90 Ideas in 15 minutes

Philadelphia Service Jam

This past weekend 10 participants came together to participate in an event called the Global Service Jam. This event saw over 90 locations “jamming” in over 40 countries. The organizers of the Jam provided sites with a secret theme, one we would all use over the weekend. The theme is meant to be vague because the goal is to be inspired by the theme to create prototypes of possible solutions to challenges we face in the world. This year’s theme needed some time to ponder: “Hello? lo? o? o.”

We gave our 10 participants a stack of stickies and a dark marker. For 15 minutes they were asked to write one idea/concept down per sticky and post on the board. Being inspired by one another and no idea was too wild were the only parameters. What happened next is what I find the most inspiring.

Ten people — half undergraduate students and half professionals, identified 90 separate ideas in 15 minutes. These ideas were then grouped into seven categories that made the most sense, with only one or two outliers. Some vague abstract concepts such as emotions or possibly a desire to be further explored such as “simplification.” Whereas others were very specific: “universal language”, “cell phone addiction”, “artificial intelligence”, “human to human connection”, and “human trafficking.” So many great ideas to identify solutions to explore.

With only short time to diverge and converge on a possible solution, we still needed to bring these ideas down to a more manageable focus. Based on the participants votes, we set out in four small teams to dig deeper into the areas of technology addiction, technology future, human trafficking, and communication/linguistics. Through a design thinking process, teams began to research and converge on possible solutions. By the end of the first evening, teams sketched and pitched their ideas or research to one another and converged once again to two main concepts that we would explore and prototype on our full day together.

Using one another’s “superpowers” (knowledge and skills) our seven steadfast participants got down to work. Armed with a table full of random bottles, tubes, cardboard boxes, sticky notes in a variety of shapes and sizes as well as Lego’s and Play-Doh, teams set out to create a prototype of their concept in 30 minutes. One team came up with the idea of creating an experience for people wanting to disconnect from technology and get back to basics with their family. Another team sought to explore the concept that emoticons were considered a universal communication tool, similar to that of hieroglyphics.

With their prototypes in hand, teams went out to begin testing their concept with students on campus and one another. One hour later they were back in the “lab” updating their prototypes based on feedback from those they engaged in field research. A little while later they were back out across campus to see if these improvements revealed additional insights.

The team exploring emoticons first prototyped with a simple wheel showing emoticons on the outer edge and a cutout on the inner wheel allowing notes to be recorded as to how our testers used these emoticons. For example, a face with a surgical mask could mean someone is sick, but to another it means to “shut up and not say anything more.” In their second prototype, they utilized technology to ask testers to send a text using all emoticons to represent what they had for breakfast/lunch or what they were doing that day. All testers expressed how hard it was for them to use emoticons to clearly express what they wanted to say. Once text was sent, one of the team members would respond with what they interpreted the emoticons to mean. In most cases, they were close, but never quite correct. The tester then sent back a text in all words to express what they did in emoticons. The prototype proved useful in that the testers all realized how many emoticons were out there and how some they would use might be interpreted differently. Additionally, all realized how much time it took to text vs. having the conversation face to face. Thus the prototypes were successful in that they engaged people to talk to one another and to recognize perceptions and interpretations. Most importantly, all had a good laugh as they engaged with the experience created for them.

Our Camp Why Fi? team, learned that most people like to disconnect for short periods of time and that most like to get outdoors. Some wish for nature, while others want to explore a new city. The team also learned that people would want to have activities to keep them away from technology available to them.

In 11 hours, 11 participants in total, created 3 working prototypes out of a pool of 90 ideas and tested their ideas with over 25 individuals. It was our interpretation of the secret theme “Hello? elo? lo? o.” This is what communication and collaboration is all about. Looking forward to more creative projects such as this one to be inspired by.

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