Design Thinking Challenge: How can we increase gratitude in the workplace?

“How can we increase gratitude in the workplace?”

That’s such a hard question to answer. It starts with me though. How do I best receive gratitude and appreciation? How do I give it so that the recipient can fully grasp it?

I took on these questions in a Design Thinking Challenge.

Step 1. Empathy

I went out with a team to talk to real people about their experiences with gratitude and appreciation in the workplace. I spoke with people from all walks of life, from sales reps to bus drivers to chefs. Every person’s experience was unique but I came to some insights in the process.

Appreciation received needs to feel authentic and meaningful. Just saying things like “You’re awesome!” aren’t enough to create a memorable experience.

Tokens of appreciation are considered more valuable when they’re given by a colleague with good rapport.

Sometimes, receiving praise in private is more impactful than receiving it publicly. Recognition doesn’t have to be loud.

Reciprocity of gratitude builds healthy work culture.

Practicing emotional health and intelligence can create awareness and language for giving and receiving feedback efficiently. If you love yourself, you’ll love others well.

Step 2 Define.

I took those insights and did my best to group them together into general themes. Ultimately, coming to this question:

How might we help people become aware of what fuels them in the workplace and empower them to give and receive gratitude/appreciation/feedback in an effective way?

A theme that I kept finding was that people didn’t know how to describe a somewhat uncomfortable feeling they would have while receiving appreciation.

Step 3. Ideate

Brainstorming Solutions

My team and I brainstormed and came up with quite a few possible and impossible solutions for the question at hand. Notable ideas were: a gratitude patronus, laughing gas, a feelings fridge, deepest desire surprise.

Ultimately, I landed on a fuel tracker.

Step 4. Prototype

The first prototype including ambiguous metrics and gamifications. An avatar, a virtual pet, a fuel tracker, activity tracker. The feedback received was brutal but legitimate.

1st prototype

The 2nd iteration of the prototype brought a better sense of maturity while maintaining a small amount of the gamified tracking aspects. We add specific recommendations to the tool to encourage mindfulness throughout the day.

2nd Prototype

Step 4. Test

The idea is that the app would ask you on a daily basis to report how you’re “feeling” and giving suggestions to increase feelings of well-being and closeness with colleagues.

One of the largest concerns our testers expressed was the privacy of the user. “Will my boss be able to see my answers? I don’t want them to know I’m in a bad mood.”

❤ positive sentiments ▲ room for improvement

The test users were game developers, humans in San Francisco and several staff of MissionU. Through testing of the prototypes, I realized that there were some limitations to the platform given the resources and time constraints, that couldn’t be addressed.

In order to move forward, a step was taken back by integrating the prototype with a platform that most organizations are already familiar with.

Say hello to your new friend, SAM, or Self Awareness Mentor.

Through combining what we know of emotional health, behavioral health, personality traits, and artificial intelligence we can create a Slackbot that asks the user questions that encourage critical thinking about emotional health and offers recommendations to move the user toward wholeness and thoughtfulness.

As you build relationship with SAM, you build relationship with yourself.
Knowing oneself is key in being able to give and receive gratitude in ways that impact overall happiness.

Blog at

Up ↑