Let me describe for you my new normal: I’m working from home with 4 young kids and my working-from-home husband. Days are peaceful. Like star students, our kids go through their homeschooling stations that I have intently prepared. There is no fighting and only compassion. Top-notch work is achieved by all, and even the baby is quiet during all Zoom meetings! What, that’s not your world?
Yeah, not mine either! Our family has been overwhelmed by the new normal. Our days have been filled with high emotions and high stress. There has to be a better way…As impossible as this situation can be, I did realize that the challenges of navigating this new normal in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic inspired a unique opportunity for my family – my kids could not only watch me work, but they could experience it! I could teach my daughters to be innovators during COVID-19.
As some of you know, DISHER offers Innovation Workshops for our customers working on the fuzzy front end of product development. Why not try this out with my kids? They could learn what it means to be innovative and how Mom helps companies do that at work. So, right there at our kitchen table, I led my kids through the entire innovation process.
AN INNOVATION WORKSHOP: FAMILY-STYLE
Opportunity Statement. The first task at hand was to set a topic to ideate around. My goal was to find a topic that would interest my girls who are all under the age of eight. When the dust settled and we all finally agreed on a topic (or Mom took the path of least resistance), we landed on:
How might we create a FUN kids playscape using natural elements?
Benchmarking. With the topic set, I asked the innovators to “hit the books.” They benchmarked natural playscapes they have played on before and took inspiration from pictures of existing natural playscapes online.
Pinterest is such an amazing tool, am I right?
We found a wide variety of pictures and spread them out so we could see them all.
Ideation. With all the benchmarking gathered, it was time to free the kids’ imagination and creativity. I challenged the kids to create their own ideas:
“There are no limits to your creations – Have Fun!”
Eyes glowed with excitement while they shared ideas with their sisters. Without even prompting, they began to build on each other’s ideas and create new ideas or combine ideas. This is what happens naturally in the innovation process. It is very hard to be creative all on your own – you need your hunch and add it to another’s hunch in order to create the next idea. Consider using family to build on ideas together or use virtual tools to build ideas with others.
Vote. The next step in an Innovation Workshop is to funnel all the ideas and vote on your top favorites. I told my girls that there were no rules for how they had to vote but to vote for the ideas they liked best!
“Mom, I created “I voted” stickers for each of us!”
Vet. Now that we had our top-voted ideas, we needed to vet them further. We came up with 3 criteria we felt were important for our playscape creation.
It must be FUN. It cannot COST a lot of money. It has to be EASY to build.
Rank. With our criteria set, we were able to score and vet out the top ideas in each category. This helped us to see the ultimate top idea—the one with the highest overall score. We could also compare the ideas in different areas.
Drumroll please…..what was our vetted out, top idea?
A path with a wooden arch that leads to a fairy garden!
Next Steps. With our top idea, we needed to ensure some next steps were defined. These next steps will help us in the days to come to take this paper idea through and into a built idea. I decided to let my kids develop these next steps with only a little guidance. It really made them think about and understand the engineering process. What do we need to do next? What materials should we use? How big should it be? My daughter was very keen on making sure build dates and step deadlines got onto the calendar! She also understood testing principles.
Our build needed to be tested for “strongness” to make sure it didn’t hurt us and didn’t fall over.
“That’s Daddy’s job!”
I was surprised my kids already had a basic understanding of scheduling tasks, assigning tasks, and the build-check-act process. It was AMAZING.
At DISHER, we move from the front-end innovation process onto the phases of prototyping, testing, and engineering. I explained to my girls what a prototype was and how useful prototypes are in designing a product. I discussed the many ways to create a quick prototype using 3D printing or even simple, low-level materials like sticks instead of logs. Of course, they were intrigued by a printer that could print objects!
My kids decided that we needed to better define the arch in our design. We did further benchmarking and highlighted what we liked in each picture before creating a few of our own. Through this, there were key components of the arch that everyone wanted.
“I like putting a heart and flowers on our arch the best!”
We are now ready to build a prototype. We chose to use kid-friendly CAD software to create a 3D printed arch.
Although we have not completed our path with a wooden arch that leads to a fairy garden, (according to Lyla, we have until May 31st) my kids have loved the chance to be a part of the process in creating their own play space and learning about the innovation process.
“You really get to do this at work Mommy!?!”
Times are different right now. Many of you are working from home with your kids. I hope you are inspired to not wish this time away. Instead, I encourage you to embrace it. Work together to find meaningful ways to grow and make a positive difference. Bring the kids into your world. A world that is ripe for connecting, learning, inspiring, and full of giggles!