Some of our best concepts sprout when we are in a kindergarten mindset.

Our Clients come to us with wildly diverse challenges. Sometimes the problems are well defined and other times we are working to define the end users’ needs. In either case (or anything in between), an open mind and free thinking are keys to effectively exploring new ideas. Often finding the best solutions to the biggest challenges is achieved by an unconventional team and a change of scenery. That’s where we come in…

For years, Fredricks has understood the value in approaching daunting problems with an agile and open mindset; great concepts often grow from unexpected ideas. Our Workshops are designed to provide Clients with a chance to escape from the day-to-day operations and distractions of the office: the freedom and tools to generate these unexpected ideas.

The Environment

Just as a kindergarten classroom is designed to be a safe, comfortable place to share and experience new ideas and challenges, so should the brainstorm environment. Tools for expression and communication should be abundant, varied, and not too precious.

Nourishment is key. We burn a fair amount of fuel during a Workshop, and people get distracted when they’re hungry. We mix it up with healthy options and empty calories. Snacking as a group also contributes to creating an informal setting, further encouraging the open sharing of ideas.

The Team

As important as the venue is, the participants are critical. We look for individuals with divergent viewpoints and a range of experience. Just as a seasoned veteran can provide invaluable insights, a relative newcomer’s freedom from the constraints and bias that come with years of experience may lead to completely new ways of looking at a problem. A successful brainstorming team is able to check ego and title at the door and focus on the work at hand.

This is where it gets tricky…leadership of a Workshop is a highly evolved skill. In our experience, it’s a gift to be able to guide a lively discussion with intelligent, articulate, and passionate people. The leader needs to be able to read the energy of the group and encourage everyone to participate. Some groups do better with a semi-structured sharing of ideas while others quickly escalate into a feverish exchange of interconnected thoughts.

No matter the pace, someone needs to capture key findings and insights during the Workshop. This, like facilitation, is an art form. Generating simple sketches can elicit further thought from the group, and trigger another avalanche of ideas. Often, ideas are better captured by verbiage than sketches. Descriptions sometimes leave ideas more open to interpretation than do sketches, which ultimately suggest a style, geometry, or construction.

Kindergartners and adults alike have limited attention spans. We’ve found that brief intensive Workshops are the most effective. The best Workshops leave the team feeling drained but at the same time excited about the potential to develop breakthrough solutions.

Wrap Up

Finally we gather all of the thoughts, ideas, observations, and “what ifs” generated during the Workshop. These are organized and illustrated, then presented in a summary to the Client for distribution and continued feedback from their own key internal players. Regularly we’re asked to engage in further development, sometimes guiding the concepts with the Client forward through production.

The great unknown potential of our next Workshop or project fuels our drive to create. It’s really quite similar to the feeling we’ve all experienced on the first day of kindergarten: uncertain but eager about the undiscovered possibilities ahead. We look forward to the journey with you!

Post written and edited by Errol Pearsons, Maury Fredricks, and Ben Fredricks.

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