Last week Mentor Up convened here at the National Headquarters of AARP in Washington, D.C. to talk about the Youth Mentor Up Challenge. Interns from all across AARP and AARP Foundation gathered to discuss the challenge. Prior to this brainstorm session, we debated how much information we should give the interns. Should we give them an overview of the challenge? Should we brief them on what Mentor Up is? Should we give them no information or as little as possible to prevent stifling creativity?
After running in circles for a while we finally agreed on the latter. We chose the mysterious route and invited 20 interns to an unspecified meeting to discuss an unidentified topic. We hoped to cultivate fresh ideas from providing minimum context. We soon discovered this was not the best route to go. Although in doing so we learned that free pizza is a great incentive to get people’s attention! ☺
After introducing the challenge question – “How might we inspire and engage young people to support older adults through mentorship?” – we hoped to have a resounding amount of participation and fresh ideas.
However, this was not the case!
We were met with hesitation, confusion, reluctance…
After a few moments of uninterrupted quiet and blank stares, we had to find a way to break the sound barrier. We decided to break up into 3 smaller groups to make interacting feel more like a discussion rather than a meeting (we did hijack the board room after-all…it can be an intimidating atmosphere!). After collaborating within the small groups for a while we reconvened as a unified cohort and gave the large discussion another shot.
Each group nominated a spokesperson to share their thoughts with the rest of the room. By the end of it, we had transformed one side of the boardroom into an idea wall! We decorated the glass windows with Post-It notes to create a collective thought bank with some really great ideas!
This brainstorm session was a very insightful experience for Mentor Up. However, not giving the interns any context produced many similar, if not duplicate, ideas to what Mentor Up is already doing/has discussed.
This rehashing was not counterproductive though; it helped reaffirm and validate Mentor Up’s current course.
This brainstorm session confirmed that Mentor Up is headed in the right direction.