Communication students attended a Haaga-Helia Master program course called Leading Creativity Process and Planning. The students found themselves in class that not only had a unique title, but also was organized in a different way. They attended three all day sessions as an intensive course that was spread over six weeks.
The students were mainly strangers to each other and had to quickly get to know each other in order to accomplish the main goal: finding a creative solution to various problems presented by the American Chamber of Commerce in Finland (AmCham).
A set up of challenges
Behind the course were two lecturers who had never worked together, even though both had years of experience teaching communication at Haaga-Helia. It took every bit of energy from us to put together an all virtual course that held the students attention for up to seven hours per session. This meant using options and programs in Zoom and Moodle in totally new and creative ways.
We knew from the start, that despite the virtual setting and the inability to meet their classmates face-to-face the 30 participants needed to accomplish some key elements. First, they needed to form a team and as such work towards a given solution. Second, they needed to adopt new creativity theories and methods and use these in practice. Third, they had to persuade AmCham that their suggestions could benefit the organization in a unique manner.
All had to be done while the students were sitting at home looking at a screen.
The course started on a grey cloudy morning in April. Which was perfect for the first meeting. There were no temptations to go outside and skip the class.
During this class the students were given a general overview of the course along with information about what is needed to pass the course. But before all of that they got to know each other using a simple technique. Everyone was asked to show an item found in their home and then explain how the item represented creativity.
The first session ended with information about AmCham, an organisation that serves international companies operating in Finland and Finnish companies heading to the U.S. The highlight of the presentation was the announcement of six challenges facing AmCham. For example, one was the challenge of how to create a growth plan that would increase membership within five years.
The students were divided into six teams after the first class. Each team was responsible for creating a solution for a particular challenge.
It is crucial for members of a team to be supportive of each other and disciplined in their actions. This aspect takes on added importance in a virtual environment and thus, we provided active communication wherever possible. We sent encouraging emails regularly to our students and offered extra guidance and information whenever requested or needed.
In the second session the students were totally engulfed in the creative process. They had researched several creative methods as a homework assignment. During this class they tested and decided on what they felt was the best approach.
The creativity was then ramped up with the introduction of Empathy mapping and 2 x 2 Matrix. These methods fine tune creative thoughts and focus the ideas toward a specific solution. They were essential tools to master in order for the students to present a solution beneficial to AmCham.
.The final session, held in May, was “showtime”. A time to see what the creative methodologies learned in class had helped to produce. A time to see how the teams had harnessed their different forms of creativity into a cohesive package.
Each team was given 15 minutes to present their solutions and this was followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers between the presenters and the AmCham staff. Delightfully, all of the presentations had something to offer to the organization. Some better than others.
One team in particular came up with a solution that really impressed the non-profit staff. AmCham thanked the team for an excellent job despite having one of the most difficult challenges. The staff also commented another presentation for definitely surprising them with how the challenge was approached by proposing a solution that was out of the box.
The students appreciated the opportunity to work with AmCham and thanked them for an amazing learning experience.
End of a creative journey
In closing, we feel very satisfied with the course. It has shown us that creativity is something that is within all of us.
It became clear to us that the ability to tap into this resource greatly depends on both the attitude of the student and the content of the course. Looking back we agree that the most rewarding outcome involved students who were skeptical at the onset. By the end of the course they were proudly excited about the ideas they had produced. In fact, many were looking forward to using what they learned in class also at their workplace.