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What's Your Refinement Style?

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Selina McPherson one of our Community Champions for the Renewable Energy Challenge. You'll see her popping up across the challenge with handy tips and words of encouragement – and posting community updates here like a true champion!

This is one of my favorite times in an OpenIDEO challenge. With a just few days left in the Ideas Phase of the Renewable Energy Challenge, there have been over 140 diverse ideas contributed. The next 3 weeks will bring the Feedback and Refinement phases, encouraging all participants to iterate their ideas using a variety of evaluative criteria and processes. It's inspiring to see people come together from all corners of the world to strengthen and hone their own ideas and each other’s. Through collaboration, we see evolution, growth, encouragement and focus brought to every contribution.

This week I've interviewed a few challenge contributors to share a bit about their refinement style. Here you will find thoughts on their creative process and how they plan to approach the upcoming Feedback and Refinement phases of the Renewable Energy Challenge.


1. Share with us what excites you most about this challenge. What motivates you to be an engaged and collaborative contributor?

Natalie Lake: This challenge feels like a scavenger hunt and I love scavenger hunts! I'm motivated because I find myself energized and inspired by other people's ideas and with each collaboration, I feel like we approach obtainable solutions.

ShuTing Zen g: In my opinion, a great idea and project comes from teamwork. We are all limited to our own field and only by collaborating with and embracing each other, we can get our mind opened and work together towards a greater goal. I think OpenIDEO is a wonderful place for me to practice human-centered design for social innovation, which I am very passionate about. 
2. Tell us a little bit about your creative process. Are there any specific tools or processes that you use to come up with your ideas?

Natalie: If I am on a time crunch and I really need inspiration to strike quickly…I like to draw a problem tree. Now when I say problem tree, I literally draw a tree. After drawing my tree, the first thing I do is I write the challenge or problem on the trunk of the tree. Then for each branch, I write down an effect that this problem has on the community and for each root, I write a cause of the problem. I then spend my time focusing on either a cluster of causes or effects, trying to brainstorm ideas on how to tackle that chunk of the problem.
Ramiro Sanchez: First, I try to find insights by talking with different people and reading as much as I can -other ideas, blogs, news, ted talks, check out other challenges, I even set up a google alerts. Second, I try to see how I can work around those insights by merging different concepts or applying things that already exist in other areas. Third, I write every idea on a ‘post it’ and stick them on my window. Fourth, I take some time to relate those ‘post its’, see how they can work together, chose the best and start analyzing it. As I write the post entry, new things come into my mind and ideas improve, as soon as you start expressing the idea, you come to understand different angles of it.
  3. What tools have you found to be the most helpful in iterating your idea thus far? 

ShuTing: As expected, the most helpful part has been my collaboration with other OpenIDEOers. Experience mapping, design, and meeting offline helps a lot too. 

Ramiro: The best way to iterate ideas was definitively incorporating feedback from other OperIDEO users. They are immersed in the challenge so their thoughts are very accurate and provide a different perspective.
4. What role do you think collaboration plays in the process of iterating an idea? From your experience in this challenge, do you have any tips for collaborating with other OpenIDEO contributors?

Natalie: I think when designing any sustainable project, collaboration is a key requirement for the project to be successful. It allows you the opportunity to form a team with people whose strengths are your weaknesses. 
My only suggestion for the OpenIDEO contributors would be to always be positive in your collaborations. All ideas are based in something great, and it should be our goal as collaborators to help each user highlight the good in every idea!

ShuTing: Collaboration is one of the most important and helpful factors in my iteration.  It can be the thoughts and ideas from OpenIDEOers that inspire or motivate me to question and re-pivot my ideas.  And sometimes, it just feels right to work with other people: they motivate you by reminding you what you need to do and checking in with you on the process of the project, and you feel so nice that your team is there, ready to listen to your new ideas and work on them with you.
5. As we move into the Feedback and Refinement phases of this challenge, what are some tools or proceeses that you might use to further iterate your idea? How might you communicate these iterations within your OpenIDEO contributions?
Ramiro: When a user is committed to your idea, make him part of the team! That commitment is (green) fuel that will make the idea grow faster and healthier.
ShuTing: As Meena suggested, lightweight prototyping in real life is very important. Prototyping will help me get user insight, which is crucial to the success of a project in my opinion. I may contact designers and schoolteachers I know to see what they want to do with my infographic project. I would also like to work with Kristen, who has this great idea “New Lease,” to see what we can come up with together.   I hope to find an app that can help me draw UX map, and make better UX maps for my ideas. I hope we can have a few green infographics sometime soon to present to OpenIDEO!
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Community Champions , Renewable Energy Challenge


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