In October, we invited you to participate in an electronic brainstorming session on ways to re-invent museum professional training. We did this for two reasons: first, that we want our book to be as useful as possible and part of that is seeking out new tools, many of them cloud-based, that will allow us to be more creative and work more collaboratively. Jeff Meade of the Smithsonian’s Ed Lab suggested Wallwisher and we thought it worth giving a try.
Second, we’ve been asking colleagues, as we talk to them about the themes in the book if they feel that graduate programs are preparing emerging professionals for creative work in museums. And the answer, from everyone, is no. That’s pretty concerning. We were curious about what would happen if we asked the field–that’s all of you–about what training should be like. Could we brainstorm a better solution? We’ve all been through brainstorming sessions, but there’s increasing evidence that we go about it in the wrong ways.
We put the question up on Wallwisher; encouraged participation through this project blog, Facebook and Twitter, and set ourselves for a week of thinking, sorting and evaluating.We got some interesting ideas, some duds, and some inbetween. Did we consider the experiement a success? No, but in the spirit of experimentation and of embracing our own flawsomeness, here’s what we learned.
About Our Brainstorming
By opening up the process to all comers (crowd-sourcing as it were) we took a leap beyond what might be effective brainstorming in order to see if this online, open method would work. We found that people had ideas, but it was rare for people to really build upon ideas; creating and connecting what Tina Seelig calls “a soup of ideas” where they’ve been connected and combined, and ownership exists among the entire group. In her book InGenius, she shares a set of guidelines for brainstorming inspired by Tom Kelly of IDEO in the form of questions.
What’s the room look like? Our virtual room seemed a challenge–it seemed hard to step back and take in the full swath of ideas. How could this be changed online?
Who should participate? We made it open to all comers and had participants comment anonymously. Facebook brainstorms in what’s been described as “2 pizza size teams,” in other words 6-8 people. Our group had diverse opinions, but I think couldn’t quite connect. Would not being anonymous have made a difference? Should we have handpicked a group or does that risk limiting the pool of ideas?
How should the topic be framed? In retrospect, our frame was not well-enough defined. Did we mean graduate school? or ongoing professional development? Did we mean training for curators, educators, directors, conservators or even the general public? A tighter frame might have led to more creative brainstorming.
What else should be in the room? Because our room was virtual, in fact, there was everything in the room. Wallwisher makes it possible to link videos, websites, etc and some participants did so. Should we have seeded our virtual space with some of this? Perhaps.
How to start? We should have started with a warm-up, a silly prompt to begin the process and to open up.
We believed that there were no bad ideas, and when we could (thanks Rainey for taking the lead on this) we encouraged others to build on them, thinking about each idea as a seed and throwing out prompts, questions or follow-ons. Seelig describes the process as “build, build, build, jump!” In our weeklong experiment, we didn’t create enough jumping. Interestingly, we’re participating in Seelig’s online Crash Course in Creativity and this week have been using Wallwisher with a small group of fellow museum professionals to generate ideas for the problem of it being too hot to sleep. We’re tasked with coming up with 100 solutions, and the process–of defining, of working with a small group, and of building and jumping–seems to be working much better. We’ve been able to put our initial learning back to work.
About the Ideas
It’s hard to really re-invent something! We’ll have another post coming up about what we learned, from all of you, about the future of museum training.
Flawsomeness--embracing those failures–is an integral part of any creative process–including our book writing. If you participated in the electronic brainstorming (on sleep or training), we hope you’ll share your observations here so we can continue the learning.