Startup Weekend was an eye-opening experience: Part 1

During the recent Startup Weekend in Lansing, a small team learned that sometimes when a problem is identified to be solved, it likely has been identified already, but the process of product development can lead to some unexpected results.

This two-part article is the third in a series of articles related to the recent Startup Weekend: Maker Edition event that was held in conjunction with Lansing Maker Week in the Lansing, Michigan area. This 54-hour event brought folks from all around the state of Michigan to collaborate, discuss and develop interesting and viable products to solve a problem that exists in society today.

The opening evening of this event included some great ice breaker exercises, as mentioned by Michigan State University Extension educator Kathy Jamieson in the first article in this series. After the conclusion of these exercises, ideas were pitched to the group, then voted on, and ultimately selected for further exploration. Attendees were able to select which project to work on then start the project as a group.

In attendance was a small cohort of three MSU Extension educators who observed the event in order to gain vital knowledge of the process of a Startup Weekend for potential integration into a new program. This small team is working as a cross-specialization collaborative to develop this new program.

What this small team, for which I was a part of, soon realized is that when surrounded by smart and creative people with a drive to create a solution to a problem in society, it was infectious and difficult to not be a part of….even if only for a short time.

Of the several viable projects that were selected, the MSU Extension contingent decided to immerse themselves into the overall process by taking part in the research and potential development of a very innovative product which had a very viable market ready application.

During the initial meeting of this project team, made up of people who had never met until that moment, the inherent leadership and facilitation skills of this team of MSU Extension educators emerged. By helping facilitate a hasty brainstorming session into a more organized strategic visioning, while also encouraging an open dialogue among the team, this team of educators helped identify each team member’s strengths and areas of expertise that could be leveraged toward the project.

Throughout this process, these ideas were being captured on a white board using a Mind Mapping process. In a matter of about an hour, this small team, initially in attendance to simply observe, had become fully immersed into helping this team help themselves work toward a successful outcome.

Overall, it was looking very likely that this product would be developed into a prototype until a very important realization came to light.

Want to know what happens next? Get the rest of the story in part 2.

Michigan State University Extension offers a variety of programs to provide expertise, education and development of communities throughout the state of Michigan. When all Extension employees work together across lines of specialization and listen to the input from citizens of Michigan, great things can be developed and relevant and life-changing programs will be delivered.

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