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Brainstorm on communication inside the museum

April 7, 2011

CAP brainstorm applied to teaching communication inside museums

What are the elements we need to consider when developing in-museum communication? We need to keep in mind various very practical aspects that can be divided into areas (1) outside the museum, (2) inside the building (3) inside the exhibition space. Many of these elements are physically-based and logical – such are writing labels in a big font, providing seating or bathrooms – so a good way to learn about them is to get students to teach themselves.

Rather than stand up and lecture first thing in the morning on this topic, students in my museum management class were subjected to a type of brainstorm championed by GE’s “Change Acceleration Process (better known as CAP). GE has always been an innovator in business practice, and part of this success comes from their training in effective communications and leadership methods. In GE’s current CAP course, employees learn to participate in or lead a type of brainstorm designed to get everyone to participate. It’s simple and requires no budget. You draw a box on your whiteboard and each participant needs to contribute at least one post-it either inside or outside that box. Participants are then encouraged to talk about their contributed ideas. In an ideal situation, everyone should be standing up, presenting ideas to each other, arguing about and agreeing upon certain elements.

Rather than a box to represent “thinking in/out of the box”, my whiteboard had 3 nested boxes representing the three spaces of the museum that we had to plan. We invented a brand new museum (The Florence New Museum of Old Stuff, or FNMOS) and students easily determined what we should put in each space.

How did the brainstorm go, you ask? It’s interesting: American university students are so used to being passively lectured at that they were reluctant to get up, make noise, and argue with each other about their choices of what should go into the museum. This ought to have been a rowdy exercise, but ended up being them bouncing ideas at me. So different from your average office situation! (I don’t know about your office meetings but here in Italy we can get pretty loud.)

I wouldn’t write this off as a failure, though. They successfully determined, on their own, most of the important things that need to be considered when planning communication, display, flow and labeling inside the museum – they even came up with some surprising elements that I hadn’t thought about, like taking into consideration colour-blindness when planning signage. And they participated in a current business practise that they’re likely to encounter when they go to work in a few years, in a museum or in a multinational.


One Comment leave one →
  1. April 7, 2011 5:43 pm

    Thanks so much for your comment on my blog – and for sending me a link to this one! (And now you know where to find my secret place online – ha ha!) I really like your idea of a brainstorming session. I’ve tossed around some ideas for brainstorming sessions in a Renaissance class, but as of yet I haven’t found anything that I think is completely successful. (I’m going to keep trying, though!) Your group project sounds really interesting.

    I think that you are right: many American students are not used to actively participating in a undergraduate college classroom setting. Instead, they are used to having the professor lecture for the whole time. I hope that I can help these students to become more active participants. Like you implied, such participative skills will be helpful (and necessary!) in an office/work situation.

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