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