October 29, 2014

This week’s SIDELab was a truly “hands-on” learning experience. Crayons, markers, animal stickers, pom-poms, Jenga, watercolour paints, and brightly coloured Post-It notes were on offer to each person present to represent their mental model for solving a problem.

Working within a time constraint, each person got down to work with a Songza soundtrack providing inspiration as we each attempted to externalize and represent the process of what happens when we try to solve a problem. The models could either be 2-D or 3-D representation of the mental decision-making that happens – our own individual system, if you will, of how to approach a wicked challenge.

A sense of play and concentration filled the room as our 35 minutes time-frame elapsed. We looked around the tables to see a diverse range of approaches and representations – drawings, paintings, construction-paper diagrams, and 3-D sculptures were laid out around the room on display.




Each person had the opportunity to share their unique models. Jeremy spoke about linearity and non-linearity, and how his model helps him to remember to stop, break that linearity and dive more deeply into the complexity of a problem rather than jumping to conclusions.

Brian used First Nations models as an inspiration. Using a turtle shell reminded him that issues are tiled and connected.   His model represents that he is “…always thinking about other things in layered ways”. Neudis spoke of the role that memory, empathy and projection play in her conception of model-making, while the critical thinking process shifts the dynamic to the cognitive dimension and gives shape to feelings and energies that underlie her problem-solving process.


PageLines- IMG_3373.JPG


PageLines- IMG_3376.JPG


Franziska spoke of the data input that can overwhelm her in the problem-solving process, yet she had a powerful method for consistently reaching for the essence of a problem and a possible solution. I shared the difficulty in externalizing my process, as it is experienced by me in a deeply embodied way, with a wink at the cosmos and a heavy emphasis on critical thinking tools to bring me to possible and plausible solutions.

PageLines- IMG_3368.JPG



Jennie’s model focused on the diverse steps involved in reworking a problem by considering multiple perspectives and approaches, while Noorin captured her three step process in the words: “Launch, Explore, Land”. Shaheen identified his process emerging from his role as a journalist and interviewer, which led him to always ask the “5 Ws” – who, what, where, when , why with a heavy emphasis on ethical action.

IMG_3380 IMG_3379

I left our meeting reflecting on how beautiful the thinking process is, as well as the power inherent in “thinking for ourselves.” More than this, I found the unique creativity and depth of the models a hopeful sign of empowerment. To bring these diverse problem-solving methods together would surely result in  bold, ethical and innovative solutions.

So what does it feel like when your brain is on SIDELab?  I would say hopeful, inspired and ready for a challenge.


Written by Maria Vamvalis.

Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *