Week 4: Host a Brainstorming


I hosted a brainstorming session focused on Winter Travel.

Throughout the post below are the five most creative drawings from each of the two sessions. The drawings were voted on during the sorting process. They are grouped in the descriptive text for each drawing session.

Problem Statements:
1. Heidi, a frequent commuter in downtown during winter, needs a way to travel because he feels the driving time is frustrating.

2. Nathan, a 35-year-old commuter, needs a way to help with travel time because of the increased durations of travel in winter.

How Might We Questions:
1. How might we help Heidi make commuting time more fulfilling or less frustrating?
2. How might we help Nathan with the increased time it takes to travel in winter?

I recruited a group of four additional people for my brainstorming session. This was the weak point of the session, in that the recruitment group was less diverse than I think is ideal. However, all four are people I would categorize as creative. Three of the four are in technical fields. One is an artist, and I am a designer. All five are board game and roleplaying game players. I would have like to include some female participants but it did not work out for the Wednesday meeting. Similarly, all of us are between thirty and forty years old. Half the participants have children. All of them are drivers.


My participants have been given aliases. However, we used differently colored markers as in the class session to determine who created which drawing. I have that data available if necessary, and I can contact them again for permissions in the future. Most in the group were unable to make images before we met. They could have used some slides showing the process, on reflection, but I didn't think of that before the meeting.

I hosted the session at the Fantasy Flight Games Center in Roseville. The new location is very big, and very busy on Wednesday, but we were able to get a table with some privacy for the event. Some of them ate dinner there before we began. We made small talk and chatted about the new Thor sequel and the Man of Steel DVD to make some friendly argument. Just before we started, I bought a round of little flourless chocolate cakes for the dark chocolate stimulant.

Session 1

Virtual Reality Job Site (Sam)

Warm-Ups 1:
For a warm-up, we began with Zip! Zap! Zop! This went pretty smoothly, though it took some wrangling to get people's hands out of pockets. Then we did the motion game. That one went really well. I began with the tossing a football pantomime and it went around the table six rounds before someone switched.

Sunlight Lamp Car Dome Light (Keith)

The First Drawing Session:
The first session seemed to go well. Everyone was in the spirit of the brainstorming at the beginning.

Car Ceiling Weather Screens (Sam)

Ideas Per Minute:
0.5 Ideas Per Minute

Carden: Car Garden (Keith)

Themes Revealed in Idea Sorting 1:
We used the Jiro Kawakita affinity diagram (KJ-Method) to silently sort the drawings from each group into a handful of categories. The following themes emerged:
Car interior Enhancements
Vehicle Exterior Enhancements
Changes to the Roads
Behavior changes

Car to Car Messaging System (Sam)

Session 2

Warm-Ups 2:
In the second session, we used the warm-up game I made.

The game is Castle-Calling
Each player is part of a group of nobles calling at a castle.
The first player introduces herself and her house sigil.
The second player introduces himself and his sigil and says he is accompanied by the first player and her house.
The third player does the same, and the process goes on as the troupe gets bigger and bigger.

For example,
Greetings! I am Robin of the house of the Forest.
Hello, I am Stark of the Direwolf, accompanied by Robin of the Forest.
Hi. I am Elayne of the Golden Lion, traveling with Stark of the Direwolf, and Robin of the Forest.
And so on, through the list.

The game did not work very well. It was fun, but after the second round the string to remember became too long. It might have been a cognitive drain rather than an enhancer. Instead of using existing characters or easy names we were making things up based on objects in the room or obscure references. It was pretty funny, but tough to remember.

Singing Instruction Alarm Clock (Oliver)

Beg, Borrow, Steal
Afterward, one of the participants wrote back with a variation:
"I was thinking about warmup from last night How about a game 'Beg, Borrow, Steal'.
The first person asks to borrow something from the second he says sure, then to do that he needs something else from someone else. and so on
So it would be
P: Could i borrow a spoon?
L: Sure if I can borrow a fork?
P I'd be happy to for your chainsaw.
L: I'd lend you the chainsaw if you cut down the tree in my yard.
P: I'll cut down the tree if you watch my rhino.
L: I'll watch the rhino if you can get a matador...
and so on."

