My group and I arrived a half an hour early to coordinate and start the day off on the right foot. There was an anxiety in the air as everyone knew that today was the big day to present our ideas. It was to be an interesting day indeed.
Back together again and with the day underway we shared what we all came up with our group. We were asked to describe what happened when everyone's answers came together. This aided to create cohesion among the group by bringing the group into harmony if their answers differed from one another.
Finally we were to form our pitch. We talked about the elevator pitch and the use of storytelling nowadays as a important marketing tool used to connect the public with a product. We were told that a pitch should have:
This is where they presented The Golden Circle. The explained that The Golden Circle and storytelling can be the perfect combination in any pitch.
Here is a link to the TEDtalks video they showed us on The Golden Circle. It is a fascinating video and I recommend that you watch it.
Finally we were to formulate our Pitch and our pitches were graded by two judges who used the following criteria to grade each group:
To shake it up a bit my group put on a skit with a narrated story, in order to really display what it was our product and would do, how the service worked, and for whom it would serve. We got a few laughs and we had a lot of fun. We were asked a few questions from the judges about our idea and we were applauded and the next group took the stage. After everyone had presented the judges reconvened and the top three groups were announced...
Unfortunately my group did not win the competition but we did win by what we took away from the weekend: invaluable knowledge and a set of tools for problem solving and solution creation.
With everything I took away from that weekend I hope to create a positive change in the lives of the students of Colón and as a result in their respective communities. By empowering the youth of these communities we can give them the tools and knowledge to create a better future not only for themselves but for their friends and neighbors as well.
Day 2 was the day we were to get down and dirty with our ideas. We were to put them to action as best we could and use them and see other people interact with them. It was to be a very hands on and interactive kind of day.
We started the day with another team building activity building a tower using spaghetti noodles, tape, a skinny cloth rope, and one marshmallow. The objective was to build the tallest tower possible with the marshmallow at the topmost point. Rules were that the tower should stay upright by itself, the marshmallow should be in one piece, and the tower could not be hung, that is to say to must be on the ground. The activity was to teach us not to fear failure and that the greatest failure was never having tried in the first place. At first building a tower out of spaghetti noodles seems impossible but with a little effort it can be done. This is a great lesson for people everywhere as well as for the students in Colón.
Moving on to the next stage of creating ideas. This part was simply for delving further into the points of view and the people affected. We created another tool called the experiential script. This is a hour by hour script of what our person or group of people live in their day to day. This is to identify the opportunities and spaces of action in a sequence of activities carried out by the user daily. From there we did a brainstorm of ideas in the way of the party activity, not saying "Yeah, but..." but rather "Yeah, and...". The objective was to come up with a minimum of 50 ideas in each group. From there we were to categorize and sub-categorize our ideas. We were to select one idea that we thought could solve our problem the best. Afterwards we were to play the devil's advocate with our idea and think of externalities (both positive and negative) that could affect our idea with a special focus on the negative externalities. This is important in figuring out what could go wrong in our design process and trying to eliminate those problems ahead of time. We did an activity where two groups came together and criticized or called to attention potential problems they saw in the other's design/idea and gave suggestions on how to improve upon the idea.
Next up was the following business model:
This model is crucial in creating a foolproof plan for your project and aids in leaving nothing out of consideration. They highlighted that the customer segment is fundamental in the formation of our idea into a product, that is to say who is served by the product/service. The value proposition is the problem solved by our project and creates value for the customer/user. The channels are how we inform about our product(s)/services, how we our evaluate value proposition, how do our customers buy our products and services, how do we deliver our value proposition, and how do we offer our services post-sale. The customer relationships are how we interact with our customers/users. Finally the revenue streams are flow of revenue depending on the economic value a client would place on product/service and other forms of financing.
Next step is prototyping our idea. The importance of the prototype is to evaluate how it works in a real world situation and to preview results, obtain feedback, fail quickly and cheaply and from there refine the design. We were presented a useful graph:
The graph highlights the importance of early prototyping in order to have a refined product by launch time.
We were taught useful ways to prototype a service which are: storyboarding, storytelling, and acting/role-playing. This methods give a visual display of what the experience will be for the customer or user upon utilizing the service provided. We can use any cheap material to prototype a product as long as it demonstrates the correct function. They showed the image below to give a better idea of how to prototype a product. The idea is not to build it up piece by piece but start with a simple design that has the same function and refine moving forward.
Next step is to evaluate. This is what we learn from the interaction between the prototype and the user/client. We let the user interact with the product without instruction or correction. We observe and register. We then ask ourselves if the prototype solved the problem. We did an activity called the "Prototype Museum" between groups where each group went to each prototype "exhibit" and interacted with the product and asked questions to 1-2 people from the group. The presenting pair prepared 2 precise questions that didn't suggest an obvious answer in order to get documentable user information; that is to say that the questions were asked in such a way that the user responded in a way that gave us a clear picture of their experience with the product/service.
