At Mobenzi, we continually strive to find new ways to improve. If that means running around the suburb of Woodstock in strange attire, armed with only our trusty handsets and the Mobenzi mobile app, we’re definitely up for it!
And so “The Most aMozing Race” was born – a challenge of epic proportions where we tested our own product, our wits, our fitness, and, well, our level of lameness.
The idea was to get an (albeit small) taste of what it means to collect field data using the Mobenzi mobile app. The challenge was carefully designed by Norval Geldenhuys, our in-house developer-analyst and Game Master.
Using our own form designer tool, he created a form with cryptic clues directing us to checkpoints. We had to compete against the clock to find as many of these checkpoints as possible and complete specific tasks at each one, using the Mobenzi app to capture proof. This included selecting the correct option from a list, typing in a free text answer, saving a GPS location, or taking pictures.
As we submitted and uploaded our answers, the Game Master could view our responses in near real-time. After judging the accuracy, legitimacy, and quality of our data, he allocated the marks he deemed fair (which is quite a subjective concept, it turns out…).
The four teams were each given one of Mobenzi’s core values as their ‘theme’, and had to come up with names and outfits inspired by this assigned value. The results were:
The Mobenzi Guardians
Value: Being Custodians
Die Eerste Span
Value team efforts and aim to get the best out of each other
The Asymptotic High-Fives
Value: Continuously Learning and Improving
Never stop getting better
The Brain Stormers
Value: Best Thinking
Encourage everyone to do their best
The Lessons Learnt
Although the theme of the race was to be as ‘lame’ as possible, there was still some method to the madness. Except for the obvious team-building and fun factors involved (the value of which are not to be underestimated), we also learnt important lessons and gathered some interesting information to inform our planned product enhancements. We believe these lessons can also easily be transferred to ‘real-life’ situations where digital data collection is rolled out.
1. Planning is crucial
Each task had a different number of points assigned to it and checkpoints were spread across the whole suburb, making it impossible to get to every checkpoint in the allotted time. It was therefore up to each team to decide on a plan of action, asking themselves some key questions:
- Should we go for fewer checkpoints, each worth more points?
- Should we go for clustered checkpoints, each worth fewer points?
- Should we target the checkpoints we’re 100% sure we’ll get?
- Should we save time by not planning at all, and just go?
Although the strategy differed between teams, it came as no surprise that those who used some of their valuable time to come up with a proper plan were much more successful in earning points. It was also necessary to adapt the plan as new information came to light (“Oh no, this checkpoint was much further than I initially thought!”), emphasising the need to regularly revise your plan to make sure you’re still going in the direction that makes the most sense.
2. Play to team members’ strengths
Team members display surprising skills when put in an abnormal situation. In this case, some were undiscovered sprinters, some had the people skills to draw on locals’ knowledge, some could think creatively and out-of-the-box when faced with a strange or impossible task, and some were masters at planning and documenting. Others had prior knowledge of the area that could be built on, or had excellent observational skills and attention to detail. It’s important to know and build on the strengths of your team members, but also to give them the space to discover and show their hidden talents.
It’s important to know and build on the strengths of your team members, but also to give them the space to discover and show their hidden talents.
3. Create a sense of belonging/ownership
When people feel like they’ve contributed to an idea, they buy into that idea. It’s amazing what even something simple like a team name and a fun uniform can do to team morale and fostering a sense of belonging. This feeling of working together to reach a specific goal (to win!) does wonders for overall motivation and productivity.
When people feel like they’ve contributed to an idea, they buy into that idea.
4. Be aware (and respectful) of your surroundings
The teams who had knowledge of the back alleys and lesser-known secrets of Woodstock, could navigate much quicker and find what they were looking for much easier. This shows that the better you know your environment (and not only geographically), the more effective your data collection process will be. Data collection always takes place within a specific context and is in fact much more than merely punching in answers in response to survey questions. Paying attention to detail and observing what is going on around you – using your eyes to pick up on clues – are crucial for success.
…the better you know your environment (and not only geographically), the more effective your data collection process will be.
We also learnt the importance of consent – even to take a picture of the outside of someone’s house! Always remember that you’re entering other people’s space, and that they’re not always as excited as you, or don’t necessarily realise the importance of your work. They might feel you’re invading their privacy or wasting their time. Be sensitive in the way you approach the environment and the people living in it.
5. The value of quality data
Marks were only awarded for answers that were completely correct, leaving no room for error. For the more open-ended questions, bonus points were up for grabs if the quality of your data (read: creativeness, effort) was higher than the rest, showing that it pays off to spend a bit more time to procure high-quality, valuable data instead of rushing to merely tick things off.
…it pays off to spend a bit more time to procure high-quality, valuable data instead of rushing to merely tick things off.
Of course, all of this mad running-around could’ve been prevented if the clues were less cryptic and more specific, but in this case, where would the fun in that be? When designing a real form, your questions and instructions should be as specific and clear as possible, assisting fieldworkers to capture the right data accurately and efficiently.
At the end of the day, there could only be one winner: The Asymptotic High Fives walked away with the honour of being the official winners of the first ever Mobenzi aMozing Race! A (literally) big prize was handed over by the man Elvis himself to end off an experience we are unlikely to forget soon.
So, next time you’re in the not-so-sleepy suburbs of Woodstock, keep your eyes open for strange-looking fieldworkers running around with their mobile devices – we’re pretty sure this is going to become an annual event.