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This month, Creative Indiana’s IDEAS Network provided wonderful lessons in both quality and quantity achieved using the  diverge/converge rules of effective idea-storming. Our event partner was WonderLab Museum of Science, Health, and Technology represented by its Gift Shop Manager, Colleen Couper. Our challenge was a simple: “How to Increase Gift Shop Sales”.

In reference to quality and quantity: even though our group was smaller than anticipated, the quality of their ideas was grand. This was one of our most productive and engaging sessions, with ideas flowing by the minute. Guests started the evening playing with building blocks and reminiscing about their childhood dreams, how they relate to now and their dreams for the future. This got the group engaged. Then creative action coach Ladi Terry kicked things off by introducing the “target” exercise. She posted a large target/bull’s-eye on the wall and then had Colleen fill participants in on the current status of the gift shop. What practices were pulling toward the goal of more sales? What practices were pushing away or hindering sales?

This strategic thinking tool helped to give the group a clear focus so it could get straight to work. One of the first realizations was that the key issue was not getting people to WonderLab Museum, but specifically into the gift shop. Most visitors and passersby don’t realize that the gift shop is open during the day and accessible to everyone.  You do not need a membership or to be a visitor to the museum to shop in the gift store.  This raised another big question: how can the WonderLab more effectively direct guests into the gift shop from both the outside and inside of the building?

With this new sub-challenge the ideas really began to take shape. This was divergence at its best…generating lots of ideas!  Participants suggested everything from improving online presence, adapting the physical space, to even re-branding the gift shop altogether. With each idea came an explanation and tips from the participant’s own experience, as well as a chance to develop the ideas further. Ladi was very effective at managing the flow of ideas, allowing time for discussion and breaks in which she and Colleen sorted the options into manageable categories to allow for easier convergence because these  ideas will need to be prioritized by category and best idea to determine which ideas should be developed.

It’s easy to shout out a white board full of ideas, but which ideas will be feasible for meeting the challenge? This is the other half of brainstorming… converging. Both types of thinking are required for high-quality brainstorming. By the end of the session participants were planning their own visits to the gift store to see the challenge firsthand and hopefully be able to provide further assistance. It was an evening of high engagement and Colleen, with 75 unique, high quality ideas,  left feeling confident that she could explore and implement many of the suggestions given. What’s next?  WonderLab can develop their own criteria to determine which ideas best match their mission and aspirations for the gift shop.

The high complement of the night was from a first-time participant who commented that she had assumed that she was the only novice at the event since everyone seemed so comfortable and well-practiced in sharing ideas. She was shocked to find that she and the other guests were indeed all first-time attendees. This reflects positively on the kind of environment that Creative Indiana aims to build with IDEAS Network. It’s an opportunity for people of varying backgrounds and interests to come together, discuss and share. Regardless of prior experience or familiarity with the organizations or challenges at hand, the low-barrier, open and equal playing field allows participants to feel comfortable with diving in, sharing their expertise, and being their true creative selves!

Nicole O’Neal, Marketing Assistant

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