The 4th assignment for the PDES 5701 course required the facilitation of a brainstorming session. This brainstorming session is to be used to help us generate more ideas related to our organization topic from a variety of people with different backgrounds. In the article “Groupthink” by Jonah Lehrer (2012), it’s mentioned that despite the popularity of brainstorming, it may not be the most effective way to generate ideas. It is convenient way to structure creative group activity, but it may not lead to as many ideas as people brainstorming on their own. However, the article mentions some ways in which to foster creativity and idea generation with groups of people. One way is by making sure that the connections/relationships between group members is not too close or too far apart so that they are all strangers. People seem to work best in a group when they have some familiarity with the other members, but not so much that they fall into old patterns and ways of doing things. Another way to improve group creativity is with the environment. An environment where people are exposed to different fields of thought and ideas is ideal. For this brainstorming session I kept in mind the importance of connections within the group. I tried to make sure that everyone knew at least one other person in the group and that people were friendly acquaintances, rather than close friends.

Individual Idea Generation

How might we make containers for storing and transporting food more efficient?

The focus of the brainstorming session was to find ways to improve tupperware/food containers that people use to pack meals to take with them on the go or to store in their fridge. I struggled with trying to make my “How Might We…” statement more narrow. There seems to be quite a bit of overlap for this topic. For example, there are food containers at the store that are designed primarily for the storage of food in the fridge or pantry. But people can also use these containers to store and transport their lunch with them onto campus. So generally food containers are used for both transportation and storage, but designing one specifically for one function would likely lead to different results. Which is why I included both storing and transportation in the question.

New Warm-Up Game

The new warm-up game that I developed is called “Super Heroes and Villains”. The idea behind the game is to get people to make free associations in a fun/playful setting. The game primarily works with two people, so members in a group would pair up with another person. One person takes the role of super hero and the other takes the role of villain. I used a random word/object generator, but using one’s surroundings works too. The super hero person goes first and selects something from the list (we used They have to come up with a super power related to the thing they chose. Next the person who is the villain has to come up with a way in which they try to defeat the super hero. For example, while we were testing out the game the person who was the super hero selected a remote from the list of random things. His super power was that he had a magical remote which he could use to pause and rewind time to save citizens in danger. The person who was the villain sought to defeat him by giving him dead batteries for his remote, rendering the magical remote useless. At the end the two people swap roles and do it again using a different random item as inspiration. This game is intended to be silly and ridiculous, hopefully getting participants to laugh.

Role cards

Session Organization

A group of 5 people (not including myself) generated ideas during this session. Since I am currently a college student, it is easiest for me to reach out to other students to request help for a brainstorming session. So all the participants are current students at the University of Minnesota, but I tried to get a variety of years and majors. Below is list and short description of each participant:

Nikki* — Junior at the University of Minnesota studying Biology.

Devon — Freshman at the University of Minnesota, undecided about major.

Elizabeth — Senior at the University of Minnesota studying Electrical Engineering.

Mehraud — Sophomore at the University of Minnesota studying Chemical Engineering.

John — Sophomore at the University of Minnesota studying Economics.

*Nikki had to leave about 25 minutes into the idea generation portion of the idea generating session so there were only 4 participants at the end to vote and organize ideas.

The brainstorming session took place in the basement of the house I live in. There is a large chalkboard there which I though would be nice to use to tape ideas to and write on. There is also a table with chairs that we sat at while brainstorming. At first people were a bit uncomfortable and unsure of what to expect for this activity. We started off with ZipZapZop, then went to the free association game (participants say the first thing that they think of and point to someone else who then has to say what they first think of when they hear the previous person’s word), and then we tested out the super hero and villains game. Next we spent 30 minutes generating ideas. It took quite a bit of encouragement to get people to write their ideas down. The two main fears people had were that 1) They were unsure if the idea already existed on the market and didn’t want to include it if it did and 2) They were worried their idea might be too similar to someone else’s idea that was already on the board. There were a surprising amount of times when people would write almost identical ideas down at the same time. When there was a lull in the output of ideas, I would add one of my own to the board in hopes that it might spark a related idea from someone.

At the end of the session we had 39 ideas on the board. The IPM for the 30 minute session was 1.3.

Idea Board
Silent Organization

Sorting and Voting

To sort the ideas we organized them together silently, similar to what we did in class. This did not seem to be a very effective way of sorting for the group I had assembled since several people just got annoyed when they would start forming a category and another person would remove or add to it an idea that the first person didn’t think fit. This process took about 5 to 6 minutes before people gave up and just stood back and looked at the board.

Next we came up with names for the categories as follows:

Food Container Attachments, Containers made of Different Material, Alternative Shapes/Designs for Food Containers, and Technologically Advanced Food Containers

There were also a few ideas in the corner that didn’t quite fit into any of the categories.

Next everyone was given five mini post-its to put on their favorite ideas. The top ideas from this process were Cook & Store 2.0, Biodegradable Material, and Auto-venting Containers.

Top Ideas