June 5, 2009

Greetings from Boston; Bahstan; Beantown; Will Walker Town; whatever you want to call it.

We’re nearly finished with Week 1 as the Engaging Underserved Populations Project (Ewe-ap if you must) Intern. It’s been a busy start, meeting and having interview-type chats with damn near everyone on staff. We’re doing this in order to get a sense for the museum’s current standing on how to reach out and better engage the large percentage of the city’s population which has little to no relationship with the Children’s Museum. The project calls for us to find out who currently makes up our audience, and then moving forward on how to expand. One of the first priorities is to help form a 12-member working group of staffers to really be the driving force for the overall initiative. The people are cool, from all over the place, and have tons of wonderful ideas.

You all have a pretty good idea of where I’m working ever since our amazing play date there in the fall, so I’m going to get to the good stuff. Thursday afternoon, I participated in something called SPEED STORMING, which is different approach to working through ideas. Think of it as a cross between speed dating and brainstorming:

"I like Asian-fusion cooking, used bookstores, and Newport furniture..."

Instead of a brainstorming session, where any idea is valued and streams of consciousness run amok, SPEED STORMING requires that a person come to the table (zing!) with a fairly well-formulated idea to discuss. As in speed dating you are paired up with someone and the pairings remain together for about 5 minutes. Half of that time is devoted to one person stating an idea and then getting feedback from his or her partner. Then halfway through the session a bell indicates that it is time to switch roles and let the partner give his pitch. On the second bell chime, it is time for partners to switch with others, now using their original idea which has the added insight of your previous peer(s).

Feedback we were trying to shoot for included offering new ways to think about the idea, who to talk to about further developing them, and next steps to take. It went very well in BCM’s second try at SPEED STORMING and I was blown away by the ideas that were presented and the enthusiasm with which people went about a process that was being mocked right up until the first bell. It was a structured, fair way to really flesh out things you might be thinking about, but unsure of their feasibility.

In our session, we pitched ideas about the museum that were not already works in progress, but I think this could be applied to any number of planning activities. If you are unlucky enough to be with me for Exhibit Design, be ready for me to insist on doing this at least a billion times. Actually, I was thinking how it might be a fun activity for Interview Weekend (too bad we missed our chance, unless we can bully the first years into it), as a way for interviewees to get multiple perspectives on their questions for all of us. Though, in my vision, SPEED STORMING includes up-tempo dangerous music (maybe heavy metal) blaring at all times. Oh, and lightning bolts.

That’s about it from me for now, if you don’t count my bewilderment on how I ride the subway Inbound on my way to work, and then Inbound on my way home. Inflammable means flammable? What a country!

Hope to hear from soon!

Your beloved,