AESHM class encourages students to think outside the box

Kiana Roppe

Imagine walking into a classroom filled with balloons, pictures of various ads and the sound of music. Then imagine being asked to pick up an advertisement and dance the object shown in the picture. This was the first and unforgettable day of AESHM 222x: Creative Thinking and Problem Solving.

“What is normal?” said Elena Karpova, associate professor of apparel, events and hospitality management. “Creativity is not normal. It is unique.”

The ability to tackle a task from the best angle, no matter how unorthodox an idea may be, fosters innovation that makes an impact. Karpova said this is why she decided to teach a class about creative thinking at Iowa State.

“I believe that without creativity, a homogeneous society emerges where you are as successful as your neighbor, and he is as successful as his neighbor,” said Nichole Phillips, senior in apparel, merchandising and design production who is in the class.

To build creativity, Karpova teaches the class various techniques from the book “Thinkertoys” by Michael Michalko. She also helps students determine whether they are left-brained or right-brained and which strategies would best benefit them.

“We can look at any problem or issue from multiple perspectives,” Karpova said.

Karpova mainly teaches the class beyond the book by assigning in-class challenges, bringing in guest speakers who implement creative thinking in their line of work and assigning various projects. There are three main projects.

The first big project is titled “Flying Pens.” In teams, the students were challenged to buy a ballpoint pen, create a parachute for the pen and fly it from the second floor of the Howe Hall atrium, down to the first floor. The pen also had to land in a target area, which was the size of a paper folder.

The next project will be to design a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to boxes for Payless Shoe Source. The students will then pitch the idea to a team at Payless.

Then, the last project will be for the students to have a local business assign them a personal task. Once approved by Karpova, they will have the opportunity to implement their creative thinking in a real-life scenario and pitch their solution to the company. The companies may even implement the students’ ideas.

“This class pushes you every day to come up with new ideas and innovations for different challenges, and it’s fun to know you can come up with interesting solutions by using techniques you’ve learned in class,” said Charles Heidrick, junior in psychology.

Karpova brings in speakers from an array of experience. One of the latest speakers included two people who taught the class how to meditate. Karpova said the students felt more calm and relaxed at the end of class and expressed desire to further implement meditation in their lives.

To help students gauge their progress in the class, Karpova has the students submit weekly journal entries. She also had them take a creative thinking assessment that graded them on things such as fluency, originality and elaboration.

The assessment gave each student a grade and provided feedback. The students will have an opportunity to take the assessment again at the end of the semester to see how far they have come.

“Other students should definitely take this class,” Heidrick said. “It’s fun, has a great instructor and you learn real-life skills that are absolutely invaluable to the way you think.”