Companies are rather serious environments with high levels of stress and tensions. Research has shown though that playfulness is vital for problem solving, creativity, relationships and stress relief.
For that reason I designed “Ihaya” (a word from the Lakota tribe which means “causing someone to smile or laugh”).

“Ihaya” is an office totem that is used for retrospective (reflective) sessions which are a very common, regularly occuring practice within high tech companies.

The totem visualizes the overall employee’s emotion related to the business, assists in balancing out negative emotions and energies and is in this way lightening up the rather heavy office mood.

Moreover the toy creates empathy for each other, encourages shy people to open up and speak about their issues and helps building up a transparent environment to talk about core problems.

The totem consists of 3 faces – each divided into 3 parts: eye-brows, eyes and mouth – a total of 9 elements for a general maximum amount of 9 participants per session excluding the “scrum master” (session leader). Each element has four sides expressing four different emotions: happiness (yellow), contentment (green), sadness (grey) and anger/frustration (red) to choose from.

Furthermore each face is divided by three magnet beams to snap word chips upon.
Alongside the totem the box contains 30 core values chips (magnetic) based on the main reasons why employees leave firms. These core values trigger emotions related to company issues and help bringing up topics that need to be discussed. Two plain chips replace words that are not written down on the chips but are being mentioned during the session.

“Ihaya” comes in use during the phase of data gathering and generating insights within a retrospective session. The “scrum master” places the totem on the table, gives each colleague a face part and spreads the value chips so that everyone can read the words on it (and explains the totem if it’s the first time to be used). Then he poses a question like: “What emotion do you feel strongest (positive or negative) related to company issues when looking at those values?”
The employees will be given a short time to reflect. Then each person will choose a side of the face cube that expresses their emotion and puts it through the stick – the chosen side facing backwards to make sure that the other colleagues are not being influenced by each others choice. Before each face a magnet beam will be placed through the stick onto which later the value chips will be placed upon.

Once the totem is completely assembled the “scrum master” will turn around the screen to show the real facial expressions. Furthermore he will ask each individual to explain their choice and place the mentioned value onto the magnet beam in the correct order. The given information can be noted down on a laptop for later use.
Hereby this phase will end and the problem solving part will begin.

All in all “Ihaya” offers a new possibility to bring lightness and playfulness into office space and at the same time creates transparency.