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Week 3: Idea: Experimenting towards solutions

Introduction>  idea: experimenting towards potential solutions through social architecture

This week we will blend the “insight i” with the third i, the i for idea; the experimenting towards potential solutions. Last week we began to make distinctions between ways individuals can participate alone and with others online. This week we’ll dive into a “closer to the ground” practices group size and its impact on open and innovative design. Our main question for the week is “What size group is most useful for the different aspects of open and innovative design and why?” We will then weave in some secondary questions and observations about time, cultural diversity, and interdependencies between group members, and then begin applying these ideas to our projects.

Web Discussion #3

You’ve heard the aphorisms. “One is the loneliest number.” “Three’s a crowd.” “The more the merrier!” This week our discussion will focus around some of the variables in online social groupings, starting with size. Think about past experiences: when has it been easy to brainstorm and find ideas? Work on interdependent tasks? Think and discuss deeply? Toss around ideas casually? How big was the group? What was the context (online, offline, synchronous, asynchronous, culturally homogeneous or diverse? Was it slow or fast? Tell us a story and then lets look at the implications for using online groups for open, innovative design and in the context of your project groups.


Team Activity #3

Using the two groups you identified last week in the area of your research, consider and post your team’s reflections on:

  • How are they using group size effectively or not? How are they using cultural diversity effectively or not? What is the evidence of interaction over time and how is that related to the success of their endeavors?
  • Share your team’s thoughts and tag appropriately.
  • Tip: Don’t forget you have access to  3-4 hours of “office hours” F2F where you can work together and share your ideas w/ your instructors and tutors (online and offline!)



Personal Blog Reflection Prompt #3

You are in week three of your group work. What is working well for you in your group? What is challenging you? What is one thing you might do differently in the coming weeks to improve your experience and the group’s work?  Don’t forget to tag your post appropriately.

Resources to share

22 comments on “Week 3: Idea: Experimenting towards solutions
  1. Nancy White says:

    Hi all… make sure you also look at the short (just over 6 minutes) video on the front page from Chris Corrigan. I tried to connect w/ Christopher Allen to interview him, but we have found ourselves at the wrong place at the right time, or the other way ’round! 🙂

  2. Nancy White says:

    OH, and Chris just pointed me to this post of his on group size…

  3. Laura Stevens says:

    How about you all tell us how the group size is affecting the progress of your work.
    How is the organisation of the “to-do” list coming along? Does everyone in the group contribute an equal share to the work that has to be done. What did Chris say about having an even number of members… Or having an odd number of members? Listen to the video again.
    Then, is each member still doing the tasks you agreed at at the start? Has there been a switch and if so, are things going smoother or rougher now?

  4. Evelina says:

    Well, I’m from the group number 3 – “Work Teams” and after almost three weeks of working together I can say, that working in smaller groups can be more effective, than in the big ones, but it’s just in my opinion, because I had never worked in a big group before actually, now my group consists from 6 people and I think for this project it’s enough . I think, that in my group all the members get enough work to do and there is no need to have more members. Of course we have a really good manager, who put all the information together and sets the deadlines until when we have to finish our research and etc…
    Now we are using “basecamp” as a platform for our group and there is a perfect “To – do” list for all of us, it really makes things easier.
    Luckily,everyone from our group are doing the things we were said to do, but as I remember once there was a small misunderstanding about research of one platform, it was said for one of our members to do that until friday, but it haven´t been done, so the other member of the group did that and after one day there were two different researches about the same platform, because the first member did that, just the next day, but I wouldn´t consider this as a bad thing, cause we had more and different type of information about one platform. I would say that my group is doing well.

  5. It’s hard to say one particular time when brainstorming was easiest, but if I had to pick I would say that it was during intro week when we had to make something out of our lunch garbage. We were working in groups of three, which in my opinion is perfect for this type of activities since the team members listen to one another better and the idea creation and development is way faster. Bigger groups have the advantage of being able to come up with more ideas, however what I have experienced is that it take more time once you get to the stage when you have to pick one idea to start building on it.

    For this particular assignment we were all very much synchronized not only in the sense that it was the first week so the three of us were all sort of lost in a way, but also because once we came up with one idea that pleased us we cooperated very efficiently.

    In my personal opinion, online groups can be very useful for connecting people across the world, not only the professionals involved in the project but also the stakeholders, being able to create multicultural work teams, which can be helpful when solving global problems. However in the case of design teams I think that the communication is much, much slower since usually a lot of the ideas are communicated through sketches.

  6. Nancy White says:

    I am wondering how we can do some experiments that are about large groups – and working in the network. I’ve been trying to do some connecting of external folks to our group via Twitter and Facebook, but not very scientifically. Yet these wider groups are also important. Any ideas?

    • Kiril says:

      To react on Nancy and how we can experiment with large groups:

      It would be really cool to somehow create a really simple design contest online.
      To get get people to participate, I think the implementation of some kind of story mode is really nice.

      I don’t know if any of you ever experienced the games that started in a lot of forums for example about music:

      Some one posted a song title: Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
      So the title is obviously about Winter or Hymnals (religious songs)
      And then the next person chooses one of those subjects like Winter:
      And shares another song: K’s Choice – Winter

      So you see there is some kind off collective thinking, which can be done in a really big group. And everybody has their own personal input.

