Session 12: Creativity and Entrepreneurial Learning


Ah, the return of Lego Serious Play! But first we had a warm-up exercise to think of as many new and innovative ways to monetise a ton of ball bearings which we had acquired at low cost, selling them to manufactures of pachinko machines or using them in fashion for example. This was designed to set the theme for the day, developing a creative and problem solving mindset.

Lego Serious Play was introduced as a way of transferring an internal mental map or concept into an external physical form that can be shared, examined and discussed to get other people’s opinions and therefore help you to reach greater clarity. Also emphasised were the importance of the act of building without giving it too much prior thought, using metaphor to tell your story, and questioning the model and story during the discussion phase rather than the person directly.

The first model we were asked to build was an individual one in three parts, the first part showing your superpower, the second showing a secondary, under-utilised superpower, and the third the barrier or barriers that stop you from using it. My model, shown in the photo above, shows my superpower of diligence and attention to detail (somehow) being used to lead my team across a sea of troubled waters to success, as represented by the shining tower and gold bar; the second part, my underused power, is technical ability which I don’t get to use as much now; and the third part, I don’t want to say too much about what it means as I had something very specific in mind, is meant to be the evil Tower of Sauron looking over everything with a broken heap that needs fixing at the base.

There followed a discussion on the difference between working in your business and working on your business, designed to show that as a leader your resources are best placed by developing and empowering your team so that you can focus on forward thinking and strategy. This was evidenced by case studies and research summaries showing that team based start-ups and organisations with team based structures tend to be more successful as they can call on a greater variety of talent and networks.

The second exercise with Lego was a team build where we had to construct a model to demonstrate how we were going to reduce the environmental impact of a large multi-national corporation. Each team then had to pitch their idea to a stand-in company board. My team’s model demonstrated a recycling bank which scanned a code on empty packaging and gave a credit back to the customer which they could choose to keep or donate to an environmental cause. At the top of the bank was a live read out of the corporation’s carbon footprint which should be showing a decrease as each item is recycled. We won.

Finally the day ended with a discussion about the factors that can enable or hinder creative thinking. Enablers include time, space, rewards, having an open mindset, a supportive organisational culture, clear goals, and a committed leadership who can motivate their staff. Factors that can hinder include the anchoring trap (over-relying on your first thoughts), giving the status quo an advantage over any options for change, the sunk cost fallacy (committing yourself to a course of action that is already under way, even if there is evidence that it isn’t working), confirmation bias (looking only for evidence that supports your conclusions or point of view), and finally the incomplete information trap – jumping to conclusions based on limited data.

Festival of Learning and Teaching


Last year we had a conference, this year it was a three day festival, run by our colleagues in Academic Development with support from ourselves in Web and Learning Technology Services. We are too cool to be involved in the main festival itself, so we had a fringe which included a Twitter treasure hunt, a stall where we enticed people in with fun stuff on the Oculus Rift and then hawked our services to them when they were captive, as well as providing live streaming of the keynotes from each day and the closing ceremony.

I was proud of the treasure hunt we put on, I thought it was very well thought out with some fun tasks for people which made them engage with our service, Tweet a selfie with a member of Academic Development for example (which we kept secret from them!), but there was little uptake unfortunately, which I think can be put down to the relatively low numbers and insularity of an internal conference. Our stall which was strategically positioned outside key sessions was more successful, attracting a decent number of people and even allowing me to connect with someone who has a project ripe for further development in virtual reality.

In spite of running various things in the background, I was still able to attend a number of sessions over the three days:

Lego Serious Play
Serious Play is an innovative and creative way to facilitate discussion about a typically difficult or abstract topic. In keeping with the theme of the conference, our discussion was focused around what it means to be a student. The foreground model shown in the photo above is a reflection on my experience as a student, thinking back to where I started from. I’m the skeleton, symbolising my lack of knowledge, and I’m leaning back slightly from an overwhelming fear of the daunting barriers in front of me – including a Stormtrooper boss level (my dissertation!) – before I can reach my goal of enlightenment and joining the educated and the successful.

Cultural Diversity and Effective Teaching
A discussion and workshop on the many meanings behind the word ‘internationalisation’, led by external guest Dr. Marita Grimwood, an educational developer. This was the keynote from day 2, and not a session I was originally attending, but due to a last minute room change we were unable to live stream this session, so I improvised a recording solution using my iMac instead of running the WaLTS stall. After the event I edited the recordings, inserted her slides as an overlay at appropriate points and then posted the resulting video to our streaming media server.

Showcasing Learning and Teaching in Arts and Design
A series of short ten minute sessions from various members of departmental staff who discussed approaches to learning and teaching in their area. This was a really interesting talk as it made me realise how many great art events are happening in and around the city of Sunderland, and how deeply involved the university is in almost all of it. A particular highlight was the session from the National Glass Centre who talked about the experience of an off campus event where students had to work with very limited resources and no access to their usual tools.

Spectral Visions Press: Engaging Students Through a ‘Real Work’ Environment
Spectral Visions is product of the university’s English and Creative Writing programmes which aims to give students real hands-on experience with all aspects of writing and publishing. In additional to the blog and a number of student-led projects, Spectral Visions Press has also now published two volumes of work which are available from Amazon – Grim Fairy Tales and The Collection: Volume 1.

Student-Generated Induction
The keynote session from day 3 was delivered by Nick Bowskill who has developed the Shared Thinking Consultancy, an off-shoot of his doctoral research at the University of Glasgow which was designed to improve student induction processes based on social psychology theory and practice.