Research, questioning, listening, analysing are all critical elements of the creative process. However, you’ll never find a better substitute than direct, personal experience. Scientists call it anthropology. Researchers call it learning journeys. You and I can call it a field trip.
While field trips can range from the casual to formal, the basic objective remains the same: to get a better understanding of human nature through observation and discovery.
By understanding the present, field trips can help predict the future.
Good field researchers seek to find situations where people are looking ahead and thinking differently.
Oftentimes, they combine a field trip with – or it turns into – a brainstorm. They know a well-organised field trip often uncovers insights about what might be. Depending upon the urgency or the surprising aspects of the insights, you may even find your ideas flowing automatically and unexpectedly.
What You Need for A Good Field Trip
You can set up field trips in a variety of ways, but the essentials are the same for all.
- A guide, if not a facilitator – this person helps determine the visits, coordinate activities or logistics (such as transportation and accommodation). He or she might also play the role of the facilitator.
- Participants – team members might range anywhere on the learning curve from highly educated to uninitiated. Again, because so many field trips quickly turn into brainstorms, I suggest you give some thought to the right type of brainstormers.
- An agenda – I recommend one specific to one situation, theme or hypothesis. It might combine a variety of elements, such as …
- Meetings with the target audience or its influencers (focus groups to informal conversations)
- Site visits to locations where the audiences live, work or play; or
- Events, workshops, prototypes and best practices which educate and inform about the target audience and related topics.
Some thoughts about your agenda.
- Make sure it’s provocative. Don’t just go to places to confirm or justify your hypotheses.
- Go with an open mind. Again, you aren’t conducting the field trip to satisfy your ego.
- Allow time for flexibility in your schedule.
- Include time for reflection, discussion and debate. Moreover, you should plan for reflection as soon as possible to keep the learnings and knowledge fresh.
If well-organised, you’ll find a good field trip has residual effects beyond the tangible outcomes of quality information and a productive brainstorm. Your team can be transformed by the group experience, not to mention that field trips are fun, positive, stimulating and refreshing.
What other suggestions do you have to create a good, challenging field trip?