I think that variation sounds a lot better, and easier to play.

Manual Coffee Grinder & Exercise Stepper (Keith)

The Second Drawing Session:

We began by trying to make bad ideas for ten minutes. Then, we switched to what we thought would be good ideas. I think there was some frustration for one of the players. He said he was having trouble making ideas, so he was generating images for things he didn't think would work, or were ideas like "move closer to work" and "get a new job."

Shower That Changes Temp On Timer (Oliver)

Ideas Per Minute:
0.54 Ideas Per Minute

Themes Revealed in Idea Sorting 2:

In the second session, we once again used the KJ-Method to sort the ideas.
Combined technology to save time
Alternate (to driving) modes of transportation
Behavior changes
Negative Reinforcement technology

Snow Shoes For Cars (Erik)

Total Ideas Per Minute:
0.52 Ideas Per Minute

RFID Winter Clothes--When Separated They Yell (Oliver)

The two methods for voting were:
Products or methods that reduced time investment in winter travel.
Products of methods that increased qualitative experience of winter travel.

I didn't tell them this, but the total seems a little low for this group! I know that they are clever. In discussion afterwards, they thought that drawing the ideas was a little challenging, and some of them were worried about the quality. The participant with the most drawings seemed to be participating with the least investment in the process. My own input was lower than I usually generate in brainstorming sessions. I attribute part of that to trying facilitating. One of them said that he thought that doing the brainstorming at 7pm was a bad idea because everyone was tired from thinking at work.

And, this last drawing was not voted as one of the most creative, but is included just for delight:
Wookiee Carpooler (Erik)



I really like about your post that you went into great details describing your process and reflexing on what went well and what didn’t go so well and why. Short description of the participants was helpful to get the feel of who the participants are and makes it more interesting to read your further description/analysis.

I think it is a good idea to play some games between the 2 sessions to give participants a minute to switch their attention to a new problem. The Beg, Borrow, Steal game seems to be a great warm-up activity, it is fun and way easier than the Castle-Calling.

I don’t know if it was the issue, but he room where you were brainstorming looks small and not very inspiring, and I agree with your participants that having an idea generating session after an 8-hour working day might be complicated.


Your post goes into great detail of the brainstorming process, I enjoy that you didn't exclude that there were lulls in the process or that the total average might have been low.

You started to describe your participants with the fields that they worked in, but I think you could have included a quick blurb on their winter travel experience.

Good idea to play different games between the sessions, I think the castle-calling game was creative even though it might have not gone as well. Maybe you could fuse it with the beg, borrow, steal game? - everyone has a name and house sigil but you have to use it when asking/playing beg, borrow or steal.

I really enjoyed all the honest insights you included in your blog! It would be easy to make it seem like the process went smoother than it actually did- I know mine was more complicated than I expected!
The design of your blog is really nice and clean, although It confused me to have the ideas spread out throughout...personally I would have preferred them all to be in one chunk following all the other information.

And now the student gets to critique the teacher!

I like the way you laid out your post with the ideas interspersed throughout the text. Although it might not be the most efficient way to convey the information, I found it more interesting and visually appealing. Profiling your participants (at least as a group) was a nice addition, even if it only reinforced the middle-aged-white-manness of the group.

Your problem statements and how might we questions don't seem to be very specific to winter. People have to deal with long commutes and unfulfilling drives year-round, and the only product idea that is winter-related is the snow shoe tires (although the ideas don't have to be winter-related). A more winter-specific travel issue might be snow/ice traction or snowed-in vehicles.

Nonetheless, a good blog post!

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This page contains a single entry by cospe002 published on November 18, 2013 12:00 AM.

Week 3: Understanding the Customer was the previous entry in this blog.

Week 5: Manipulating Ideas is the next entry in this blog.

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