The Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation, or BCII for short, is a unique combined degree that integrates industry experiences, real-world projects and self-initiated proposals. It’s aim: develop graduates capable of addressing today’s wicked problems and untapped opportunities.
The first subject in BCII is the winter school subject – Problems to Possibilities, where students are exposed to over 50 different ways of being more creative and innovative. Take a look at what happened this year, on day two of the 10-day, nine-to-five, fast-tracked program. (Hint: it was a lot of fun!)
Tuesday 5 July, 2016
‘Mistake-ism’ and ‘Visualising Possibilities’
It’s a chilly July morning and 224 first-year students are filing into Building 11 for the second day of the BCII winter school. Yesterday they were introduced to the subject’s key concepts, their fellow students and their first assessment.
Today, the collaborative theatre is filled with students from 24 different degrees, opening their laptops and finishing their coffee as they prepare for the eight-hour day ahead.
When it comes to BCII, Course Director Dr Bem le Hunte says, “Every day is different. Every year and every class is different.”
The focus, today, is on visualisation and the idea that any graphic that organises meaningful information in a multi-dimensional spatial form can be used as a tool for imagination and for better communicating and understanding concepts.
Students are asked to get into groups to do an activity called ‘Using visual thinking to re-imagine the team of the future’. The aim is to use group work and visualisation techniques to explore a diverse set of ideas, then agree on one idea as a group which they believe will enable them to do better group work in future projects.
While some students know each other from their first semester of university, others are only just meeting. Architecture students are coming together with fashion designers; journalists meeting science students.
“I like how all the degrees can be brought together to produce one big idea,” says journalism student Chelsea Hetherington.
The students break for morning tea. The posters from the morning session are laid out at the front of the room for everyone to look at and see how others represented their thoughts.
Some posters make it easy to see what a group’s thoughts were, but others are more abstract – like the poster featuring a tree with branches leading to different symbols.
Subject coordinator and Senior Lecturer in accounting Dr Paul Brown explains the focus of the day’s activities: “We want to get them into a new state of being. We can learn technique, but BCII is also about creative practice.”
The students regroup, this time for a session on mistake-ism. “Mistakes drive learning,” says Brown.
Three academics, each from a different faculty at UTS, speak for 10 minutes about how mistakes can be a fundamental part of any scientist’s, journalist’s or fashion designer’s path to discovery. They reveal how Post-it notes, microwaves, LSD and Watergate could not have happened if, at some point, the people responsible for them hadn’t made mistakes.
Back to visualisation and everyone is asked to create a causal map to represent their own creative process.
The room is buzzing as students discuss how their plans differ – some used symbols, others pictures or words. Up the front, one civil engineering student found her creative process was a lot more scientific than her friend in interior design who preferred to use trial and error.
Third-year student Dominica Ingui says the course had changed the way she approached her core degree, public relations.
“It’s not hard to spot the BCII voices in my lectures and tutes, critically they see the world differently,” she says. “The network of genuinely cool and quirky people that I’ve met is just so special.”
At lunch, the conversations range from travel to politics to high school. Students are also discussing how they feel about the course.
“I’m starting to understand it more today,” says journalism student Mikayla Spicer. “Yesterday it was completely new, but I’m starting to get the hang of it now.”
Some are having trouble adapting to a different style of degree, but others, like journalism student Olivia Bilic, love it! “I like that they encourage you to be yourself,” she says.
“I saw on Four Corners last night that the job industry is changing a lot because of technology, and I think this degree will help with that. I’m also looking forward to meeting people from all walks of life.”
Lunch is followed by a session on mapping and visual literacy. There are at least seven lecturers in the theatre and the talking is divided between them.
The students are asked: “What is the difference between a map and a plan?”
“A plan you have to follow, a map you have more perspective,” shouts one student from the back of the theatre.
For the activity, students are given a map featuring a cluster of islands which they must use to show their journey through first semester in an exercise to encourage students to play with the use of visual metaphor and subversion.
Bilic turned her map into a map of Australia and the places she visited on a road trip. The Queensland town of Caloundra, a place where Bilic and her friend became lost, represents a point during the semester when she felt confused and overwhelmed.
On the other side of the room, engineering student Amartej Dhami split his map in two to represent the left and right side of his brain. The islands represent the dreams he is trying to get to – they are harder to reach than the places connected to the mainland.
Afternoon break. Coffee!
The last activity for the day comes as welcome relief. The aim of the task is to get students up and energised by designing an ‘algorithm’ to guide a walk.
Brown says, “This allows them to physically understand the notion of creative constraints. It also opens up students to thinking differently.”
The list can be as creative and original as the students want, but it must lead them on an adventure outside the building.
Bilic’s list reads:
- Start at Door 405
- Go to the first place you find where you can buy a cookie
- Ask the shop keeper what their favourite colour is
- Walk for two minutes
- Stop and look for something that colour
- Go to a location it reminds you of and sit for two minutes without looking at your phone.
Bilic heads out of Building 11 and enters three cafes, none of which sell cookies. She ends up at Subway where the woman behind the counter reveals her favourite colour is blue. “I knew it was! Her braces were blue,” says Bilic.
After walking for two minutes she spots a blue drink bottle. It reminds her of the gym so she heads to Central Park gym to sit down.
Back in the theatre, the day ends with a session about creativity, and how different fields and disciplines can converge to create brands like Apple. “It’s too easy to do the common,” says Lecturer in the School of Design Dr Gerhard Bachfischer. “One of the things you want to get used to is being uncomfortable.”
Before heading home, everyone is told to get a good night’s sleep; tomorrow is another long day with students set to use eight different practical techniques to help them think differently and to help them finalise their first (of three) assessments.