Starting with nothing is a daunting task for even the most creative people. No matter how many times we start with nothing in the Lab, getting up to speed still makes me uneasy.

It seems that so much could go wrong in the first week of working with a new team. New team members don’t know one another and they don’t know us–me, Associate Director Sara Peach and Sam Harrington, assistant to the director. They also don’t know the Lab’s process for creating viable media products.

We start staring at a blank wall–staring at nothing– and if left unchecked it can quickly turn into paralysis.

Enter the Lab sprint.


Interns brainstorm under the watchful eye of Reese Felts. Photo: Elizabeth Bartholf.

The sprint quickly immerses everyone into the Lab mentality and framework. Many of the student’s questions take a back seat to action. Teams of four are randomly put together and given 48 hours to create an idea for a media product that is desirable, feasible and viable. They don’t have time to think about process. They have to act because of the impending doom created by the time constraint.

The sprint is introduced through a series of 15-20 minute workshops:

  • Brainstorming and Human Centered Design: This is the first workshop and is held immediately at the beginning of the sprint. We cover the basic concepts of designing products with people in mind and how to get started brainstorming.
  • Revenue models: We quickly go over high-level concepts of the basic digital revenue models like CPM, CPC and subscriptions. We take a few minutes to explain the pros and cons of each as well as the pitfalls each one introduces.
  • Prototypes: Students learn the value of a rudimentary prototype and how to create one using the simplest of supplies like paper, markers and glue. The key takeaway is to do the absolutely least amount of work possible to physically show your product to consumers.
  • Pitching: This is the final workshop where we present a high-level overview of how to craft a good pitch. We present a basic pitch structure of Hook -> Problem -> Solution -> Data -> Ask

During this time, Lab members experience the full process on a truncated timetable. Obviously, each lesson and each step occurs at a high level, but that makes the future much easier. Rather than spending an hour on brainstorming, they spend a week. Rather than spend 15 minutes talking about revenue modules, we’ll spend days testing models with customers.

Li Zhang pitches during the hackathon.

Li Zhang pitches during the hackathon. Photo: Elizabeth Bartholf.

The sprint introduces our process and connects our three principles of desirability, feasibility and viability together through experience. It also gives team members confidence. They begin making quick decisions with limited information. They learn how critical it is to talk to people – their customers. They quickly see how hard creating something viable can be.

At the end of the sprint, after students have pitched to a live panel of professionals, the real challenge begins.

The sprint was just a warm-up. Now the marathon can start.

Categories: Updates

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