Tonight I attended my second Refresh Austin meetup. According the group’s website:
Refresh Austin is an organization of Web professionals working together to foster new ideas and refresh the creative, technical and professional aspects of their trade.
Sara Summers a User Experience Evangelist from Microsoft presented Don’t Forget to Kick Ass – Sketching & Prototyping for Product Innovation. My primary takeaway:
Build to Think. Use your hands to prototype, ideate and build as an alternative problem solving method. Today we almost always default to clicking, scrolling, dragging and trying to create something in our heads or on the screen instead of in real life. The problem? Those are very noisy environments that actually work against the creative process.
To put this into practice, we participated in a group excercise where we were given an “awesomely bad business idea” and had to quickly turn it into a viable business concept to be pitched to the rest of the audience.
Our group’s assigned bad business idea: “pick your nose – and sell it as art.” We struggled, although there were some exceptionally creative ideas thrown out. Our final concept was a coffee-table book which would feature close-up celebrity boogers, photos of celebs in the act of “gold digging,” autographs and numerous partnerships (e.g. Kleenex) all for the benefit of a charitable cause (say, flu vaccine research).
I volunteered to pitch our group’s concept to the 100+ attendees – apparently one of the biggest Austin Refresh meetups, of course! Not only was presenting to an unfamiliar crowd of really talented, smart people nerve-wracking, but our idea was far from “fully-baked.”
And it was a great experience.
Meetups are not good for just networking and learning about new technologies, workflows and techniques. They can also help push your comfort zone boundaries in unexpected ways too.
Don’t wait to get involved in your local user groups or meetups beyond the role of passive attendee. Volunteer to speak or to help organize the event. You’ll get that much more out of your after-hours investment. And you will be giving something back to our community.