Assignment 4


This weeks assignment was to host a brainstorming session on two topics based on the opportunities and needs found during last weeks ethnographic research. The two problem statements I chose to work with were:

  • Rod needs a way to move across flat areas because you have no good means of propelling yourself when locked in a snowboard.

  • Zach needs a better way to protect his head because helmets are expensive and reduce his field of vision.

When defining the topic statements, I didn't want them to be too narrowed down. I also took into account some of the comments I got from the last assignment, to incorporate my research statistics into the problem statements. This applied to the second problem statement I picked, because from my research I found out that 40% of all snowboarding injuries were wrist injuries. This yielded the two topics:

  • How might we enable snowboarders to move in flat areas?

  • How might we reduce snowboarding injuries?

For hosting the brainstorming session as an international student, my pool of people to invite was slightly limited, but definitely something to work with. I contacted some of my friends and invited them over for brainstorming, pizza and beer. I felt this would kill two birds with one stone as I've heard about a research that claims beer is good for idea generation whilst coffee is better for idea refinement and details. Of course the amount of beer would have to be controlled, since too much would probably lead to negative effect. Those who were available and attended the brainstorming session were the following:

  • Þóra Jónsdóttir from Iceland - BS degree in Business

  • Jerry Kessler from Montana - Mechanical engineering graduate student

  • Aayan Banerjee from India - Mechanical engineering graduate student

  • Pieter Custers from the Netherlands - Mechanical engineering graduate exchange student

All of the participants had experience with snow sports except Pieter, me and Jerry were the most experienced snowboarders. Now, I did take a couple of pictures of the group, but when I looked at the images today, I found out they were bad and out of focus. Since this is the first time I've been taking opportunistic photos (i.e. something I can't just set up and take pictures of again if it fails), I learnt the lesson of looking at the results before moving on :)

I sent them the two problem statements to the participants 30 hours in advance and asked them to bring a few ideas for each topic. I also included some context relevant to each statement based on the ethnographic research for the less experienced participants (such as the fact that snowboarders take on foot out when riding ski lifts, the fact that 40% of injuries are wrist injuries, whilst head injuries are the most serious ones etc.).

Enhancing Creativity
Before initiating the actual brainstorming, to get everyone active we played Zip - Zap - Zop, and the one word story game. As an easy means of increasing the dopamine flow of participants, I offered dark chocolate with almonds.
Dark Chocolate.png

In an attempt to increase creativity of participants further, I created playlists to have background music during the brainstorming process. I had two playlists, one purely with classical music, and another with songs I considered playful / feel good. The two following link give a sample of the kind of feel I was going for (I was unable to use the link feature in the blog setup, if someone knows anything about that, please leave a comment).

Before we started brainstorming, I said that as a group effort, we would unlock goods after a certain number of ideas (snacks and beer I know they like) at 25, 50, 75 and 100 ideas. A reward based effort. I do believe it served its purpose as encouragement, though at one point I had to tell them to stop counting current ideas until we had finished brainstorming on the topic and focus on finding more ideas. I also prepared a rolestorming list, partly with the same roles as we had in Tuesday's lecture, and partly new roles.

The tool I came up with as an idea generation method was the "What if" method. This should be applied when idea generation starts to decrease during a brainstorming session. It drastically changes the current way of thinking, to encourage more ideas. The questions I prepared in advance were:

  • What if there was no snow?
  • What if there were no mountains and everything was flat?
  • What if there was only ice and no snow?
  • What if we couldn't feel pain, but the body would still take all the damage?

First topic: How might we enable snowboarders to move in flat areas?
I found this session to have a nice flow of ideas, and it wasn't until after 22 minutes that I brought up the question "What if there was no snow?". I stopped the session after 28 minutes, when idea generation had slowed down significantly. The total number of ideas was 58, and number of ideas per minute per person (IPM) for this topic was 0.41.

