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9. Ideation - Week 6, October 30

Group ideation helps to break down the narrow confines of our own, limited, perspectives.

After last week's ideation session, I came away with a lot of ideas and feeling positive about our progress and narrowing in on a solution. However, we had not taken a step back from the "city" for a moment and consider city dwellers - who were they? how did they feel about eating sustainably? what about their lifestyles might have to change? are they willing to make those changes? We had a lot of questions that we decided to tackle first before moving forward with choosing a solution (or two).


Given the scope of the project (a city) and the pervasiveness of the problem (food), that means our audience is everyone. While we had spent a lot of time setting the problem, and clearly defining the space, we did not really have the time nor bandwidth to conduct a statistically significant user study of city inhabitants.


We agreed to spend some time researching who lives in cities, and then meet to create an aggregate empathy map and consider the major requirements relevant to our problem space. Then, utilise those requirements or pain points as criteria with which to evaluate potential solutions.


I found two really good sources of data, one was shared by another group member from the City of London, and the second was the EU's Urban Europe database and their accompanying research study on cities.


To organise my thoughts, I created a mind map of the high-level trends I was seeing in the data,




While these sources are not globally representative, my prior research on cities has indicated that the trend is for cities to be similar. So I am making the assumption that this research would (mostly) hold true globally.

When we met as a group, we leveraged our individual research to fill in an aggregate empathy map. We tried to color-coordinate sticky's based on user types, and ignored the 'says' categorisation instead opting to use that space for the types of people who live in a city (primarily a technology constraint, we could not ideate in person and the free version didn't allow us to modify).


While we could have dug into this a lot deeper, there were a couple of glaringly obvious insights just from this very high-level analysis that we could use to inform our solution. It seemed unlikely that we would be able to dig much deeper than this at such a high-level.


In terms of pain points, people in cities don't have time, or space. Most of city dwellers constraints are around these issues. We heard stories and saw data indicating that people were ready and willing to adapt to promote sustainability, but lacked the time, resources, or awareness of how to do so. They need any solution to be convenient, easy to use, affordable, and accessible.


To build on these aggregate empathy map findings, we conducted a group brainwrite. We all wrote down our best idea and then moved around building on each other's. From there, we all were going to develop out our idea and vote on what we liked best to move forward.


However, challenges immediately arose as one of our members had not been there, so we did not know how best to modify the process to account for her absence. Furthermore, did we modify the ideas? Or did we tie them together? Finally, we were not well positioned to critique our own work.


So, we need to meet once again and perhaps set more strict criteria for any potential solution before trying to ideate again. This would incorporate the early criteria work we did with considering Rosner, the smart city criteria, and the aggregate persona criteria.

I am excited by my idea though, and while I understand we may go with something else, the process of using a brainwrite to expand out our narrow perspective was invigorating. I thought I had a really great idea but then once I'd seen what the other members of my group had written to build upon my idea I realised how limited and narrow my field of vision had been.


I was proposing to have grocery stores grow their own food with hydroponics, and use sensors wherever food is purchased or consumed (e.g. smart refrigerator, restaurants, etc.) to track the types of food, as well as the conditions in which it's grown, to leverage machine learning and create an algorithm that optimises our food production. To me that would eliminate the need to transport food, it would also reduce the carbon footprint of food production, as well as provide a rich data set that could reduce waste. Further, creating these hydroponic farms in cities would create high-skilled jobs that we could train those in the community to carry out.


However, upon reading my group member's contributions I realised - why do we even need grocery stores? We could upend the system like Uber did, and just deliver straight to people's houses making it even more convenient. That would also promote greater accessibility and affordability (by removing the cost of building ownership) for lower-income people, in agreement with Rosner's framework. It would also create additional local jobs.


Or, as another group member mentioned, they like to pick out their produce. In that case, this city hydroponics farm could sell to the grocery store itself. Someone else suggested gamifying the experience to create community. That could create digital communities of those interested in sustainable eating, as well as encourage store-level communities to form locally.


Overall, no matter what we choose, I am really excited about the outcome of this exercise as it really highlighted how narrow my own perspective is and the value of ideation within a diverse group.