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Why bad ideas lead to good ideas: using “reverse thinking” in a design sprint at the National Gallery of Art

Sketches from a bad ideas brainstorm
Team members sharing ideas at the National Gallery of Art
Team members sharing their “bad” ideas in the design sprint at the National Gallery of Art

Disclaimer: All views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not reflect the views and opinions of the National Gallery of Art or the federal government.

Cans of spray paint next to the artworks. Glitter bombs in the galleries. Pony rides in the lobby. Free skateboards available at the Information Desk.

These were just a handful of the intentionally bad ideas that a team at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., generated during a “bad ideas brainstorm,” also known as a “wrong thinking” exercise, during a four-day design sprint. Bad ideas brainstorming is a method for generating novel solutions by pushing teams beyond the safe and status quo.

A cross-disciplinary group of museum staff, joined by collaborators from local institutions and community members, were gathered together to imagine and prototype new digital offerings that promote access to the Collection and build stronger connections between the Gallery and its visitors. The grant-funded project specifically called for the convening of an event that would foster play, creation, and innovation, using the Gallery and its collections as a springboard.

Team members doing solo sketching
Team members at the National Gallery of Art generating “bad” ideas during the first round of Crazy 8s sketching.

Design sprints are facilitated working sessions that involve exploring and validating concepts with end-users through research and prototyping. At Designing Insights, we ground our design sprints in the design thinking framework as it’s taught and applied at the Stanford Hasso Plattner Institute of design, or d.school, and specialize in the application of design thinking to museums and cultural heritage organizations. Design thinking offers a method for cultivating responsive and engaging institutions and developing relevant and meaningful visitor experiences and programs.

Generating bad ideas using Crazy8s sketching

A wall of Crazy 8s sketchesIn most of the design sprints that we run, when we are in a “divergent” phase, we urge participants to go for quantity, not quality, and encourage them to come up with wild and crazy ideas. But this was the first time we had explicitly instructed sprinters to generate truly bad ideas. Really awful, embarrassing, egregious, outrageous, impermissible, even taboo, ideas.

And the results were phenomenal. We set aside eight minutes for the solo sketching activity known as Crazy 8s, and asked people to think of the worst ideas possible in response to “How Might We” questions they had already crafted. We then had team members take three minutes each to share their bad ideas with teammates. The howls of laughter (even some snorting) was contagious, and the room came alive.

After each person had a chance to share their bad ideas, we asked them to repeat the Crazy 8s activity, this time adapting, digging deeper, flipping, combining, or exploring the opposite of the bad ideas they had just come up with. (The smart folks over at Design Sprint Academy have a nice variation on how to run the activity; they call it Evil8s and details are here in a Medium post.)

A Crazy 8s sketch of bad ideas
Some deliberately bad ideas generated in the first Crazy 8s exercise

Moving from bad to good

In ethnographic-style interviews with museum visitors, the team heard over and over that the majority of visitors did not consider themselves to be “art people.” Visitors apologized for not being “art people” and expressed a lack of confidence around the skills and personal experiences they brought with them when they walked through the doors.

In response to this, one of the “bad” ideas was to require all museum visitors to attend “mandatory” academic lectures about the museum and current exhibitions before they could come inside. Another related idea was to only allow entrance to visitors with PhDs. These ideas were recognized as exclusive and elitist— positively bad ideas.

Video prototype
Testing the prototype for the “crash course” videos in the Gallery Atrium.

But these bad ideas led to a new concept that the team is now exploring through prototyping: short, on-demand videos related to building skills and confidence around looking at art. Visitors can consume these videos in the atrium before heading into the galleries. These videos will provide short “crash courses” that will empower visitors, build their confidence, and validate that they are art people, no matter their background, training, or experience.

Another theme that the workshop participants heard in their interviews with visitors was that basic comfort is a big issue. Seating, way finding, location of restrooms and food are top-of-mind. In response to this, the team brainstormed ideas for how to make the museum more comfortable and welcoming. One of the “bad” ideas they generated was to require absolute silence in the museum. No conversations at all. A vow of silence upon entry.

This led to another idea: promoting and fostering conversations, and making them visible and tangible. The team prototyped a platform that invites visitors to share their thoughts, stories, emotions, and reflections with other visitors via a digital interface that is displayed in the atrium, and is now in the process of refining this prototype for a potential implementation.

Why do bad ideas lead to good ideas?