At the end of the day everyone was given homework to work on individually that would make sure each group was in harmony with what they were doing. The questions we were to answer and bring back the next day were the following:
With our homework in hand and our ideas further developed we left the hotel feeling more motivated than ever. My group had created a Whatsapp group to continue communication through the night to be better prepared for the following day.
Stay tuned for day 3!
Change is an inevitable part of life. It contributes greatly to our growth not only as individuals, but as organizations. Future Scientist has recently undergone a change here in Panamá. Heidi Rausch has left us to continue her career in the United States. She has left an indelible mark on Future Scientist and her work here in Colón has set the course for success for our future projects. My name is John Michael Coatney and I shall fill the figurative shoes (or rubber boots, depending on the day) that Heidi has left behind. They are awfully big to fill and I will do my best to ensure that things move forward for us here in Panamá.
February was my first month working for Future Scientist and throughout the month I was trained by Heidi on the ins and outs of the job. I learned a lot by her side and she left me with ideas of her own that she wished to continue during my time here in the organization. As I continue her work and start new projects I hope to achieve as much as she did if not more. Hasta luego Heidi, que el futuro te brinde mucho éxito y que te vaya bien todo.
My first task solo as Program Coordinator was to attend an innovation and design thinking workshop in the city of Santiago de Veraguas. The goal of my attendance was to gather ideas and tools for our own design workshop/competition that we wish to carry out in the high school in Portobelo. Apart from this I was to meet potential contacts who could provide support or collaboration for our competition. It was an extremely successful weekend. The knowledge, tools, and processes I gathered will serve greatly in empowering the students in Portobelo to create innovative and sustainable solutions to solve problems in their communities. Aside from this I met several people who could provide support for this event once it is under way.
To give you an idea of my experience I wish to provide you with a summary of all that we did during the workshop. It was a busy three days but they were very productive and I noted a significant change in all that were there in regard to empowerment that the workshop provided in giving us the tools to create real solutions to clearly defined problems.
Day 1 - Immersion
The energy in the air the first day of the workshop was palpable. As people entered the hotel where the workshop was taking place, I noticed people of all ages; however most of those in attendance were high schoolers or college kids. There were a handful of young and old professionals (myself included) who came to learn something new for their respective careers. The beginning of the day was spent introducing the idea of the workshop and how the weekend would play out. Once logistics were through we jumped right into it starting with our first activity.
We started with a teamwork activity called La Torre. We were separated into groups of 6 and tasked with constructing a tower out of colored Jenga blocks. Each member of the group was given a personal goal in the construction of the tower (1. The tower should include all the pink, green and yellow blocks. 2. The tower should be 10 stories tall. 3. The base of the tower should have more blocks than the rest of the floors. 4. The tower should be constructed with 20 blocks. 5. The 7th floor should be a different color from the rest. 6. The top floor should be pink.). The other rule was that we could not talk nor gesticulate to communicate in the construction of the tower. It was a great icebreaker and team building exercise.
We then talked about what is innovation (redesigning the rules; it is effective, efficient, sustainable, and fair to all), the three types of networks (centralized, decentralized, and distributed; an idea developed by Paul Baran, a famous American-Polish engineer), that social innovation is not charity, what is design thinking, the importance of both analytical and creative thinking in design, and the design process (empathize, define, create ideas, prototype, and evaluate).
Next dinamica was called The Party. In groups of 2 we were to design the best party ever. At first they asked us to go back and forth with our partner saying "Yeah, but..." and sort of block and change their idea. Afterwards we were to do the same but instead of saying "Yeah, but..." we were to say "Yeah, and...". They wanted us to see the difference between challenging ideas to better refine and define what is wanted vs. simply a brainstorm of ideas. They then showed us the double diamond of design thinking (see image below). If you Google search "design thinking diamond" you will find a bunch of other reiterations, but they all have the same central idea. This is a great tool in designing a solution to any problem, be it personal or societal.
As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, empathy is important in understanding how to define a problem. If you don’t know how your users/clients experience the problem firsthand, you don’t really know the problem. Empathizing is such a critical first step in really defining your problem in order to create a solution that truly serves the user and improves their life.
We were then given another tool called "The Problem Tree". It is a great tool to breakdown a problem into Causes (Roots), Central Problem (Trunk), and the Symptoms or Consequences (Branches and Leaves). It is a useful tool in further investigating a problem and seeing all its facets. Another great tool we were given is the 3 H's (head, heart, and hand). It is an empathy tool used in putting ourselves in the place of the person affected by a problem. The "head" is what the person affected thinks, the "heart" is what they feel, and the "hand" is what they do.
After empathizing with those affected by the central problem the next step is to define, or organize all the obtained information to make a point of view. The point of view must be inspiring, challenging and direct. The idea is to create a point of view that demonstrates the problem in the best way possible. This point of view is the final culmination of what it is to empathize with the person who is experiencing the problem you wish to solve.
We ended the day with a healthy helping of new ideas and tools to tackle the next two days that were ahead. After everything we had learned just on day 1 I knew that it was to be a productive weekend ahead.
Stay tuned for day 2