In Strategy (BUS 407), a School of Business course, Aurora Reinke teaches the different strategies that many companies follow and the tactics that support those strategies. Sometimes, students learn important concepts without learning the crucial steps that are needed to arrive at that concept. How does a company come up with the ideas that then need to be researched and developed into strategies? Brainstorming is among many techniques, and one of the most popular approaches to creatively explore many alternatives.
In a recent class exercise, Reinke told the students they were all part of a new company; they had all quit their jobs and decided together to start a company that makes mobile device applications. She asked them to think of what the first decisions are that they need to make and gave each of them a packet of sticky notes. The class decided first to break the ideas into functional areas of the company: product (R&D), marketing, operations and finance. This was also a great exercise because it got students out of their chairs and moving around the classroom.
Not surprisingly, the most ideas were in the area of product, which had approximately 50 different app ideas posted. From there they had an interesting and dynamic class discussion around the different product ideas and ultimately narrowed the first product down to what the students called “Taxi Beacon” – this would be an app that would facilitate hailing a cab.
In the next class, they employed the mind-mapping technique to think further about the details of developing and marketing Taxi Beacon. Using the mind-map, the students considered and discussed ideas and strategies related to features, marketing and branding, distribution, pricing, etc. Fortunately, one of the creative students was able to draw a mind-map using the graphical elements present in a good mind-map.
Ultimately, an experience like this shows students how the products and services they may take for granted on a daily basis stem from developed strategies, teamwork, creativity in design and diligence in execution. As we seek ways to spark curiosity in our students, exercises like this reveal that they have unlimited potential.