Last night my former creative director at Kaleidoscope and I did a 1.5 hour session with some Interaction Design undergrad students at Parsons. Teaching a group in so short a time how to have more and better ideas faster was a solid constraint Рbut as we all know, good contraints make good design. Knowing we had 15 students, we devised the following plan Рwe would make groups of three , each of which would round-robin-workshop one set of ideas for each member, for twenty minutes. In an hour we would be done!

Brainstorming, like any other game, requires good rules for a good game. And knowing that there is plenty of research out there on groupthink, I always like to include a short sprint of personal, quiet thinking that we base the ideation sessions on.

The Plan.

Step 1: Students take 5 minutes to write down 3 ideas that they wanted to try and tackle for their final project.

Step 2: Their group helps them, for 5 more minutes, turn each idea into a problem statement. “How might we______?”

Step 3: Each problem statement gets 3 minutes of group ideation – all three people trying to come up with ideas to help resolve, improve or remove the problem.

Here’s what we got:

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Here is a little trick I learned from doing this session a few times at the Brooklyn Brainery: We have people tell stories about plane travel and then extract user needs that we’re going to solve for. One gentleman recounted a time when he was a boy and woke up to find he had drooled all over his neighbor. He was horrified, of course.

If you’re solving for the problem of falling asleep and drooling on the person next to you in a plane there are four main ways:

1. Make a drool catcher – no drool spreads!

2. Make an anti-drool pill – no drool happens!

3. Get all the drooling people together….at least no one else is bothered!

4. Make Drool Cool.

This is a really important ideation tool. In the 3-minute sprints, I asked students to examine their problems, and try to solve them from all of these different angles.

At the end of the session, we asked students to tell the group about one idea they liked and thought they could move forward with…everyone left with a packet of ideas to work with to develop their final project.