User manuals are easy references for the most frequently asked questions, as well as for other sticking points participants might not have considered, or are perhaps too shy to ask in group environments. In addition to establishing accessible communication channels for troubleshooting, you can use the operation manual to address the most basic details: this would include instructions for turning the sensor on and off; for sensor maintenance and care; and for capturing data as accurately as possible. The other purpose of the operation manual is the sensing strategy. Giving participants a timeline or chart they can refer to, preferably one they can add to themselves, will help keep them focused on the task at hand.

Format MethodTimeframe Duration of sensing stageGroup Size AllFacilitation Level MediumRequired Materials Pen and paper


  • Thinking about basic sensor operation, prepare a list of instructions to explain the process. Consider things like: How does it turn on? How does it charge, and how often? How is data extracted? Does it need calibration? If so, what is the process?
  • Think visually. Unusual words can confuse novices and experts alike. Where possible, draw the object you are referring to. For technology, even low-fidelity images can be very useful in pointing out the locations of key components.
  • Consider actions and situations which can halt the sensing process and interfere with readings. Some basic ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ might help mitigate a lot of avoidable issues.
  • You will need to provide the participants with information on how the data is collected, and when. Often a crude roadmap or timetable can help paint a bigger picture and show the collective vision. The development of this roadmap will likely take place during the ‘Sensing Strategy’ workshop. If so, it is useful to re-create this in an operation manual so all can refer back to the sensing strategy and annotate the data accordingly as the sensing phase goes on.


We all get a little stuck sometimes. A good operations manual should go a long way to helping participants get back on track should any problems occur with the technology or the process.


Keep in mind the guiding question while implementing this method: what do I need to know when something goes wrong?
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