Kungshall was built over three hundred years ago in the coastal town of Karlskrona, Sweden. In that time it has served as a fortress for the Swedish Navy, as a slaughterhouse for a growing Baroque city, and as a warehouse for the regional history museum. Volvo Construction Equipment, together with Mikael Blomqvist, asked us to help them transform this storied building into an innovation center. Volvo, the very definition of a large, traditional, slow-moving company, wants to address the needs of corporate teams tasked with projects that demand rapid and radical design thinking. Mikael Blomqvist, a serial entrepeneur, is concerned with encouraging meaningful innovation and business development in his home region.
Drawing from both these inspirations, we envision a creative ecosystem that breaks through mental barriers to being innovative. From facilitating workshops with our target users the most consistent, and surprising, takeaway was their insistence that they were not innovative people. Needfinding and empathy came easily to them, but the real roadblock in their design process was brainstorming. Users struggled to contribute new ideas in a fast-paced, energetic way, and had trouble running with and building upon the ideas that had been suggested.
How might we build confidence and make a user feel like an innovative genius, with a tool that actually helps develop creative skills?
In the eyes of our users, creativity is a cryptic, mysterious process, one which requires a magical X-factor that they simply lack. In reality, learning to be creative just takes hard work and diligence. Researchers who study the greatest creative minds can point to a well-defined set of behaviors that allow them to make new connections and see design challenges in a new light. The d.School has concrete rules of brainstorming that have been shown to create better and more rapid output. It is easy enough to tell teams these rules, but it takes time and practice for this behavior to become internalized. What if, instead of telling them these rules, we showed them? What if the form of your brainstorming tool made these behaviors intuitive, a natural consequence of use?
The result of following this line of thinking, arrived at through extensive prototyping and user testing, is IDÉUM: a workspace for building brighter ideas and better brainstorming behavior.
Instead of on Post-It notes, ideas are written down on hexagonal shaped tiles with embedded magnets. The tiles snap together with a gratifying click, inviting users to build on others ideas, one of the main Rules of Brainstorming. Another rule, that every idea is special and deserves to be paid attention to, is manifest when the tile is placed on the IDE ́UM work surface: the idea is illuminated by a spotlight. The spotlight chases after ideas as they are slid around and reorganized, injecting kinetic energy into the discussion. When ideas are snapped together, the lights grow brighter and bigger, once again positively reinforcing idea building. The horizontal work surface encourages equal participation, while the standing configuration summons physical energy and movement. Special tiles that change the spotlight color can be used to highlight certain ideas, while a small but flexible set of other shapes allow teams to organize ideas according to their own visual vocabulary. Finally, the industrial design nods to the naval traditions of Karlskrona, while having a dynamic, inspiring, and futuristic form.