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We recently invited students from Birmingham City University’s Academic Award Scheme to take part in a series of collaborative online design-thinking workshops.

Our aim was to bring people together from across disciplines to explore how they might use collaboration and creative problem-solving techniques in the development of their own product, service, or business ideas. To do this we set up a live brief that asked students to re-design the learning experience at the university as a response to the COVID crisis.

“My favourite part was where we all engaged in developing ideas and used techniques to reach a conclusion on what responded to the problem best.”

STEAM Sprint Student Participant

What we did

Sixteen participants came together to collaborate across three two-hour online workshops, designed and facilitated by STEAMhouse. The focus of the work meant crafting activities that would enable the group to learn about the fundamentals of design-thinking by working on real world problems. Students worked individually and in teams to move through the first three phases of the design thinking process; Discovery, Definition, and Idea Generation.

First off, students worked together to design their research. They defined their objectives and decided on methods that might uncover meaningful insights about the problem area. Most students opted for qualitative interviews so we used one of the workshops to interview each other, then worked together to analyse and synthesise what we’d learnt. The exercise highlighted a number of commonplace problems that students were experiencing which we then flipped into opportunity spaces to design new solutions. By using a prioritisation matrix, students were able to determine which problem they should work on before writing their problem statement and moving on to idea generation.

The workshops continued with an intensive ideation session where participants worked individually and together, using creative thinking techniques to generate ideas fast. The group came up with 60+ new ideas to tackle the problems they’d identified, then worked together to find common themes and build on promising directions. By using voting and prioritisation techniques they decided on 3 ideas that would be easy to implement and have a high impact on the problem they were trying to solve. To conclude the sessions, participating students reflected together on how they might use some of the methods they’d learnt about in their current projects.


After the workshops, 89% of participants said they’d recommend the workshops to a friend and 78% said they’ll use design-thinking methods in their own projects.

The best bit for me was Discovery and Understanding – getting to understand the problem and the target audience.

AAS Student Participant

If you’re a business, student or graduate and you’d like to learn more about design-thinking and other collaborative problem-solving methods get in touch or apply to join STEAMhouse today!

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