What is it about bad ideas that makes them useful tools for leading us to good ideas? How can imagining the worst way to solve a problem actually help us solve the problem?

Team members high-fiving1) It lowers the pressure

Anyone who has been in a traditional brainstorming meeting in which people are encouraged to “be creative” knows how painful it can be. Faced with a blank piece of paper and the pressure to turn on some “creative juices,” most people draw a big fat blank.

But by freeing the group from any pretenses of being creative or having “good” ideas, the self-editing and self-consciousness melts away. As one participant in the sprint at the National Gallery reflected, “Sometimes you just have to be bad before being OK.”

2) It establishes a level playing field

No matter your role or seniority in your organization, everyone is equally qualified to come up with bad ideas. You can’t get a degree in bad ideas (although some of my friends who spent many years in graduate school might argue otherwise …) and it does not matter if you are in a “creative” role in your organization; everyone has the same qualifications when it comes to the generation of bad ideas.

3) It builds trust in oneself and the team

One participant in the sprint reflected that the experience taught her the importance of “trusting your ideas—all of them.” Another shared: “I had a habit of being very hard on myself, but now I think it’s OK to have bad ideas.” It was as if being given this explicit permission to be “bad” built trust in her own innate capacity.

The experience also builds trust among team members. If everyone is deliberately generating “bad” ideas, no one has to worry about being judged by peers, as everyone is making oneself vulnerable.

4) It loosens up the room

The sheer joy that this activity brought to the room was palpable. The humor changed the energy, and connected colleagues to each other. As one participant noted, “How could laughter and a sense of humor not be good for everyone?”

5) It creates space for the good ideas

Starting with bad ideas opens up doors and possibilities. It clears the plate for good ideas. By putting the awful ideas out there, the group is able to adapt, flip, combine, or move on from the bad to the good.

In conclusion

If you’re trying hard to solve a problem and you’re finding yourself stuck, stop trying to come up with a good idea, and think of the absolute worst way to solve it.

“I used to think having bad ideas was bad,” reflected one of the participants in the four-day sprint. “Now I think they can be starting points for revolutionary thinking.”

Give yourself and your team the time and space to mindfully go for bad ideas. Then take the bad ideas and flip them, explore the opposite, adapt and combine ideas, or look for a kernel of a good inside the bad. Then see where it leads you. You might just end up with a revolution.

 

 

References

Birsel, Ayse. To Come Up with a Good Idea, Start by Imagining the Worst Idea Possible. Harvard Business Review. August 16, 2017. Accessed: July 23, 2019.

Dorf, Bob.How Looking at the Worst Possible Idea Could Lead You to the Best One. Inc. July 13, 2017. Accessed: July 25, 2019.

Wilson, Chauncey. Method 4 of 100: Reverse Brainstorming. Designing the User Experience at Autodesk. January 20, 2011. Accessed: July 26, 2019.

 

 

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Minimizing the Einstellung Effect in Design Thinking: How to Arrive at Innovative Solutions by Diminishing Cognitive Bias

Close up view of two beakers of water in a lab

Two beakers of water in a laboratory

“What if we make an app/augmented reality/virtual reality/insert-most-recent-technology-here thing?”

How many times have you heard something like this while meeting with colleagues in a conference room, discussing a new digital initiative in your institution?

When discussing how to tackle a new challenge, it’s common to jump straight to familiar or previously used solutions, instead of considering all the angles and details of the current problem. You may hear something like, “Well, we did x for y, so let’s do x for z now.”

We become so fixated on what we already know or have done in the past that we can’t take an unbiased look at what’s in front of us and find the best solution. This is known as the Einstellung Effect, and it can seriously impede your team’s innovation capability and design thinking capacity.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a codified, repeatable process for problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. Also referred to as human-centered design, design thinking is a framework comprised of a series of steps and associated methods, and it is accompanied by core mindsets.

It helps teams solve problems by understanding human needs and motivations, discovering opportunities, generating user-centered solutions, and building and testing prototypes. It’s a process that can take place over days, weeks, or months, and involves teams of collaborators working together to solve problems that don’t necessarily have clear-cut, black-and-white answers, such as how to engage new audiences or how to build strong visitor connections to the collection.

What is the Einstellung Effect?

