Exercising creative design thinking in a software companyRei Suzuki
Every quarter, we bring together our team for a quarterly planning meeting. This helps us to refocus on our company vision for the year, and set achievable targets to meet for the upcoming quarter. This quarter, it was my turn to plan the meeting along with a special team building activity. As the designer of the group, I wanted to challenge the team to exercise their creative design thinking skills. In conversations with engineers and consultants in our team, I often find that they mistakenly believe that they are not creative because they don’t possess artistic abilities or a right-brained personality. However, I find that creativity has a lot more to do with problem solving, teamwork, and open-ended thinking than an individual’s artistic bent. Furthermore, in a fast-paced consultancy environment, it’s important to continually brush up on our creative thinking skills. In order to do so, we as a team worked on an exercise that simulates a condensed version of a creative design session.
We first needed a creative space that would have a conference room (for the actual quarterly meeting), and a well-equipped shop to shave some foam, cut acrylic, and build some mockups. Thankfully one of Rocky Mountain area’s leading design schools (also happens to be my alma mater), MSU Denver stepped in to help! The Industrial Design department rented us one of their state of the art shops as well as a beautiful collaboration room located in their brand new Aerospace and Engineering Sciences building that featured a great view of downtown Denver.
First, we split into two teams. The teams then had to envision and describe a fictional culture and people group. In this culture, the teams had to specify a symbolic animal, a significant tool of choice, and the terrain their people have adapted to. Team A chose a hawk, pen, and mountain; Team B’s choice was a horse, rope, in the marshlands.
Having filled out the culture sheet, teams then were given a design brief: design a representative vehicle for the people’s leader by combining elements of the animal, tool, and terrain specified previously.
After some furious sketching sessions, the teams came up with two distinctly unique vehicles. Team A had a vehicle with a hawk’s face, carrying a book on its side, with rugged mountain inspired rear wings. The second team went for a more abstract all-terrain vehicle that could tow stuck vehicles out of marshy terrain.
The next day we spent a few hours in the shop and turned our sketches into reality. These are not works of art, nor was that our intention. But I think we accomplished our goal of pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones, and applying our creative abilities in a slightly different manner!