The Newspaper Challenge

Author
Frances Mitchell, Innovation Academy, University College Dublin, Ireland, frances.mitchell@ucd.ie
NA Name
The Newspaper Challenge
Summary
Required: Today’s newspaper for each student. At least five hours in the day to complete the task.
Optional: Open the presentation with a clip from the film “Working Girl” (part where Melanie Griffith spots opportunity in a newspaper to work with Trask Industries). A fun way to allow students to see how the newspaper is a valuable tool.
Instructions:
  • Find an opportunity from today’s newspaper
  • Form into multidisciplinary teams

  • Create the most value possible from your chosen opportunity by using only what you have in your pockets/bag (document everything before leaving the room)
  • Return at the end of the day and make a three-minute presentation on the value that you created (any medium)
 
Students can then literally do whatever they want to create anything of value (depending on how they qualify value). In some cases there is only the potential of future value (i.e., a project that cannot be fully completed in the time-scale), but certainly I would expect that a good amount of research into the idea has happened.
Topics
  • Confidence in creative thinking--"turning problems into opportunities"
  • Opportunity recognition
  • How to translate ideas into value creation--what is value?
  • Evolution of innovative ideas in multi-disciplinary teams--valuing inherent skills

 

Audience
Any group of students. I have worked with multidisciplinary teams of PhD students (across all disciplines) and it worked extremely well. The aim is to get students to think beyond their area of expertise and see opportunities in everyday life. Ideally you would have multidisciplinary teams as it brings richer experience and skills to the table.
Strengths
Repeatability: The newspaper is a constantly changing medium, therefore this activity can be repeated ad nauseam without any cross-over.
It genuinely gets students thinking of opportunities and has them referring to newspapers (and therefore the world outside their research) on a much more regular basis.
Low work investment from lecturer/facilitator
No need for facilities as they can only use what is on them at the time)
Weaknesses
Time required to complete the assignment--ideally you give the students a full day.
You need to supply the newspapers (I arranged free newspapers from the Irish Times)
Usually helps if presenter has done it themselves and can present an example.
Variants
Could use the online version of a newspaper to supply "news" (though this may lead to students using the internet, which was not originally in their pocket)
Could be done by individuals, but the proviso being that they do something in an area that has nothing to do with their research (still much better if done in teams, as you share skill sets)