We sent the students shopping for biscuits

In the third week of the term we focused on experience mapping so that the students would learn to look and listen more closely to their surroundings, while also being more aware of their emotional attachment to the different phases of their experience.

The focus was to enable the students to know how to build a journey map, an experience map their adventure to buy biscuits. We told the students about this through a slide deck on the process and showed them a video of a team of students using a pram with a ‘mock up baby’ which is taken for a spin through the park and highlights problems with the pram.


Our students needed something less complicated so we split them into four teams who went to Marks and Spencers, Poundland, a chain coffee shop, and one of the shops in George Street. Four, completely different approaches to biscuits in other words, which resulted in four quite different journey maps too. However, that was part of the exercise too. We wanted to show them that there was no ‘correct’ way to do this, and that as long as the team recorded what happened and what was good/bad about the experience then it was a valid journey map.



We generated some ideas

This was the second week of the session and was ideation week. The key here for me is to ensure that the students step beyond their regular ideas and engage more fully with the possible challenges that face them in Aberdeen. I was helped out by my CodeTheCity colleague Ian Watt, who also works at Aberdeen City Council.

The day started with a brief round of warm up exercises to both relax people and to also prime them for what was to follow. We formed a circle and asked ‘how did you get here today’ and ‘talk to the person next to you about problems you see in Aberdeen’. This worked well, and then we moved onto the ideation phase.

The students had gone away last week with Jon’s 10×10 exercise and some remembered to bring them back. However, some had them as digital only, which was less useful when trying to put them up on the walls along with sticky notes of ideas. A few, happily, did remember to print them out, which was good. I like this approach and must remember to do it myself next time too.


After we posted these on the wall using either washi tape (because it’s low tack so doesn’t leave marks on walls), or 3m restickable glue stick (the blue one that works just like post-it glue), we proceeded to the people putting up their own 10×10 ideas around the walls of the area. After everyone did a ‘gallery walk’ of checking what others wrote, we then grouped theme by common themes that appeared.

For the next phase we then built on these themes with more notes. This was done silently for the most part as people looked at what was there and then added more stickies to  the walls. It was really nice to watch this happening and Ian and I added a few here and there too as we saw opportunities to contribute.

As the students slowed down and stopped adding stickies to the wall. I paused them, had them regroup and subdivide the themes. Some walls were small and filled as themes blended together. Creating more space around themes seems to invite more stickies.

Then we used a ‘forced connection‘ with photos and drawings. Each student took one from a large pack and focused on a key attribute or two from the image. Then with this firmly in mind, they were asked to apply that attribute to the challenge with which they most identified. This led to more stickies being added to the walls and some interesting aspects being added. I always like how this adds more buzz to the ideation.

We were now at the point where we could start to form teams around the themes students had identified. We ended up with these:

  • Ourspace – filling empty spaces
  • Workspace sustainability – retaining/attracting workforce talent to Aberdeen
  • Like to bike – promotion of cycling in Aberdeen and Surrounding Areas
  • Wow.. it’s dark – How to light the city and add colour
  • Public space – how might we improve the quality of public spaces to make the city more attractive to everyone

Each team had at most two students from the same discipline, and all, but one had students from different institutions. This means that teams are diverse, which should work in their favour in the long-term. This is a good start.

Lastly we had each team think of a few ‘how might we …’ ideas and to then draw out one of them as a solution to show the other teams. This worked well for some teams, but others found it challenging to present something that wasn’t perfect. The concept of ‘throwaway prototype’ will still need to be worked on with the students.

The next step is to allocate those students who are not yet on a team, and to help the teams focus on ‘how might we …’ pursue these ideas further.

Register for CityLab 2016

CityLab will be starting in September. Go register at University of Aberdeen (PD3002 or PD3502), or Robert Gordon University (BS2315 Business Project 1  or BS2316 Business Project 2 – speak to Jon Penally about options) to take part this term, or in the later term to start in January. The classes meet in Seventeen on Belmont street. We take ten students from each institution each term.