Archive for March, 2011

Lesson: What they need is…

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

After another KFC mix-up today (always confusing original with extra crispy and now grilled!), I was starting a sentence with “What they need is…” Variations on this include…

– What they should do is…

– They should have…

– Why didn’t they…? or even

– There ought to be a law to…

These are all the start to instant brainstorming. Of course, this is usually in response to some instigating event.

If we focus on schools, we could look for areas for improvement.

Lesson: Building a Recycle, Reuse and Reduce Program

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

One of the topics discussed when I was working on a Fundraising project with NTU was how to get people to care about environmental issues such as Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, especially starting in schools and having it permeate to parents and families. Whereas “convenience” has proven to be the most compelling feature in the US (although some who want to make it a penalty-based campaign just don’t get it), we could brainstorm what it would take to successfully launch such a program in the student’s own “backyard” (probably school). Here are the main elements:

(1) Financial support. Such a campaign will have expenses. Can one get a grant for such a project, or should starting funds be raised personally by donations or borrowing? Can the program eventually become self-supporting?

(2) Expectations. What do you hope to accomplish? Can you justify the effort by the results?

(3) Opportunity. Is this timely? Can you engage the target audience? What is the CREATIVE element you would incorporate?

(4) Problem-Solution Pairing. Can you clearly and persuasively explain the framework of this project in terms of an “attention-grabbing” problem and a competitively advantageous solution?

(5) Can you list the tasks/action items involved in accomplishing the project goals? How will you get from point A to point B? Who are the stakeholders? Who will be actively involved? Who will be passively involved?

(6) What are the project risks? What will you have learned if the project fails? Will you still emerge as a leader?

(7) Materials. Create a materials list. Add alternative materials and justify the selection of the primary materials.

(8) Content. What are the main ideas? How are the main ideas connected? How are the main ideas supported? What is the single most critical take home message? How innovative is this?

(9) Delivery. How will your platform be deployed? How will you measure your level of effectiveness and success? How will your project be sustained? For how long will it be sustained?

(10) Give your project a name. Create a byline that clearly but briefly describes your project. Do you need to differentiate? Optional: create a project roadmap.

Note: this could be a program for plastics, glass containers, water, or even batteries – just select something that has not been implemented but is needed in your school (or home). There are many such programs already in the US, so we could pose this a porting project or one of “localization” – language translation or cultural adaptation. This reminds me of the green carbon footprint calculator a few of the CEE 277E students did in 2010.

Lesson: Features

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Products are characterized by their set of features. As consumers, we are often bombarded by marketing features whereas we usually end up becoming familiar with a subset of functional features. Sometimes we focus on the specifications-type features (eg, number of megapixels in a digital camera). Here are a few exercises to get students familiar with the product development process:

(1) Understanding competitors’ features. Give $x to each team and have them purchase a product. They can research the product then create a feature list. Prioritize the feature list and put them into categories such as (a) ok to drop, (b) optional, (c) nice-to-have, (d) must-have and (e) deal breaker.

(2) Improve on a product. Have students create the feature list for the next generation of the product, and have them work out the prioritization and categorization. Students can wear different hats: (a) design, (b) marketing, (c) engineering, (d) manufacturing, (e) legal…for example. Each team member must evangelize at least one old or new feature.

(3) Have students name their product as if (a) they worked for the company making the original product, and (b) they worked for a competing company. Optional: Have students create a basic positioning statement that describes the scope (who, what , where, why, how?) of the product.

(4) Tell team they must eliminate one top tier feature (eg, because of cost over-run). How does the decision get made?

(5) Tell team that one feature (pick it at random) and tell them to put together a plan to take care of it (or not!?)

Just thinking about the Singapore Polytechnic group who may be interested in architectural design, we could focus on the Y2E2 building and have them apply this exercise.

Lessons: The Power of…

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Based on the phrase “The Power of Observation” (which is one of the ideas to be employed in the Compare and Contrast exercise), we could create a series of skills titled “The Power of…” Other “vectors” that we could construct:

“The Power of Communication”…what you can achieve by communicating well (includes preparation, delivery and follow through)

“The Power of Service”…finding motivation to do something.

I’ll have to think up of some more.

The Homework Myth

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

I’ve just finished reading “The Homework Myth” by Alfie Kohn (2006) and found a few sections that are associated with creativity.
– on page 111, math is identified as a “creative enterprise” where students should be challenged to invent solutions to “unfamiliar problems” and understand how and why each other’s solutions work as a comparison.
– on page 169, it is suggested that homework may be excessive and therefore out of reach of many students from the get go. Punitive measures as a result of being put in this impossible position discourages students from wanting to take responsibility for learning.
– on page 178, there is a discussion about choice. “The best teachers know that children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.” The section also points out that students have the instinct to detect whether work is thoughtlessly assigned and therefore not really worth doing.
– on page 181, the author concludes that “this shift is associated with intellectual benefits: Kids are freed up to do more stuff that matters, that stirs their thinking,that both flow from and stimulates their interests, when homework doesn’t get in the way.”
This is an extension on the thought that schools stifle youth creativity. The school goes even as far as outside of actual school hours to ensure that youth do not get the opportunity to be creative (on their own) by (a) consuming what should be free time, (b) demoralizing students to the point where they mainly anticipate judgement, failure and punishment, and (c) burdening the student with perceptibly low quality tasks. For our YCISL program, we need to make it absolutely clear that they are to take charge and they can choose to pursue their creativity in their chosen context (even school) with ample free time in a no risk situation where they take responsibility for the quality of tasks.

Framework: The YCISL Assemblage

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

I’ve been thinking about the relationship between creativity, innovation and leadership that is the skeletal framework of the youth development program. I wanted to portray the concept that the workshop is intended to draw out and characterize one’s creativity (the raw material) and develop it into useful product (the action) in order to create (proof of) leadership (the result). “Teaching” will be minimal and focused mainly on the development stage. However, most of the instructional effort will actually be on removing barriers to creativity and getting ideas flowing.

So, I’ve drawn up a schematic that I have titled “The YCISL Assemblage.” It is a high-level and simple view of the framework that the YCISL program is founded upon. The annotations on the right include (a) a simple title that differentiates the various stages, (b) the “::” (double colon) to show the “is to” relationship, and (c) the meaning within the YCISL framework.

– I have labelled “Your Mind” as “The Safe” because it is a storage area where others cannot tell what is inside unless you show them. Things do move in and out, and can get mixed together once inside (or get separated).

– the Creativity is represented as a cloud to recognize the tendency to expand (and merge) when it is free to develop. It is a raw material and, depending on how it is positioned, is the potential energy from which great ideas and products can grow.

– the Innovation box (perhaps often perceived as a black box) has the aim to create something significant, impactful and life-changing; hence, if all this is achieved, then leadership arises.

– what I did not portray truthfully in this diagram is the directionality and “activation energy” requirement. With regards to directionality, this process does not usually run linear. And the “activation energy” needed to get from one stage to another must be available -> it’s not all downhill.