The Einstellung effect was documented by psychologist Abraham Luchins in 1942 with a test called the “Water Jar” problem. In the experiment, subjects were asked to transfer water between jars of differing sizes to reach specific measurements. After solving a series of problems which had the same solutions, the test subjects were given a new problem and they applied the same solution to it, even though a more efficient and simpler one existed. Instead of considering the best way to get to the desired outcome, they could not “see” beyond the procedure they had just applied. (You can read more about it here, or try replicating the test here.)

Luchins called this the Einstellung Effect because “einstellung” in German can be translated as “way of thinking,” “approach,” or “attitude,” and it captures how once our way of thinking or attitude has set in, it’s hard to overcome it.

I often encounter the Einstellung Effect in action when I’m working with organizations applying the human-centered design process to arrive at breakthrough new ideas related to audience/visitor/stakeholder engagement. Teams focus on a solution that has been used for something else, and then it seems to be the right answer to just about everything.

Falling in love with the latest solution

There are definitely situations when the most familiar or latest technologies are appropriate, but often, when ideas have taken hold of our imaginations, it’s hard to step back and consider alternatives.

I regularly see teams jump to solutions right out of the gate, before they methodically go through all the steps of the design thinking process. They fall in love with what is front-of-mind, thereby missing opportunities for fresh, new ideas.

The Einstellung Effect can be a quick and easy trap to fall into, especially when we are under pressure to quickly solve a problem. Fortunately, there are some practical steps you can take to tame the Einstellung Effect, which I describe below.

1. Start with a diverse team

By assembling a team of contributors from different backgrounds, experience levels, and expertise, you are less likely to fall prey to the cognitive traps of the Einstellung Effect. Diverse team members can challenge one another’s ideas and assumptions.

For example, a frontline staff member who has direct and regular interactions with audiences is going to have a different approach or perspective than someone whose role does not involve first-hand interactions or engagement with visitors, patrons, or audience members.

A 2011 study conducted by Daniel Frings of London South Bank University set out to study how fatigue (more on that in #2, below) impacts the Einstellung Effect. The study found that while people who are fatigued experience increased Einstellung Effect, those working in groups did not, and the quality of the solutions developed by the groups were often better than those developed by individuals.

2. Don’t try to innovate when you’re tired

The Frings study also underscores the impact that fatigue has on the Einstellung Effect. The more fatigued you are, the higher your risk of experiencing the Einstellung Effect.

Translation = don’t embark on a team working session for that big new project or initiative right after you’ve just launched another big project. And try to run design sessions in the mornings, when team members are fresher and rested.

3. Take breaks from the problem

Not only should your team be well rested before tackling a problem, you need to take breaks from it and literally walk away to clear your mind.

Where do your best ideas come to you? Do they emerge when sitting in yet another meeting? Chance are, your best ideas come to you later, when you’re walking the dog, driving, taking a shower, daydreaming — that is, when you are not focused on solving the problem.

This is called “incubation time,” and it’s been well-studied to improve problem solving and enhance creativity.

In a design thinking sprint, we don’t dive right into to solving a problem. We first build empathy for the needs of users, consciously and mindfully alternate between converging and diverging, take breaks, and play lots of games.

This is why I like to schedule design sprints over multiple days, not crammed into one day. It’s the insights that people have after they leave the room that are the most powerful.

4. Use “How Might We” statements

How might we” is a tool we use in the divergent or ideation phase of the design process. It’s a powerful way to reframe a question or problem that sparks new ideas, and can guide groups away from the most obvious solutions.

One of my favorite How Might We techniques is to explore the opposite of a problem. For example, if your first idea of a solution is to build an app, ask yourself, “How Might We create the opposite?” So in this case, the opposite of an app might be something completely analog and old-school.

5. Say “Yes, and” to the Einstellung Effect

This one comes from improvisational theater, which I’ve written a lot about before. Saying “yes, and” to the Einstellung Effect means welcoming it and embracing it.

Just knowing that the Einstellung Effect has been studied can help skeptical colleagues get on board with the need to push beyond the first or most obvious solutions. You might recognize that the first solutions that the team throws out are Einstellung-driven, say “yes, and” to those ideas, and then start building on them, expanding on them, and exploring the opposite of those ideas.

Conclusion

The Einstellung Effect happens when preexisting knowledge or experience prevents us from considering alternative possibilities to a problem. We become so fixated on one possible solution that we are cognitively unable to take a clear, unbiased approach to the current problem. Fortunately, we can take small steps to mitigate its effects, thereby giving ourselves the “cognitive space” to arrive at novel solutions to problems.


