The goal this week was to plan and facilitate a brainstorming session to come up with interesting and unique solutions to my two problem statements regarding the theme of winter commuting. My two problem statements were as follows:
1/ Neil (late 20's, bike mechanic) needs a way to be able to wear everyday casual clothing that also protects him from winter weather and the elements while riding his bike to work.
2/ Nick (early 20's, winter driver) needs a way to improve the driving abilities and road condition awareness of other drivers on his way to work so he feels safer driving in inclement weather.
I turned these statements into "How might we..." questions in order to promote creative solutions to these problems, and prompt blue sky idea generation! The statements turned into:
1/ How might we find a way to make winter biking clothing more functional & fashionable for the every-day rider?
2/ How might we clearly indicate winter road conditions to drivers and bikers alike, to improve visibility and thus safety?
I created a Facebook event for this brainstorming session and invited some friends to come in with some ideas regarding these two prompts.
I ended recruiting four friends to help me brainstorm solutions to my "How might we..." questions regarding winter travel. Nick, Ally, David and Danielle all came with the prompt in mind to help jump-start their creation of ideas. Nick's dad ended up coming early into the first brainstorming session as well, which helped add some diversity age-wise to the group.
The first thing I had them do was... eat dark chocolate! They particularly enjoyed this activity, because let's be honest: who doesn't like to be encouraged to eat chocolate? The idea behind this warm-up activity was to increase dopamine levels, and thus stimulate creativity! I encouraged them to take a chocolate break throughout the brainstorming sessions whenever they needed.
Next, I had them do several creativity warm-up activities that we had learned in class. The first one I had them do was "Zip, zap, zop!". This seemed like a good place to start because it is one of the most simple activites and gets the creative juices flowing. The next activity I had them do was something I call "Orchestra". In this activity, everyone picked a musical instrument and "played" that instrument with the hands, air-guitar style. It goes to a clapping rhythm with one person starting, doing their instrument's motion then somebody else's. The person who's instrument they played then had to respond to the beat by playing the instrument and then someone else's, and it goes in circles like this til the rhythm is broken. I borrowed part of this activity from a drinking game that we like to play with groups of people. They had a lot of fun with this one, and I think it put everyone in a good mood for the meat of the brainstorm!
After they felt sufficiently warmed-up, we moved onto the actual brainstorm. For each session I reread them the "How might we..." prompt to get them focused on the particular topic of interest.
During the first 10 minutes of each session, I encouraged them to think up as many ideas as possible, ridiculous or feasible. Each person had a different color giant post-it sticky pad and I took their notes and put them up on the wall to display.
For the next 5 minutes, I told them to think of as many "bad" ideas as possible, to change up the pace in case people got stuck or in a rut.
The last 5 minutes of the brainstorm was spent using "characters" that I wrote down for them on giant post-its and laid out on the table. These varied from Superman to Harry Potter to Fry Cook. I think changing the pace up throughout the brainstorm session helped keep it fresh.
Following each 20 minute brainstorm session, I had them go to the wall with all the ideas and hand out 3 stars to their favorite ideas. From these ideas we narrowed it down to 5 final ideas for each prompt.
After each individual brainstorming session, I tallied up all of the ideas we had divided by the number of participants and the duration to get our IPM or ideas per minute. These sessions had surprisingly similar results, with each session getting approximately 0.7 ideas per minute per participant. I thought this was a pretty good number for a group of random people that weren't self-proclaimed "creatives".
Each session produced a set of 5 final "best solutions" that we all voted on collectively. I grouped these together, documented, and saved them for later inspiration.
The top ideas for the first session were: Warm water-proof biking socks. A radio hood. Form-fitting clothing for women. Bright colors. Reflective materials.
The top ideas for the second session were: Scalloped/ rumble-strip bike lanes. Turn-signal jacket sleeve. Snow-melting lane paint. Light-up lanes. Bikes with turn blinkers.
Overall, this activity was very fun and enjoyable for all. I was surprised how enthusiastic everyone seemed, and even my friend's dad (former Navy commander) really got into the creative spirit. The warm-up games helped lighten the mood and make things loose and carefree for all, and the chocolate was rewarding for their valuable time that they volunteered with me.
The ideas that came out of this activity that I liked the best came from my friend Danielle, who doesn't like to bike in the winter because most winter clothing is not form-fitting or flattering for women. It was intriguing to have that insight, and it would definitely be an area for improvement in winter biking apparel for women. After reviewing the ideas that we liked each time, they tended to be based around a few key categories. For the bike clothing it was socks and jackets, and for the visibility issue it was bike lanes and turn-signals. I think that this activity produced some interesting and very usable material to work with going forward!