The following image shows the wall after the session (before sorting).
Brainstorming Topic1.jpg

We then sorted the ideas. Since there wasn't room for everyone around the wall, I allowed talking and discussion on how to sort and the naming of the categories. The following image shows the labeled categories.
Categories Topic1.jpg

Top 5 ideas
For selecting the best ideas, I asked everyone to write down individually what they thought the top 5 ideas were. We then compiled the lists and selected the ones that got the most votes. For any ideas that had equal number of votes we had a discussion about them which ultimately lead to the following 5 ideas:

1. The two-piece snowboard by Þóra
Two-piece snowboard.jpg

2. The rotatable binding by Jerry
Rotatable bindings.jpg

3. Retractable ski-poles by myself
Retractable ski-poles.jpg

4. The pull lever propulsion by Jerry
Pull lever propulsion.jpg

5. The snap-in boots by myself (even though I know this product exists, we allowed it on the basis that it's very rarely used, and that we need to find out why)
Snap-in boots.jpg

Besides the best 5 above, there was a bunch of energy and mechanical based ideas which might also be interesting to look further into.

Second topic: How might we reduce snowboarding injuries?
I found this session to start out nicely, but relatively early on (after roughly 13minutes) the idea generation decreased, so I brought up the question "What if we couldn't feel pain, but the body would still take all the damage?". This didn't seem to stimulate many new ideas, so I decided to bring forth my rolestorming list. That did the trick in terms of generating ideas (though one can debate the realism of many of them). Shortly after I felt that participants were getting exhausted from brainstorming so I concluded this session after a total of 23 minutes. The total number of ideas for this topic was 49, and surprisingly the IPM was slightly higher 0.43 contrary to how I felt about how the session was going.

Again, an image of the wall after the brainstorming session.
Brainstorming Topic2.jpg

We followed the same sorting process and came down to these categories:
Categories Topic2.jpg

Top 5 ideas
Following the same process as before for selecting the top 5 ideas, the following were chosen:

1. Magnetic fluid jacket by myself (density of fluid is based on acceleration, hardens upon high acceleration)
Magnetic fluid jacket.jpg

2. Hat-helmet by Þóra

3. Padded underarmor by Þóra
Padded underarmor.jpg

4. Mohawk helmet by Jerry (make helmets more "cool")
Mohawk helmet.jpg

5. Wrist guarding gloves by myself
Wrist guarding gloves.jpg

Besides the top ideas for snowboarding safety there were some related to changes at the ski-resorts (for instance moving platform at the top of ski-lifts, or having rubber sheets under the snow in certain areas) which I found quite interesting as well.


Jon, you should post the article or source for the beer vs coffee comparison. Is that because the alcohol lowers inhibitions? Does it work with drinks other than beer? Then, does the caffeine in coffee help focus?

Pre-meeting drawings
Sending the data about frequency and types of injuries with the prompt was a good idea.

Setting thresholds for rewards was interesting as well. You found it helped the effort, and I would like to see that repeated. I wonder if there is research about inciting greater frequency of ideas through rewards or if that lowers the applicability of the ideas generated.

The Pull Lever Propulsion device is intriguing. It might be used to enable participants with lowered mobility the chance to try snowboarding.

The Rotating Bindings would make puttering across a flat surface a lot more like skateboarding. It really is awkward trying to move with the toe-inward position when you are beginning. Would the extra mobility be worth what must be lowered anchorage?

The Wrist-guarding Gloves remind me of the wrist protectors Rollerbladers used to wear. that might be a related avenue of gaming for further inspiration.

Even though 3 people had the same major, t seems like you did a good job of finding people from diverse backgrounds! Everyone seems super qualified to participate in a product design brainstorming session based on their education.

What you said about the beer and coffee was very interesting. It would be nice if you explained that a little more, I'm curious to know why.

It seems like you did a fantastic job facilitating! Those questions and games you had prepared appeared to be effective. The questions seemed really focused while the rolestorming probably led to fun and silly ideas. It's good to have a mix!
It's cool that you sorted the ideas and then made category cover sheets.

I really like the magnetic fluid jacket, that definitely seems like it's worth looking into. You could find a way to attach the retractable ski pole to your wrist or store it near your sleeve so you don't have to hold onto it when it's not in use.

Your blog is very thorough, well organized, and well written. I like that you post what you had problems with as well as what you succeeded with.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by hjalt002 published on November 17, 2013 2:04 PM.

Assignment 3 was the previous entry in this blog.

Assignment 5 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.