... last week on The Real Creativity Students of Hennepin County...

I arrived at two problem statements after three interviews and an online survey:

Kevin needs a way to work out without being bothered by these new gym members (at least until they quit or learn the ropes) because people make resolutions to lose weight and then go to the gym for the first time,

Wunmi needs a way to experience the excitement of the ball drop closer to home because she thinks it would be really fun but Times Square is too far away.

And now, the continuation.

I was worried about my problem statements. They seemed specific, obscure, and not likely to be easily solved by a product. So, I revisited my research. After scouring my online survey for new problems, I found a trend that many people's worst experience with New Year's Eve was being alone. Perhaps we could address that problem? I decided to add it to the mix.


My session was a bit of a struggle. I began work to recruit participants for my session on Thursday, and had a sufficient lineup for a Sunday session. Then, one by one, as I went to their doors, they gave various excuses as to how they could not participate. I was left with two. I was able to get two more, but then one of them didn't show up. So, when my session began I had three people. They all forgot to come with solutions to the problems I'd sent them.

But let's back up. To prepare for this session, I purchases a pack of jumbo Post-It notes and grabbed some Sharpies, air freshener, and a camera, and found a study lounge. I arranged the furniture for optimal brainstorming (keeping in mind that one of my participants is wheelchair-bound), laid out the pads and markers, sprayed some Cashmere Woods Glade (seriously the best scent), and turned on some music. I used the smells and music to try and create as fun and interesting an environment as possible. I also dressed in bright colors and wore an old-school hat to keep things funky.

Brainstorming Table

Once my three participants showed up we began with some warm ups. We played the classic Zip Zap Zop to start and then moved on to a new one, The Scream. In The Scream everybody puts their head down, and on the count of three looks either to their left or right or straight ahead. If you make eye contact with someone else in the circle, you scream. When playing with a lot of people, those who made eye contact would be eliminated, however, with only 4 we just kept going. To finish off, I introduced a new warm up I'd invented, called Black & White. Two people step forward, and one of them begins by saying a word. This begins a volley of opposites: each person tries to say and opposite of what the other just said, without repeating words. An example of a volley: red, green, dead, alive, bored, nail, screw, and so forth. The idea is to force people to think differently than what has already been said and avoid obvious associations. To keep the game going, anybody in the circle can "tap out" one of the speakers and replace them if they have a good response.

After under 10 minutes of warm-ups, I explained the guidelines for brainstorming and brought out some dark chocolate.


Then, we began. I started with a quick, five-minute session on, "How might we improve New Year's Eve?" to get the juices going.

Brainstorming candid

Next, we started to address the real issues. We drafted a janitor to join in. The schedule went like this:

15 min = How might we give people who don't have anyone to be with on New Year's Eve a way to not feel lonely?
5 min = opposite/worst ideas

20 min = How might we find a way so that regular gym members don't have to deal with all the new people who make New Year's resolutions to work out?

5 min = How might we give people a way to experience the ball drop without having to travel to New York City?
5 min = different perspective (choose your favorite TV/movie character)

I did the ball drop session just to have some back up in case the first two didn't yield good results.

For the last five minutes or so I actually had 5 other people (another person showed up 53 minutes late).

5 Brainstormers


Idea Wall

We ended up with a rate of about .6 ideas per person per minute. We spent about 5 minutes doing a silent sort, much like in class. I got permission to post the sketches without giving credit to the artists. Categories that emerged:

Being Alone: parties/events, human substitutes, & self-reflection
New Gym Members: incentives, shunning/temptation, and separation

I was ultimately disappointed with the results and feel that I needed to give more guidance or better prompts. Perhaps if I'd phrased the "how might we" statements more concisely and broadly, the participants would have made more creative ideas. Nonetheless, here are my top 10:

Top five for being alone:

NYE Social Network

NYE Ball Pit

NYE Speed Dating

NYE Animal Rentals

NYE Inter-Generational Mixer

Top five for new gym members:

NYE Headphones

NYE Personal Trainer

NYE Workout Pods

NYE Popup Gym

NYE Separate Workout Rooms


First of all, the tone and style in which you wrote your blog is beneficial because it is an easy read and clearly illustrates the process you went through. It's also fun to read (love the opening line). I agree with your initial feeling about your problem statements being too specific and think it was a good choice to modify them. I think they could have been pushed even further to be more general. In the gym question, I think it leads them down a specific route, possibly. I'm trying to think of another suggestion and am realizing how difficult this question is. By phrasing the question the way you did ('don't have to deal with..'), I think you might have lead the participants to physically separate the users. I think there is another way to phrase it, but can't think of one right now. (I feel your pain). I do like this topic and think it would be interesting maybe to focus on the other user's viewpoint since it is difficult for newbies to start working out too. Maybe it's not the newbies fault that they are disturbing the pros? Is the cause of the problem the equipment or workout facility's layout?

Overall, great job! Also, I thought it was hilarious that you scented the room. :)

Hey Kyle,
Reading your blog was as fun as I anticipated having seen you in class. Your brainstorming session sounds like it went fairly well, I can sympathise with your difficulty finding participants. Your problem statements are a bit puzzling, as they seem to be in 2 different domains. If I understood the assignment they should have been related, as this will allow us to lock into a target product design. Also, I might have misunderstood this assignment, but some of your listed ideas seem a bit...unpractical. There were also a few minor grammar errors scattered around that detracted a bit from the content. Otherwise, an entertaining read!

Hi Kyle,

It would be helpful if you restated your topic at the beginning of the post because at first I was confused how working out and watching the ball drop were related. However, your post is really well organized and delightful to read! I appreciated that you reflected back on your problem statements, but I still think that you could have made them more relative to a broader audience or relative to each other in some way. The methods you used to prepare your brainstorming environment for the session were unique and a fantastic enhancement. I encountered the same disappointment with my session as my participants came up with ideas that couldn't really be solved with a new product, either. Perhaps if you added, "how might we create a product..." into your statement it would have gotten your participants to think in a different way.

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This page contains a single entry by armst429 published on November 17, 2013 4:05 PM.

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