References

Lensky, T. (2015, September 23). “Do you fall prey to the Einstellung effect in problem solving?” Retrieved July 30, 2018, from https://lenski.com/einstellung-effect-in-problem-solving/

Arra, S. (2015, August 12). “Einstellung Effect: What You Already Know Can Hurt You.” Retrieved July 30, 2018 from https://www.exaptive.com/blog/einstellung-effect

Bilalić, M., and McLeod, P. (2014, March 1). “Why Your First Idea Can Blind You to a Better One.” Retrieved July 30, 2018 from  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-your-first-idea-can-blind-you-to-better-idea/

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Join the conversation about design thinking and design sprints in museums

Join the conversation
Talking about design sprints and design thinking in museums at the 2017 Museums and the Web conference.

Are you experimenting with design thinking in your museum? Are you planning to run a design sprint? Or are you curious to hear from other practitioners who are dipping their toes into the waters of human-centered design?

We’ve launched a new LinkedIn group (Design Thinking & Design Sprints in Museums and Cultural Orgs) and have started a Twitter hashtag (#dthinkmuseum) for professionals to share stories, ask questions, and join the conversation.

Join in, and talk with peers who are experimenting, learning, and leading the way.

Many thanks to Lucie Patterson at Australian Center for the Moving Image for inspiring this! Lucie is bravely embarking on running a design sprint at ACMI after taking our workshop on Design Sprints for Awesome Teams at Museums and the Web 2017. Look for more stories and lessons learned from her soon.

Join the conversation!

 

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Design sprints for visitor experience advocacy: 5 lessons from the British Museum

staff testing prototypes outside the British Museum
Testing prototypes outside the British Museum.
Testing prototypes outside the British Museum.

This is the second in a two-part series about running design sprints in museums. The first post discussed using design sprints for content development at Phoenix Art Museum, and this post examines how the British Museum is experimenting with design sprints in the Product Development Group. (This post is also published on Medium here.)

A design sprint is a multi-step team process for answering critical business questions through researching, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers or—in the case of a museum—visitors. Design sprints combine tools and methods from design thinking, business strategy, and product innovation, and have been popularized and codified by Google Ventures with the Sprint book.

Kevin Bickham conducts visitor observations.
Kevin Bickham conducts visitor observations in the galleries.

Introducing the design sprint approach to product development into an organization as large and traditional as the British Museum is no small feat. I spoke with Shelley Mannion, the Head of Digital Product Development, and Kevin Bickham, the Lead Interaction Designer, about running a sprint focused on improving wayfinding at the Museum.

I was particularly impressed with their openness to trying this new way of working and their candidness around their learnings and mistakes. In my conversation with them, I identified five key lessons that apply to any team running a design sprint.

1) Choose your problem carefully

conducting visitor observations
Shelley Mannion conducts visitor observations in the Great Court.

One of the most important discussions the team had before they ran their sprint was around what problem to tackle. Even though Mannion and Bickham work in the Digital Product Group, they picked a problem that was broad and lent itself to both digital and analog solutions so that staff from different departments could feel invested in the outcomes.

The Digital Product team had been doing user research as part of website redesign project, and learned that visitors were not planning their visits before arriving. “There is this assumption that people are using our website and our digital offerings before they arrive, but they are not,” explained Mannion. “They arrive and ask, ‘Where do I start? What do I do?’”

So the team decided to focus on wayfinding, and framed the sprint problem as:

“How might we improve wayfinding in the British Museum?”

2) Start small and be willing to feel your way through it

Mannion and Bickham chose to experiment with their own team for their first sprint as a way to test-drive the process and “work out the kinks,” in Mannion’s words.

To kick off the sprint, they signed up for GV’s Design Sprint Week, referenced IDEO’s Design Kit, and referred to slides from a workshop I led at the 2016 Museums and the Web conference on running design sprints for rapid digital product development.

“We are not experts . . . and this is not something we do regularly or methodically. But we did it quickly with our own team first in an effort to teach ourselves,” said Mannion. “We went into and said, ‘OK, let’s give it a go!’”

British Museum team at work
British Museum team members kicking off their sprint.

“The design sprint approach freed things up,” added Bickham. “It gave us an opportunity to break with our usual, solutions-oriented way of thinking.”

The team relied on their collective knowledge and experience (Bickham is a graduate of Stanford’s Product Design program and Mannion is an experienced product developer), but admitted they “felt their way through” at points. But they kept on going, working quickly. They compressed their sprint into two half-days, and conducted a total of 25 interviews with and observations of visitors.

