As a preparation for this class, we were supposed to interview an Airbnb host in Ithaca. My team interviewed a superhost. A superhost is someone who has excellent track record in hosting guests with 5-star reviews. Through the interviews we tried to understand how the host uses Airbnb to show his listings and what does he look for while approving a reservation request from a guest. The superhost shared several examples of the guest profiles that he has rejected in the past and also highlighted few reservations request that he approved instantaneously.
We also looked from a guest’s point of view to get a sense of the on-boarding and reservation process. We went outside the class to find someone who has never used Airbnb and help her setup an Airbnb profile. We walked her step by step through the process to understand what she was thinking while filling up information – what made her uncomfortable in sharing any specific information and what sections were not very clear in their purpose. One important observation from this exercise was that users generally try to share as little information as possible about themselves. We think this is probably the biggest obstacle in building trust and safety between guests and hosts. From our interviews, we have found both guests and hosts complaining about profiles and listings that look sketchy because users do not share enough information to better understand them and build trust.
After interviewing several hosts and guests, we decided to select one whose problem we would like to solve. My team selected the superhost we interviewed. First step was to define the problem statement. In defining the problem we had to think about the root cause because sometimes what we see are just symptoms. After finalizing the problem statement, the next step was to brainstorm solutions.
Brainstorming process has certain nuances. First, each person in the team takes a minute to write down an idea and announce it with pasting the sticky note on the wall with their idea. No one is supposed to criticize other person’s solution. Once all have posted an idea, team members build on top of the idea they like. For example – you don’t say “I don’t like that”, instead say something like “That’s great – may be we could also…”. You have to be constructive not destructive. If the team has multiple solutions, then they vote to determine which idea they would use to build the prototype.
Finally, the team does rapid prototyping using anything – art and craft material, cardboard, paper, etc. May be in a more professional set up such as at your job you might build prototype using some tools and technologies, but in the classroom the aim is to help others get some idea about the solution that the team is proposing. The teams also play roles to enact the problem and solution to show how it will look like in the real world. For my course this semester, each team build a prototype and we made a video of teams acting out the solutions using their prototypes. It was a very fun and learning experience.