Week 4: Brainstorming and Prototyping

First, the Hub wants to thank the over 100 people that gave us their time yesterday during our couple hours stationed in front of the cafeteria.  The insight and feedback were so helpful, and we greatly appreciate everyone's willingness to participate in our quick survey.  It was so great to meet so many staff members, family members, and patients in such a short window of time!   

In the Hub, the Breast Cancer Project has continued building in exciting ways.  Last week we arrived at “How Might We” questions, the first place of honing in and defining some problem statements out of the vast amount of information collected during the previous three weeks.  In Design Thinking, the “How Might We” questions are a point of focus, but they become the springboard for brainstorming and prototyping, two of the most exciting parts of the process. 

Reconvening for the fourth week of the project, team leader Caroline collected all of the “How Might We” questions, identified themes and commonalities, and began reading questions aloud one at a time, allowing for us to brainstorm around each question.  Brainstorming is intense, quick, and random.  Ideas are shared without limitation and without bound, they are built upon and added to, anything that might be a solution to the problem. 

We addressed questions like:

How might we mark the firsts that occur throughout the process?

How might we reduce the feeling of being out of control/being overwhelmed?

How might we enhance the feeling of being in good hands?

How might we encourage family members to take part of the patient’s care to decrease everyone’s feeling of isolation?

How might we provide choices that reinforce a patient’s sense of control?


The group exhausted each question with ideas for solutions, ranging from pet therapy to creating personalized scripts to having a personal assistant to making appointments available 24/7.  Ideas were not always feasible, but they embodied what our interviewees wanted. 

We read through this new board of post-its, full of potential ideas and solutions.  With a team of about 9 people, we decided to break up and begin prototyping a few of the ideas.  Three groups emerged: one to develop a menu of preferences for patients to select from and use, one to look into using an organizing/supporting app, and a third to see if animals would be a potential source of comfort and normalization.

Testing prototypes can sometimes be the hardest part of design, because it is hard to create something that feels as substantial as all of the stories and information that get collected in the early weeks.  Sometimes, designers refer to this as the “design slump”, and the secret to getting out of this slump is to be willing to get out there and get feedback on the prototype.  Hearing feedback rejuvenates the designer and the project because one can again suddenly see the potential of the project. 

Excited to break out of the “design slump”, the team went off to begin testing their prototypes and collecting feedback, and we can’t wait to see what people have to say!

I have been sharing pieces of the stories that we have been hearing, but would love to hear from anyone who wants to share their own experiences. Feel free to email HubBlog@jhmi.edu if you want to share any of your own experiences, feelings, comments, or ideas.  Also, send an email if you want to join our feedback team and are willing to be interviewed!