Meeting the Instant Challenge

By Beth Strobel

Last week, I spent an afternoon with 1,400 teams of kids—more than 8,000 students — ranging in age from Pre-K to college. They arrived in Kansas City from all over the world representing 15 countries, and they came for the Destination Imagination Global Finals, an event that boasts interactive exhibits, skills workshops, pin trading, innovation challenges, plus a lot of goodwill coupled with fun.

What is Destination Imagination?

Destination Imagination (DI) is an organization providing students with hands-on, educational experiences to take their learning to the next level. DI offers unique education across seven project-based Challenge types–Technical, Scientific, Engineering, Fine Arts, Improvisational, Service Learning, and Early Learning.

DI’s vision is to “Inspire and equip participants to achieve anything they can imagine in life.” The group is able to achieve this vision by adhering to these mission principles:

  • Fun learning. Explore STEM/STEAM concepts in a hands-on environment
  • Creative problem solving. Learn how to think, not what to think
  • Kid powered; team driven. Energize students to own all decisions, creations, and results
  • Friendly competition. Motivate teams to reach for the stars, while also rooting for each other
  • Global diversity. Encourage and celebrate differences in each other, and differences in ideas

A Fantastic Event

How did I find myself at the Kansas City Convention Center for 2019 Destination Imagination Global Finals, surrounded by a sea of kids? DI is a volunteer-run organization. They look to individuals and companies to support their mission and to provide creative sessions, equitable judging, and adult oversight at this event.

So, alongside some of my fellow Onspringers, I had the privilege to facilitate an event at the Global Finals, helping kids practice for what is called an Instant Challenge (IC). In an IC, kids in teams of 3 to 6 members are given problem-solving missions to complete within a few minutes of time, with no help from adults. For example, the kids in my session were asked to construct a seven-inch wide bridge using only the provided materials of pipe cleaners, a pencil, string, mailing labels, and couple of other non-descript items.  There were rules (i.e. the bridge must be freestanding) and a points system (5 points for each inch off the table your bridge is at its lowest point) provided.

The teams were guided to use these four steps in the project management process:

  • Define. How can points be earned? What are the rules?

    Amazed by the kids problem-solving skills.

  • Plan. Which of the provided materials will you employ in your design, and what role will each team member play in the build?
  • Do. Complete the work, keeping an eye on the time
  • Review. Consider lessons learned to improve next time

Each team took a different approach in solving the problem. After the challenge completed, we took time to evaluate what they built, who broke the rules, and how the scoring system could have been maximized. The challenges were designed in a way that kids were forced to divide and conquer in order to be successful.

The Takeaway

As I left the convention center and walked to the KC Street Car following the event, I realized deploying an enterprise platform like Onspring is really no different than what the kids experienced in their Instant Challenge. Our clients who are most successful take time to define their success, strategy, and rules up front. They spend as much time planning as they do building, and they stick to a budget while meeting their deadlines. They continually seek to improve what they’ve built and determine how they can derive more value out of the Onspring platform.

It’s amazing how many projects are assigned with such urgency (by leadership or external drivers) that the team forgets to spend the time up front defining and planning. We are sometimes tempted to jump right into doing the work to have the satisfaction of progress.

Destination Imagination is a fantastic organization, and I encourage you to check it out. This group is teaching kids fundamental skills that will help them in the near term, as well as in their future careers. Congratulations to all the teams who participated in DI Global Finals this year!

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