January 25, 2018. By Ashley Agnew:

As part of our Year of Giving charitable initiative, I chose to spend volunteer hours at my MBA Alma Mater, Bryant University, helping with their IDEA program.  The IDEA program, which stands for Innovation and Design Experience for All, teaches students about the innovation process through teamwork, design thinking and brainstorming. The program is a requirement for all first year students. My first experience with the program was as a mentor last year, and was very impressed by the ambition and raw enthusiasm demonstrated by the young students. Here are a few highlights from the 2017 program:


This year I participated as a judge at the “trade show” where the cohorts presented their final projects. As a judge, it was my role to interview and evaluate the process of each team and provide feedback for their sequential presentations.  With 150 judges present, the students were in for a busy day of championing their projects with the hope to improve their pitch each time a judge visited their table. There were approximately 12 brainstorming categories with roughly 6 teams per category, so judges were certainly kept busy! I was tasked with helping the teams focused on improving doggie day care centers and coffee shops.

Categories are assigned randomly but I was excited to have landed these two!

It was fun to see the creative ways that the teams approached their improvements.  From cuddle coats to puppy Fit Bits for doggie daycare, and wireless charging tables and noise-cancelling study pods for coffee shops, the exhibits certainly displayed great innovation.  Students were instructed to disregard any financial limitations and it was refreshing to see what ideas can arise when the bindings of ROI and profit margins are taken out of the equation.  The program instead followed the true design thinking process of Empathize>Define>Ideate>Prototype>Test.

As a program judge, it was rewarding to be able to provide presentation feedback to the students. For many of them it was their first time having to present to a crowd or pitch an original idea. The genuine appreciation made the nearly three hours of judging fly by. The students were not the only participants that gained valuable takeaways from the IDEA program.  Personally, it was a great reminder that the design thinking process can be taken back to improve any workplace as we are all to often stuck in routines and the dreaded “it has always been done that way” mentality. The Centerpoint team always appreciates a good think-outside-the-box challenge, and the IDEA method will be another piece in our toolkit for creative client solutions.