5 Things you can Innovate Right Now!

Innovation, noun, a new method, idea, product, etc. In this beginner’s guide, you will too, master innovation.

University of Waterloo’s President and vice-chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur, AKA Master of Innovation

I’m sure you’ve played some sort of icebreaker games such as the human knot or wink murder. I’ve got a back pocket full of these getting to know you type of activities nailed down after 2 summers as a playground leader. In other words, I take playing very seriously.

So what does all this have to do with innovation? Well let’s say you are on a scavenger hunt and one of the items listed is “something fuzzy”, my intensions would be for you to bring me a dandelion or two, but what if there are none? Would you just move on to the next item on the list or would you stretch the definitions a little? Maybe it could be a strand of fur, or the tip of an acorn. Yes that’ll do. You’ve just solved a problem that required a different way of thinking, that’s innovation. The first and last time I listed “something fuzzy” on a scavenger hunt list a kid brought me a dead field mice, so that’s also innovation I guess.

Here’s a couple more games that will hopefully squeeze some innovation out of you.


paper, pen | 10 minutes | 2+ people

Take one minute to draw the steps you would take to make a toast. Take turn showcasing your idea and discuss with your team on how your steps differ from everyone else’s, then convince them that your way of making toast is superior.

Marshmallow Tower

toothpicks, marshmallows | 20 minutes | 2+ people

The famous marshmallow challenge. Give a limited amount of toothpicks and marshmallows (20 toothpicks and 10 marshmallows) to each person/team, ask them to build the tallest freestanding structure possible in under 10 minutes. Experiment with different materials or use whatever you have on hand! I’ve done this with jujubes and spaghetti.

Golf Bridge

15 straws, 30cm tape, golf ball, scissors, two tables | 1 hour | 5+ people

Give the listed materials to each team, the goal is to build a free standing bridge that will carry the golf ball from one end to the other over the gap that is 30cm apart. The winning team must not only successfully complete the challenge but will have the most left over material and the fastest time. This challenge introduce the idea of a MVP (most viable product), a product that delivers value built with the least effort.

Scavenger hunt

15min+ | 5+ people

Instead of listing specific items such as a leaf, a water bottle, a stapler, a beer can… try listing words with a broader meaning, here’s a few to get you started:

  • Red
  • Useful
  • Heavy
  • Cheap

…You get the idea. But here’s the kicker, each item you bring back is worth one point, but if someone on the opposing team bring in the same item as you, either of you gets the point. So you must think creatively and find different ways to stretch the meaning of the word. If you can convince me why your item fits in that category, bonus points from me!

Rube Goldberg Machine

This can be a cool ongoing project at the office or over a period of time, preferably over an hour. Every team member could bring in a couple seemly useless materials and add to the development of a Rube Goldberg Machine.

Happy innovating!