      Following this idea and translating it to design, the setup would be simple:

      Create a problem which is solvable by just a couple of really visualizing sentences.
      To add to the general public’s teamwork we ask them to use only 5 words per person!
      Lets see if they can come up with a great design!

      Does anybody have any ideas for a Design Contest problem/question? Also what would be a good online community to do this test? Or is my just made up experiment ridiculous? Please share your thoughts


      • I like the idea of forum but I have more of an issue with the type of assignment. I reckon it is not really a Design Assignment but rather an assignment in which people learn to form more associations.

        I also don’t really see it as being a design process but rather more as a point at which one person can get more input on his or her design process.

        I quite like the format of forums, because all of the information is stored regardless. However, I don’t think it allows for good one on one discussion. I think a smaller group and a google hangout scenario, or a google doc situation would stimulate more active discussion rather than a lot of the forum members just reading the comments made and not commenting in return.

  7. Youp Boelen says:

    Hey guys, I watched Chris’ video and was inspired by what he said about even groups being better for stability and odd groups better for creativity in most cases. I agree on this on so many levels, for example how I always have the “ahaa” moments when im by myself and think of a solution for a problem. In a way it could be called an innovative moment, so that also adds up to what he says about a group of one being the best for innovation. But theres also a big side to it I disagree with, because it is innovation, but ussually bad innovation. Often when we work in groups and an idea is generated, it starts out having that feeling to it like “ahh thats the best solution” but then when working with a reasonably large group the idea builds and forms into something so much better in almost no time. So that got me to the conclusion, that an [even (larger) group = stability] + [odd smaller group = creativity] could = successful innovation. What do you guys think about that?

    • I like what you said about the ‘aha moments’ I’ve had a few of those. I do think that in a larger group you will have more points of views and experiences to take advantage from, this way an idea can develop properly and be a good solution not just from one point of view and cultural background but from several different pov’s. However there needs to be a balance between the different people and how efficient the team works. So having 20 people in a team for a little problem just so you get more pov’s it not very efficient. So I think that when you are looking at team sizes the problem first had to be analysed to see its scale and how many people are actually needed to solve the problem, then you can make a choice about team sizes.

      It might also be an idea to vary the even and un even numbers through the course of a project.

  8. Johan Bagkoutsa says:

    Looking at this from a subjective point of view i think that “The more the merrier” is a wrong philosophy because there is always a limit. For everything, it doesn’t matter what it has to do about a limit will always exist.

    But when it comes to group sizes i find it more productive to put groups of three people. I think that three people are perfect to create ideas and also shape them, later on during the process the ideas can be shared for more shaping from other people in a larger group so the idea can adapt to everyone.

    3-5! Five is the maximum that you can put together in order to get a good result, and even when this happens usually people disperse roles in order to make it more efficient and fast because having a lot of members in your group can relativity slow you down and maybe the end result is not what you’re looking for.

  9. Angelika says:

    I really like the conclusion and idea of Youp:
    [even (larger) group = stability] + [odd smaller group = creativity] could = successful
    I agree with the fact that the right mix of boths groups will lead to sucess.
    When I think back to my group work experiences at school I remember many times that working in big groups slowed the work down. Especially when the task is about coming up with something new and creating and coming up with ideas.
    I experienced that working in small group is definately more creativ and also the indivdual work leads best to the ‘aha effect’.
    But when it comes to the point to get more insights and dicuss about final endresults it is the best to work in bigger groups.
    I would say the best method of team work is to start up with small groups (or alone) to come up with some creativ ideas and then join with other small groups and create a big group. Then you can share the ideas from the small groups and discuss about them. You get insights and feedbacks from others and can work towards stability.

  10. Vasilis Bagkoutsa says:

    I think that a good group size would be somewhere around 5 people maybe even 7 but not more than that. I also agree with the point that one person can be the best number for innovative ideas, but only if those ideas are later shared with the rest of the individuals in the group so something better can come out of them.
    For example if you have a group of 5-7 people then tell them to individually think up ideas and then group up share those ideas and try to think of more ideas or of what would make them better than they already are. So yeah in my opinion the best would be somewhere around 5-7 people in a group but they should also be able to work individually.

  11. Andrei Moise says:

    I don’t really agree Angelika. I think that a group of maximum 3 would be the best choice to come up with ideas and polish them down to a good end result. When groups get bigger than 5/6, people tend to fade in the background and usually the one with the most charisma takes the lead. And he/she can’t be objective all the time. I think’s that’s the main issue with large groups.
    And from my experience, i realise now that online group work isn’t as effective as face-to-face group work.

  12. Malte Frisch says:

    I agree with Johan in the point that a smaller group is definitely more efficient than a bigger group of more than 5. As I mentioned it already in my blog post I made the experience that in bigger groups people are more likely to start talking about private things, what I actually enjoy and sometimes like right now in the beginning we have to get to know to each other, that’s why almost all group work at the moment starts like this and its rather more difficult to get started.

