Creativity Greenhouse Bento Box

For the Creativity Greenhouse project (EPSRC funded EP/J006688/1), we created a physical resource box, the Creativity Greenhouse Bento Box, to support people in remote collaboration. This was triggered by participant feedback gathered throughout the iterative development of the Creativity Greenhouse, in which people come together virtually to first collaborate to generate ideas and then compete for funding resources. A summary of the initial phases of the project can be found here.

In our event, organised to run over a number of days, people spent long hours online which made them tired. Not being in the same place meant that people did not socialise enough, where the time to socialise is required to get to know each other properly, but also to ‘strike deals’. Some of the ideation activities normally used during a physical sandpit organised by the EPRSC did not translate well into distance collaboration. The Bento Box is an attempt at addressing all of these issues.

Published as: Holger Schnädelbach, Coughlan, Tim, Kefalidou Genovefa, McAuley Derek and Meese Rupert, Creativity Bento Box - A Physical Resource Pack to Support Interaction in Virtual Space, International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction published July 2015 online, forthcoming in print.

Bento Box

Each Creativity Bento box is roughly 40 cm x 25 cm x 10 cm with two main compartments. The boxes carry an individual quote on the topic of creativity for each participant. The smaller compartment holds the communication technology and return envelope for that technology. The larger compartment provides space for nine smaller boxes, which each containing a resource, a task and a selected tea.

When opening the box, participants find a sheet, stating the ‘rules of the box’. The rules stated that internal boxes are to be opened one by one during the event; it asks participants to not mix up the contents of the boxes. Finally, it states that box 8 is not to be opened under any circumstances unless instructed during the event.

The Creativity Greenhous Bento Box - Complete
The Creativity Greenhous Bento Box - Rules of the Box

Individual Boxes

Box 1 is the welcome box. It contains a welcome message about the boxes’ purpose, the tea strainer to go with the tea in the other boxes and the first task. The welcome messages is: ‘Welcome. The Boxes contain the following items which may or may not be used during the process: 1. Tool to help you develop your ideas. 2. Tasks to help stimulate thinking. 3. Tea from around the world for your pleasure, please us the strainer provided. 4. The boxes can also be use as building blocks and can be written on with a ‘white board marker’. As the message above already suggested to participants, the use of the boxes is completely flexible. Box 2 adds some crayons to use for scribbling down ideas, yet more tea and the following task: ‘Find something Funny: Your task is to leave your desk to go outside and photograph something you find funny.’

As another example, Box 6 contains some Octons that people could use to make things with. And, the following task: ‘Find something from another part of the world: Leave the building and find something from a country that you are not currently in. Please exclude items that can be bought from a shop.’  As already mentioned, there were clear instructions not to open box 8, which only contained a link to a web page. The linked page simply displays the message: ‘You shouldn’t have! (Subtly announce that you have seen this message to other participants and discover who has opened the box with you)’. This was introduced to get people thinking about adherence to event rules and hopefully get people to talk about their personal approach to following rules.

The Creativity Greenhous Bento Box - Box 1
The Creativity Greenhous Bento Box - Box 2

Box 3

Box 2

The Creativity Greenhouse Bento Box was created in a collaboration between the Mixed Reality Laboratory (School of Computer Science, University of Nottingham), the Horizon Institute (University of Nottingham), the EPSRC and Joff+Ollie design agency. Please contact Holger Schnädelbach, if you would like to find out more about the Creativity Greenhouse Bento Box.

The Creativity Greenhous Bento Box - Box 6
The Creativity Greenhous Bento Box - Box 8

The original EPSRC Ideas Factory Sandpit is directly inspired by the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process. The same structure derived from CPS has then been applied to the Creativity Greenhouse project. We have found that the Creativity Greenhouse Bento box supported people socialising very well and it was useful during ideation. At present, we are preparing a research article about the full evaluation of the Creativity Greenhouse Bento Box.

Box 6

Box 8

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