The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Creative Collaborations in Leadership

Priya Ramaiah '17 brainstorms PO (provocative operation) statements with another Rockefeller Leadership Fellow. 

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Having taken Design Thinking (ENGS 12) with Professor Robbie last winter, I was especially excited for his RLF session on creative collaborations. As Robbie said himself during this session, we live under the illusion of normalcy, but we are really in a time of revolution – the ability to work in teams and practice innovation is more important than ever. 

Our introduction to design thinking opened with lessons on productive brainstorming. All participants must be comfortable enough to engage in a rapid fire brain-dump of ideas without fear of judgement: ideate, then evaluate. This stage is supposed to be humorous – as Robbie put it, if no one is laughing then you’re doing something wrong. We practiced this process through small-group exercises in mind mapping as well as new technique Robbie introduced called PO statements. PO (provocative operation) statements are a technique in lateral thinking designed to move brainstorming forward. PO statements can be outlandish – one of the examples Robbie gave in the session was ‘all cups are made of ice’ – but the point of them is to imagine what the world might look like if the PO was true. We had a lot of fun imagining the wild possibilities, like the end of the dieting industry or a worldwide fabric shortage due to increased clothing sizes.  Looking back at these afterward allows generation of themes and ideas that can ultimately fuel potential insights and innovation. The silliness allows good ideas to come out. 

On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this session for the brainstorming toolset it provided as well as the emphasis it placed on teamwork and levity. Professor Robbie is a delight and it was a pleasure to relive Design Thinking and apply its lessons to leadership.

- Submitted by Priya Ramaiah '17, Rockefeller Leadership Fellow

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