April 26, 2009

Plane and Simple...

I had a great AHA moment in class this week... I gave a new assignment to my students and was delighted with the results.

After brainstorming about brainstorming tips and tools, I gave the students the following topic to brainstorm about: We now know that global warming is being dramatically increased by the exhaust from airplanes. Therefore, ALL commercial airplane travel has been banned. Come up with a list of all the negative consequences of have no airplane travel?

After they made long lists of the consequences, I asked each team to pick one consequence and brainstorm again. This time they had to come up with solutions to that problem. For example, if a lack of airplane travel leads to a significantly decreased ability to get people together from different parts of the world, how will you solve this problem without airplanes?

The solutions were wonderfully clever.... One team came up with the idea of moving companies to large ships that cruise in the oceans going from country to country for meetings with customers. With this solution, you don't just move the employees, you move the entire company. One team came up with the idea of building long tunnels under the oceans. With pneumatic tubes, your vehicle would fly below the sea to its destination. And another team came up with the idea of putting green houses on train cars so that fresh food can be grown and delivered to towns across the country.

The best part of the exercise was the AHA moment at the end when participants discovered that it might be a GOOD idea to ban airplanes. The solutions they came up with might actually be better than traveling by air. The first idea to pop into your mind to solve a problem - such as using an airplane to transport goods and people - isn't always the best way. If that option isn't available, there are usually lots of other options just waiting to be discovered.