Zip Idea Lab: Fun, Facts and FAQs

The other day I was in the lab, the door was open and music was playing, and a little shy girl came in to tell us how cool was our office. Yes, we are those guys that play music and have the nice office in the Fowler College of Business building, but what do we do in the space? We are thinking… actually, we are DESIGN THINKING!

The Zip Idea Lab was born 3 months ago from an idea of Peter Zahn, Director of Moxie Foundation and SDSU donor, and the big plan was to create a place that could help students, faculty, organizations, teams to develop great ideas using Design Thinking. Here is usually when people ask me: “Isn’t that what the ZIP Launchpad does?”

Yes and No. We surely work together with the Launchpad; however, we help develop ideas, projects, and events, while the Launchpad help students launching their startups.

francesco-1Since I want to address all the questions that I am usually asked, let move on to the second most asked question: “What qualifications do I or my project need to be accepted by the Idea Lab?”

Let me start by tell you that at the Idea Lab, even if we are in the College of Business building, we don’t work only with business students. Students, I should be more generic and say people, from each college, department and field of study/interest can come in at any time as long as they have a specific goal to accomplish or a particular problem they want to find a solution for.

Also, applying your project is very intuitive, just go on our website complete a quick form, just to explain us what the project is about, and within couple days you will hear back from us! However, I must tell you that, because of the number of projects we receive, we conduct a prescreening of the projects. The projects usually get accepted if the goal is clear, but if for whatever reason your project doesn’t get accepted, we email you back a complete explanation of why it hasn’t been accepted and what should be improved so that you can make your modifications and reapply.

“What happens after my project get accepted?” At Idea Lab, we have a formidable staff composed of the director Kevin Popovic (an industry expert in design thinking and Founder of Ideahaus), and 5 students, including myself, that will help you with their expertise by taking on the role of project managers and guide you from the begin to the end of your project. We work around our clients’ schedule and we will ensure you that you will meet your deadlines.

“Can I have a little taste of Idea Lab before to bring in my project?” Of course, you can! We organize weekly workshops…but wait, our workshops, or as we like to say ThinkShops, are not the classic boring workshop where you sit listening to a lecturer! We believe the best way to learn is by doing, reason why we designed our ThinkShops to be interactive, coming to aThinkShop is an experience! During the event  you will be challenged with current problems and in an hour and a halves time we will help you find a solution to it by going through the 6 steps of the Design Thinking process (empathy, define, ideate, prototype, test, and share.)

T3-e3-8Last but not least, a question that I have been ask a few times: “What can Design Thinking be applied to?”

The other day, after a workshop, a young entrepreneur from Russia came to me and asked for supplementary information on Design Thinking and if I could show her how to apply the process to the current challenges she is facing on the workplace. I asked her to come in to the office an hour later to have a one on one meeting, and she showed up promptly. We started by reviewing the concept of Design Thinking, and then moved on to the application of the process to solve the problem of not being able to attract enough customers into her workplace. After, a satisfying explanation and a lot of brainstorming we found a valuable solution to her problem, but then she said: “This process is amazing, but would it be possible applying it to my personal challenges?” My answer was a prompt: “Of Course!” Design Thinking is a way to approach any kind of problem from professional to personal, it is a different and more efficient way to think critically and approach challenges.

So, the next time you are passing by the 4th floor of the College of Business building, don’t just wonder where the music is coming from and don’t just come in to see how nice our office is, but instead stop by and checkout what we are doing and if you have any type of project come get the help you deserve.  

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