Can you do an ideas sandbox in 90 minutes?

I’m going to the BEACON: Evolution in Action meeting at Michigan State University next month. They asked me to run a sandbox in 90 minutes, giving me flexibility on the topic.  Below is my plan. Who knows what we can do in this short amount of time? I’ll report back.

You are crazy, mom!

You are crazy, mom!

SANDBOX: Evolution in action. What is the big idea?


Small, diverse groups can initiate seriously creative ideas when stimulated to be adventurous. The purpose of this activity is to activate improbable connections with the goal of exciting innovation. Who knows? Some of these projects begun here might result in new collaborations, papers, projects, or BEACON proposals.

Sandbox for BEACON 16 August 2015, 10:30 – 12:00, 90 Minutes
Facilitators: Joan Strassmann and someone from BEACON that knows the people

Challenge: Pick one neglected topic for a review paper, a collaborative research project, or an outreach activity. Put it together using the questions below as an outline and present it on a poster.

Plan of action:

Introduction (20 minutes):
1. When you first come into the room, grab a pad of Post-it cards. Write down several ideas of projects or ideas that might be fun to pursue, or ideas that puzzle or bother you. Indicate if they are headed towards a review paper, collaborative research project, or outreach.
2. Join your group. We will move people into groups of 4 or 5 people. The BEACON facilitator will assure group diversity.
3. Put your notes onto the poster. Sort them into categories. Add things that occur to you as you sort.
4. Through group discussion, choose one topic to pursue further.

Project (50 minutes): Yikes! Not nearly enough time, so start writing early!
1. Develop and refine your idea. Be sure to follow good group behavior (see below).
2. Prepare your poster presentation.
a. What is the big idea?
b. Why is it a great idea, new, creative, and feasible?
c. How will you execute the project?
d. What are your measures of success?

Poster presentation (20 minutes):
1. Someone from the group will always be at the poster, taking turns while the others circulate and look at and discuss the other posters.

Materials needed: Post-it notes (3×5), markers, poster size pads of paper.

Tips for Effective Group Collaboration
• Disagree with ideas, not with people.
• Do not interrupt when someone is speaking.
• No side conversations.
• Everyone participates, no one dominates, but you can have a scribe.
• No computer distractions (FB, texts, tweets, email etc.).

Perspectives on creativity: Check out the KnowInnovation site and blog or consider reading about and joining the MOOC. These people really know creativity.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Creativity, Teaching, Workshops and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.