whole, the workshop has provided new insights to the life of an elderly. Ask ourselves: How often do we bother to see from a different perspective when we face the elderly at home? Do we ask what they need? or we assume we know what they need? I think, ultimately, it's the time to spend with them that's valuable to them. That's family bonding that we often overlook.
  • I remember somebody said, "I could easily use the electronic transfer service to transfer the monthly allowance to my parents' bank account. However, I decided to write a cheque or cash out the amount instead. Why? That's where at least I will make sure I go home to meet up with my parents, to create that opportunity (despite of my busy schedule) to chat with them. They would like to see me when I'm home."
  • Yes... true. Though the elderly might not have articulated that, it's observable from their body language. Just like when we know my brother and sister-in-law coming home for dinner over the weekend, they will be busy for the whole morning to cook a feast! Look! It's not that I jealous, but they are telling us... how important it's to find time and spend time together.

As of how the workshop is related to work... hm... that's the challenging part - when the workshop facilitators did not help to link (sigh!!!). Hm... they expect us to get enlightened and connect automatically.

OK... will continue to think about it... for anything new... will add through the 'comments' feature (so that it will not disturb the setting of the page).


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