    Once getting started the big size of the group can be very useful as well. Especially when it’s about creating a mind map by doing a brainstorm, where it is very helpful to have a big group because there are more brains. Having more brains sounds maybe weird, but in fact things like that are getting done faster as there are more ideas coming together. But the speed is not everything so for a very good result I prefer working in a group with a maximum of 5 people as it easier to communicate and to get started!

  13. Rolf Moes says:

    I agree with Malte and Miguel: I think bigger groups affect the effenciency of the work. In smaller groups the control between the members is much stronger, so no lazyness is allowed. Also the members can communicate eye to eye, which means agreements can be made much sooner

  14. Rolf Moes says:

    *lazyness is not allowed

  15. busra says:

    I agree with Andrei, in a group bigger than 6 people do fade out. However, if the manager has good *structure* within a bigger group I believe it could work out. The two things that lead to a conflict within a group is; 1.lack of respect 2. lack of structure.

    When these two things are there in a group, no matter what the group size is, I believe that things will work out. I also believe large group = more brains = more ideas just like Malte has stated BUT in structure (so division within the large group). So, larger groups should also divide within groups and become a 3 for example instead of 6. It works the best in my experience!

    I really agree with Chris’s observations about group size. Especially these 3 notes which we shouldn’t forget about;
    Notes about the video of effective group size;
    1) For Idea generation you are looking for smaller groups
    2) For stabilizing ideas and moving forward, you want to get groups into larger aggregations.
    3) For propagating great ideas, bring them over back together.

    P.S: staying at home when you’re sick really encourages you to read these blogs, however I wouldn’t encourage you guys to become sick. Just, sorry if I am annoying you guys with my comments on your blogs 🙂

    • Eimantas says:

      Since I did not have much experience with group works, I have to adapt to this now. It can be very effective as long as every member is interested in the asignment. Now i am working in groups of 5 and I have to say it works pretty well.

  16. Felix Scha says:

    I also agree (like most of the others) that in a smaller group (less than 7 people) there are more discussions which are getting into depth, because you get to know each other better. So when it comes to creativity it is definitely better to work in smaller groups. But there is another aspect I would like to tell: When it comes to questions which affect the whole world it’s sometimes better to involve a large group, for example with the help of the internet. This can result in an interesting phenomenon which is called swarm intelligence. That means that if everyone from a large crowd of people is answering the question or working on something, the outcome is most times much more exact and precise than if just you or a few people deal with the problem.
    What do you think about that?

  17. East Field 72 (Group 2) says:

    Group work is always challenging. You can be lucky to work in a group where everybody clicks and are able to create inspired work. However, if there are different personalities in a group, then there is also a good possibility that there is going to be a personality clash.
    Smaller groups often work more structured, because there are less group members to share the workload and they therefore have to work efficiently. The upside to a smaller group is that everybody has to contribute to the project and consequently every group member has a saying in the final end result. All members in a small group have to participate and it can be damaging to the project to have passive members.
    Larger groups can get unorganized when everybody tries to voice their opinion, which can lead to members not being heard. It is easier for passive team members to fly under the radar in a larger group. The upside of working in a large group is that the results can get very creative, because a lot more ideas are being generated. To organise the group work more efficiently it would be good to separate the group into smaller groups and divide the workload strategically.
    In conclusion, to have a well-organized group it is often more practical to work in a smaller group, because the work has to be done more efficiently. A larger group is great for creative projects because there are a lot of different inputs. And the group can be divided into smaller teams to organise the tasks more efficiently.

  18. Throughout my whole experience in primary school and high school we haven’t had as much team work as we had for the past four weeks. I always liked working with people because I like hearing their ideas and thoughts about the given subject. While brainstorming I think that more people can of course think of more ideas, more aspects, and more points of view.

    When I was in my last year of high school we had to think and discuss a lot on literature in our Bulgarian classes. Working all together was really difficult and confusing because at the end we really didn’t know what from everything said in the class was correct and what wasn’t.
    A very nice thing our teacher did was that she decided to divide us in smaller groups so we can work more efficiently and generating more interpretations on the writer’s messages. These smaller groups division really worked because we actually could think more widely on the topic and we could go deeper in the writer’s thinking and in his work in general.
    Another strategy our teacher came up with was to create a Facebook group where we could create an event so we could discuss with her on different literature topics so she could tell us if we are on the right track personally and if we think rightly about the writer’s messages. This also helped us a lot and we even improved our online working skills that way.

    We had even some experience on the IDE program so far as well. The first week of the classes we had to divide in groups and create our teams. I think this was hard at first but when we got to know each other we formend a very nice and good working team. We were able to guide ourselves through the assignment. We were helping each other a lot with whatever we need in order to complete the assignments. Of course we had a very good brainstorming and we managed to work through the assignments very well.
    The second week we had to divide our group work between each other which kind of confused us at first but it really felt easier for us. This way we were able to finish our group work even faster then if we all did it together.

    In my opinion, it’s better to work in smaller groups because this way we can create a stronger team, we can work faster and more efficient but it is also very goot to work in big groups because that way people can generate more ideas and can have more different perspectives in order to solve the problems.

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