3) Use the sprint as an opportunity to evangelize

Armed with a one-year-old department and a fairly new digital strategy, the Product Development team has been adopting aspects of  The Lean Startup and Business Model Canvas and working in ways that differ from the wider organization.

Instead of trying to sell the rest of the Museum on the new disciplines of product management and user experience design, Mannion and Bickham used a sprint as a way to demonstrate their process and approach.

“One of our motivations in running a design sprint was to show the strengths of our user-centered process,” explained Mannion. “It helped us to evangelize and advocate for the way we work and to help colleagues from other disciplines understand what product management and UX are.”

For example, in some areas of the organization, there is a culture of decision-making based on stakeholder opinion rather than on visitor research. Although these teams have “visitors’ best interests at heart,” they are not used to working in a process that relies so heavily on user input, noted Mannion. So one of the hidden agendas of their sprint was to demonstrate the power and value of a user-centered process.

4) Make your sprint work visible

The British Museum team didn’t have a dedicated space for their design sprint, which turned out to be an advantage.

After the first day of their sprint, they left their work up in a shared meeting area used by other departments. This meant that colleagues walked by and saw their work, and it became a talking point and conversation starter.

sprint room and visible work
The team left their work up in the room between sprint sessions, and after the sprint.

Staff were surprised to see that the “digital team was using markers and paper,” said Mannion. “Our colleagues’ expectations of what our department can offer them were challenged. This was a way of saying, ‘We are not just here to make websites, we want to work with you to solve big, important problems.’ It was advocacy.”

They also discovered that having their work posted made it easier to jump back in on the second day, and that explaining it to colleagues was easier. “We could show people visually what was coming out of the sprint, and it was very rich,” noted Mannion.

5) Build on your failed prototypes

Staff testing the "Can I Help?" prototype
The “meeter-greeter” prototype.

One of the ideas that the team prototyped was the concept of a “meeter-greeter”—a staff member or volunteer who greets visitors and answers questions.

The team created a simple sign that said, “Can I help?” and went in front of the Museum and into the Great Court. One person held the sign while another person stood off to the side to take notes and photos.

Their assumption was that visitors would ask about objects in the collection. However, aside from questions about the Rosetta Stone and mummies, there was not much about the objects.

“Many staff, ourselves included, often assume that visitors are coming for this particular object or this particular collection, yet we got very few questions about objects. One group of tourists didn’t make it beyond the souvenir shop,” noted Mannion. “There were lots of questions about the coat check and bathrooms!”

What they did discover, though, was that visitors who speak languages other than English are delighted when they discover a staff member speaks their language. “We know that visitors are not clear which visitor services staff members speak which languages, and they discover by luck,” Mannion explains. “So we experimented with holding up a sign in English while wearing something that says, ‘I speak French’ for example. And we discovered that this made visitors felt welcomed and relieved.”

They then took these findings to a new cross-departmental working group on wayfinding that has begun since the design sprint. This is one of the initiatives they are looking to pilot over the next year.

Summing up

The Product Development team plans to run at least one design sprint per quarter going forward, with the next one planned for October. This next sprint will focus on creating content for Chinese tourists, who are one of the fastest growing audience groups.

“Museums are notoriously siloed organizations,” said Mannion. “They can be territorial and people often work in isolation. Applying the design sprint approach really helps break down those traditional boundaries and demonstrates how, working together with colleagues from other disciplines, we can tackle tough problems that impact the visitor experience.”

All images courtesy the British Museum.

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Design sprints for content development: How Phoenix Art Museum ran a design sprint

I'm Here on a Date
"I'm Here" gallery guides
The “I’m Here” gallery guides at Phoenix Art Museum, which were developed through a design sprint.

This is the first in a two-part series about running design sprints in museums. This post discusses using design sprints for content development at Phoenix Art Museum, and the second post examines how the British Museum is experimenting with design sprints to advocate for visitor experience.

For a series of printed visitor guides called the “I’m Here” series, Phoenix Art Museum adopted an innovative approach to content development: a design sprint. Educators worked off-site on the “I’m Here” guides in a day-long sprint. The finished guides have been hugely successful, with a large take-up rate, several print runs, and robust social media shares. For this post, I interviewed Christian Adame, Assistant Education Director, about the project.

Christian Adame portrait
Christian Adame of Phoenix Art Museum

Q: Tell me how the “I’m Here” gallery guides came about.

