Going 3-D

What is it like to think visually?  To imagine a process or an idea is three-dimensions?  To, in a sense, experiment with a different way of communicating and generating ideas.

Last Friday night was the traditional coming together of the Part-time MBAs and the Full-time MBAs at Sauder.  Friday night you may ask?  Yes — because this is when the hard-working Part-timers can meet — given that they hold full-time jobs.  So our challenge was to design a learning experience that would keep everyone engaged and awake!

This evening was also an opportunity for the students to hear from James Tansey, the Director of ISIS — Sauder’s Centre for Sustainability and Social Innovation.  James set the scene for the evening as the “opportunity” to be explored had been already defined and fleshed out by the part-time teams.  I had asked them to find a sustainable business problem within their workplace that could be interesting for a team of full-timers and the part-time leads to engage in.

The part-timers rose to the challenge extremely well — the problems ranged from cell phone recycling to shipping challenges to cars idling to paper company business model transformations — well you get the idea.

With only dinner intervening the teams worked for the evening on idea generation and experimenting with some 3-dimensional prototyping.  Teams presented and 3 teams were deemed closest to having their prototypes respond to the sustainable  business problem and communicate the idea clearly.  Not always easy when you are working with lego, paper, pipe-cleaners and so on.

The value of prototyping is expressed well by this quote:

“If you freeze an idea too quickly, you fall in love with it.  If you refine it too quickly, you become attached to it and it becomes very hard to keep exploring, to keep looking for better.  The crudeness of the early models in particular is very deliberate.” Jim Glymph,  Gehry Partners

Prototyping isn’t just in 3-D — it can be on the back of a napkin — a diagram that visually explains and often extends ideas.

But here are the results — sounded like the part-timers got some good ideas and I think most people (not all!) had fun thinking in 3-D.

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