Whitney Harris, Jordan McMullen and Lauren Merlini brainstorming on how we can better inform communities about effective actions to take to solve problems. Photo by Amulya Uppalapati


I walked in the first day, having no idea what to expect. We were separated into groups of three and handed a box of random items. My group’s box included headphones, a cup, a CD (a physical disc that can play music, if you forgot), a string, some plastic glue-on eyes and a few other items. Then we were told we had 15 minutes to develop a product, create a name and prepare a pitch.

We all stared at each other. What were we supposed to make with these random items?

By the end of the 15 minutes, we were prepared. Our product was called DigiBeats, a portable DJ system. Obviously, we weren’t going to develop this product, but the exercise showed us that we can create something out of nothing. It stretched our minds to think out of the box and be creative. The time constraint added stress to help spark ideas.

After our pitch, we were arranged into different groups of three and sent to corners of the room to brainstorm. We were given a huge white piece of paper.

My group’s prompt was: How can we better inform communities about effective actions to take to solve problems?

Executive director John Clark told us to not hold anything back and to not think too much; we should say whatever comes to mind. We were given a big white sheet of paper to write down all of our ideas. At first our ideas were simple, and we were pretty uptight, like an app or website to inform people. John and associate director Sara Peach pushed us harder.

Then, someone said, “Why can’t we write it in the sky? Why not send parrots out to spread the news to everyone?” I know. It sounds crazy, but this is where the good ideas come from. Once we stopped worrying about embarrassing ourselves by saying outrageous ideas, we let loose and started thinking outside of the box. Underneath all of the crazy ideas were a few great ones.

The reasons for these exercises were to stretch our minds and to think in ways no one else has before. If we thought too much about everything we said, we would probably just think of ideas that already exist.

Brainstorming at Reese News Lab is different than previous brainstorms I’ve participated in. It is a comfortable, open-minded atmosphere where no one judges. I am pushed to think harder and told when I’m not being creative enough. It isn’t structured or organized. There is freedom to go in any direction we want. This freedom allows us to feel significant and capable of developing new products.

In one day, I learned that this will be challenging. Thinking of a product is not easy. Creating a product from scratch is not easy. But, I can do it.

I learned that in order to be creative and discover new ideas, I can’t worry about embarrassing myself. It is okay to shout out dumb ideas because they could spark a brilliant one.

I learned that brainstorming can be powerful, especially with a group. It can be hard to uncover new ideas alone, but with a group you can bounce off of each others’ thoughts. We ended brainstorming sessions with a whole wall covered with ideas.

I’m excited to see where this semester leads us and hope to uncover new ideas that will make a difference.

The other day, John asked us to describe our experience so far in one word. Right now, I would say, “Optimistic.”

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