It never gets old: Fresh starts in the Lab

Aug 22 2014

It’s been about two years since my first Reese News Lab orientation day. It’s difficult to remember what it was like to walk into the Lab new. But at orientation this week I watched the classic mix of excitement and confusion dance across the new interns’ faces and I realized that being old isn’t quite so different from being new.

Interns new and old brainstorm ideas.

Interns new and old brainstorm ideas.

For an introduction activity, interns were split into groups of three and handed a marshmallow, dry spaghetti noodles and masking tape. These items came with simple instructions: Build the tallest, free-standing structure you can, and put the marshmallow on top.

“EASY!” we thought.

But less than two minutes after I proclaimed to my group that we needed to build with triangles, things were falling apart. In the final moments, we decided to just stick some noodles into the marshmallow. Our final product looked something like a sad porcupine. It was pretty short.

We all came back together to reflect on the tower-building and were given an important lesson: Kindergartners are great at this activity because they start improvising with their materials right away.

This led into a Reese News Lab speech that I know by heart, but that never gets old. This is how it goes: We’ll talk about kids, we’ll talk about how they play like limits don’t exist, and we’ll talk about the importance of holding onto creativity and fun even when things look impossible.

By lunchtime on orientation day, people were starting to get tired. The Lab is a high-octane environment and it can wear you out. After refueling with pizza, interns new and old were back at the brainstorming board.

Lab interns finalize ideas.

Lab interns finalize ideas.

We always start out big. Everyone is together in the lab and everyone is throwing out ideas. A critical rule for the brainstorming process is to never put down an idea. You shout it out, write it down, and move on to the next idea.

This continues for the next week and culminates in a pitch night where only three ideas will survive.

Though I’ve gone through this process before, I’m not weary of it yet. There are always new people and new problems to learn with. And, though it’s helpful to draw from past experiences to tackle the problems of the present, I’m constantly reminded of the value new minds bring to the table.

We’ve had a lot of great ideas come out of the lab in the last year and, judging by the last couple of days, more greatness is ahead.


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