A:  We had just started a rebrand of the museum’s look and feel, and we wanted to set a new tone. Our goal was to explore ways we could interact with visitors in a more informal way.

We were aiming to demystify what it means to go to a museum, so we asked ourselves, “Why do people come to museums? Why are they posting selfies and sharing the experience socially?”

The answer is that they want everyone to know why they are here. And that phrase stuck with us: “I am here.”

This really encapsulated our thinking. The why around a museum visit is really meaty.


Q: Why did you chose to run a design sprint?

A: The education director at the time was very interested in iteration and trying new approaches quickly. Museums are glaciers—they move really slowly. Running a sprint was a way to bring more voices to the table, and move quickly through a single project in one day.

We ran the sprint off-site, at my (former) boss’s house. We felt it was critical to get out of the office, away from (office) dynamics.

We assembled a group of seven of us in the education division and put everything else aside. The thought was that everyone would be a part of this, and we would finish the first iteration that day.


Q: So you knew you wanted to frame the sprint around this notion of why a visitor is at the museum, but did you have a product in mind going into it?

A: Well, we didn’t have a very robust digital infrastructure here, so we knew we wanted to create something analog, something printed that people could walk away with. We went into the sprint with some criteria for what we wanted to create: it should be informal, and concise, and respond to the notion of “I’m here.”

And when we brainstormed during our sprint, three main ideas came to us. These were:

I’m here …

  • For the first time
  • With kids
  • On a date

Being in Phoenix, we get a lot of first-time visitors, mostly tourists and snowbirds, as well as locals who visit a few times a year. And we wanted to give these visitors a starting point. The one “with kids” was targeted at parents, and the last one (“on a date”) was an opportunity to have some fun!

I'm Here on a Date
The “I’m Here on a Date” guide to Phoenix Art Museum


Q: Tell me more about how you structured the sprint.

A: Our former education director facilitated, and I took second lead. We started out by examining at all the research we already had: audience demographics and evaluations. We also looked at the research of John Falk. His work examines what motivates visitors to come to museums, from relaxing and recharging to facilitating others’ visits. This kind of thinking goes beyond demographic information, which only provides a certain baseline amount of knowledge about why people visit.

We then considered this notion of “I’m here” and the idea of visitors wanting others to know why they are here.

From there we did a brain dump, with everyone individually writing down ideas of how to address visitors’ motivations for why they come to Phoenix Art Museum  We tried to put ourselves in the mindset of a visitor, and asked the kinds of questions they would ask, what they might want to know, and so on.  We alternated between working individually, then posted our thoughts and ideas all over the walls and shared out as a group. We are a big fan of Post-its. The process of showing everyone’s thought process visually together, then honing down to the best and most meaningful ideas, provided the structure of the sprint.

We cranked through the content in a day, worked with a graphic designer to create (the first prototype), and had about 200 copies made and put it out there. We wanted to see what would happen.

I'm Here - Social Media ShareQ: How did you test it?

The education director and I ran the testing. We have free admission on Wednesday evenings, and there is an art walk on the First Friday of every month, so we put the guides out (on Wednesdays and Friday evenings), and talked with visitors.

We played with where to place them so they would get the most visibility, and basically observed. It’s critical as an educator to observe what people do in the museum. It’s safe to say we lurked quite a bit, and as visitors left the museum, we asked if they found the guides useful. We got a lot of positive feedback right away.


Q: What kinds of things did you learn?

A: It was mainly the language and the design that visitors responded to. Visitors noticed the difference in tone from the interpretive content on the walls in the museum. For example, you open the date guide and it says, “Ah, first dates… will there be chemistry?” It spoke to visitors directly, not abstractly.

We also learned that visitors appreciated something they could physically take away for free. We played with placement, and put the guides into different galleries.

We also watched social media so we could quantify if people were posting photos of themselves holding the guides—selfies with the guides, etc.


Q: What are your next steps?

A: We’ve been through three reprints now, and we have another guide in development: “I’m here to disconnect.” This one is about putting your phone away and focusing on two to three works of art.

Overall, the sprint method allowed us to be more iterative. We’ve since used the method for other projects. We found it refreshing, productive, and a welcome alternative to putting a project on a calendar and chipping away at it for months. Our team collectively built something, and the process ultimately made the team stronger.

I'm Here - social media share


All images courtesy Phoenix Art Museum.