Brainstorming Session with IDEO

July 23, 2015

In June, IDEO and IDEO.org hosted the Blue Ridge Labs fellows for a brainstorm and ideation session. Below is a guest blog from Product Fellow Susie Kavanaugh on her experience during the session.

After learning that Blue Ridge Labs would have a brainstorming session with IDEO, I pretty much had to pinch myself. Could this be true? I’ve followed their work and used their toolkits, so I was beyond excited for our session. In preparation for the meeting, each Blue Ridge Labs fellows team created three user profiles along with a “how might we…” statement.

Shortly after arriving at IDEO’s office in NYC, we jumped into action. Teams were paired off, user profiles were shared, and “how might we” statements were discussed. From there, IDEO folks explained that we would spend five minutes quietly writing thoughts and drawing images onto sticky notes pertaining to the “how might we” statements. Essentially, they encouraged us to think divergently, generating as many ideas as possible in a short amount of time. Then the real fun began! Together, we shared big ideas, small ideas, and everything in between. There were no “bad” ideas; instead, every idea was encouraged and built upon through the “yes, and…” model. Reframing the way you think about a problem opens up the potential for something to capture your imagination. Communicating about ideas born from a mindset of anything is possible versus constraints has an important role in the brainstorming process.

During the brainstorming process several ideas popped into my head; one of them, however, really helped me think about outside of school learning, in a new way. Are you familiar with ice cream trucks that play a silly jingle? Well, imagine if a truck was full of recycled electronics, instead of ice cream. When children hear the truck’s jingle they turn to each other and yell, “Let’s go make something!”

Upon arriving at the truck, children are outfitted with screwdrivers and other tools to help them take apart and rebuild things into something new and undefined; the goal is to empower children to take their learning into their own hands… literally! Thinking about learning as a neighborhood experience helped me to realize the role and power of community.

Overall, our time at IDEO was extremely valuable. What really struck me was how much could be accomplished in a concentrated amount of time. Looking beyond the face of our “how might we” statement allowed us to play with new ideas, eventually leading us to something we hadn’t considered prior to this session. Most exciting was working with another team of fellows to think about different possibilities. I found it extremely valuable to learn how others go about generating ideas, which left me with new methods of brainstorming!

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