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(GRIP Scoping Session 28th April 2011)

The GRIP project finally kicked off with the our first meeting and scoping session on the 28th April. Chaired by Maarten Nijhuis of ID-Huis, the Scoping Session was an opportunity for the partners to discuss their individual aims and possible directions for the project. This being the first time that the whole team had had a chance to sit down together, it was exciting to finally have the chance to discuss many of the points we had touched upon briefly in conversations amongst ourselves. I, for one, had a lot of thoughts running around my head that had been bursting to get out, and this was the perfect opportunity to put these to the group.

The session began with a general introduction to Work Related Stress by Maarten, whose graduate thesis focused on this problem within the Generation Y (born between 1978 and 1994) age group. Whilst somewhat brief (I would recommend reading Maarten's Masters thesis as an in depth analysis of work related stress amongst Generation Y), Maarten's introduction gave a broad overview of the topic, while touching upon various technical terms used within the medical field – some of which I was hearing for the first time. This was then followed by a brief explanation of the GRIP project focus and criteria by Dirk Snelders from University of Technology Eindhoven. The issue of flexibility versus control in design of the Product Service System is the key issue we face with this project. With less control over the end result, how will be be able to claim that our design efforts are responsible for the success or failure of the project? It will be important to avoid offering one-size-fits-all solutions to individuals, and imperative that our solutions do not merely mirror existing methods of treatment for stress, thus illustrating the benefits of the creative approach in developing alternative approaches to stress management. I am also intrigued by the debate on the division between product and product service system. We, as the Academy, see this as one and the same, often with products existing as props within the system itself. It'll be interesting to see how and to what extent the various parties concept of PSS's evolve as the project develops. It is the ability to test and evaluate these questions that we hope to develop throughout the course of the project.

Dirk's GRIP project introduction was followed by a talk on the physiology of stress by Martin Ouwekerk. Martin's work at Philips Research (in the department of Brain, Body & Behaviour) involves developing emotion sensing technology, including Skin Conductive Wrist Bands (I never knew facial muscles are the gold standard!), as user interfaces to monitor stress levels. I am excited to get hands on (hopefully) with this technology to see what its capable of though I have some doubts over its practicality. It does, however, throw up some interesting questions over the idea of self-diagnosis and how we can satisfactorily test and diagnose stress using this somewhat subjective and [very] personal data. I can certainly imagine it being a useful tool in determining the cause of stress within the workplace and as a starting point for a more detailed discussion.

The final presentation was by Helle Ullerup from Philips Design, who gave an overview of the different generational trends through from The Baby Boomers (1943-1960) to Generation Z (1995-2009). It became clear throughout the afternoon that the team as a whole is interested in focusing upon Generation Y (1978-1994) as a target group. Generation Y'ers are entrepreneurial, prefer to mix their private life and work and are [generally] optimistic. As a Generation Y'er with his own design studio I guess I can relate to this analysis, though speaking personally, I'd prefer to keep my work and private lives separate – I've yet to come anywhere near to achieving this! During the break we continued to discuss how the easygoing attitude of Generation Y may lead to a more fluid workplace with more freelancers and fewer long term contracts. Its an interesting idea, and yet as job security seems to be one of the prime causes of job related stress, this would seem to suggest a major cause for concern! The next logical step in the project will be to pinpoint specific case groups (professions) within Generation Y for study. One word to remember though:

To mix business and leisure (cue an image of a treadmill with built-in computer monitor for web surfing).

I'm intrigued to know how this approach to work and leisure impacts on productivity and concentration!

Finally – the creative part! The team were placed into groups to brainstorm various case studies before presenting their ideas to the group. Cases focused upon Generation Y, ranging from a 28 year old teacher with problems controlling his class and a lack of motivation in life, to a 23 year old construction worker lacking in job security and with problems at home. Interestingly, each of the groups seemed to naturally migrate towards system design (Does this suggest a possible direction?). There were some interesting areas for discussion such as the use of black humour as tool for relieving stress and how to rate an individuals stress threshold. Ultimately though, I think its fair to say that all of the groups took a pragmatic approach to this exercise. I personally hope, in time, and with more research, we are able to broaden our scope to include more unexpected solutions.

It was clear though from this session, that we now need to focus upon specific research cases and professions in order to find new, interesting approaches to the topic. We have yet to scratch the surface. Now the real work begins...

Published: 31-Aug-2011 10:00


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