Thursday, August 29, 2013

Physical Tools for Better Brainstorming

Fast Company Associate Editor Margaret Rhodes has written an article about an interesting new set of physical tools designed by Smart Interaction Lab to facilitate better brainstorming.   The Totem series of objects includes Alterego - a set of rings designed to help a group bring Edward De Bono's six thinking hats technique to life during a brainstorming session.  The video below demonstrates the Alterego tool.  The Totem series also includes the Baton - a simple device designed to give one person the opportunity to talk, while others listen carefully and actively.  The third device is called Echo.  According to Smart Interaction Lab

"Echo is a recording/playback bell-like device that can fit easily and comfortably into any setting—from creative spaces, to the living room of your home, to cafes. Echo works in two ways: it records the background noise from wherever it is placed, and as soon as a user picks it up and puts it to their ear, Echo will play back what it previously recorded. By shaking it, Echo will randomly play back other sound bytes from other parts of the day. The main aim of Echo is to help users get inspired by other adjacent creative conversations, keywords, and quirky background noises that we would not be able to pick up on without the help of technology."

As the Fast Company article notes, no one has researched the effectiveness of these tools yet.  However, I do believe that these tools are worthy of further testing and experimentation.  Teams should try these out and see if they can enhance the quality of brainstorming dialogue.  Keep in mind though.  The tools alone will not enhance brainstorming effectiveness.   The tools bring to life or remind us of key principles about how to have productive creative conversations.  We still need to have the discipline to use those principles.  The objects are reminders, but they can't dictate the right behavior. 
TOTEM: ALTEREGO by Smart IxD Lab for BCN Maker Faire from Smart InteractionLab on Vimeo.

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