“Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is when a company (…) uses the products that it makes” (Wikipedia).
Recently, the THNK team engaged in some dogfooding of its own by prototyping its unique brand of challenge-based learning. We broke into small teams of staff with different backgrounds, ranging from business, design, science, technology to governance, which mirrors the approach we plan to take in our future programs. The teams then tackled a specific question that is gaining more importance and relevance as the population ages: ‘How can you take care of parents in a better way from a distance?’
Every team began by re-defining the meaning of the question based on team member perspectives. We asked questions like ‘What determines well-being?’ and ‘What does distance mean?’ Empathy played a big part in kickstarting and sustaining the process. Several people brought photos of their aging parents and told stories of their struggles with dementia, cancer, loss of independence, and loneliness. We went through multiple stages: discussion, research, brainstorming and idea generation, and rapid prototyping of solutions. The amount of ideas was mind-boggling. Here are some examples.
- A system to incentivize elderly people to adopt healthy habits and lifestyles in order to pass on health insurance discounts to younger family members. This solution integrated advanced sensor technology, cloud computing and real time information delivery to insurance companies.
- A new independent living community which provides older people with a chance to give new meaning to their lives. The idea was to convert empty office buildings and spaces in Amsterdam into active living centers where elderly people can enjoy activities such as gardening, cooking and cultural performances.
- A series of sustainable, communal gardens for the elderly. This solution aimed to create several gardens which would be maintained by elderly people. The objectives of these gardens would be to keep the elderly active and to empower them to take a direct role in their eating and lifestyle habits.
What was eye-opening and refreshing about our three-hour workshop was the experience of collaborating with professionals from different backgrounds, generating collective intelligence by integrating each team member’s knowledge and perspective, and converting this intelligence into real life solutions. Though we were all exhausted by the end, we came away even more convinced that THNK’s education program will have real, added value for professionals, entrepreneurs and companies in terms of generating meaningful solutions and unexpected innovations.