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Open Ideas in Science

June 3, 2017

This week we’ll be on our sixth month as a club. So far, we have had an amazing time together. Today, I’d like to share our past, present and future as a club.


I’ll start by sharing my journey before our club and how it led us where we are today. Beginning two years ago, I’ve been a part of an incredible speaking club Toastmasters. I’ll talk about reasons I joined and stay motivated long term. During my first visit, I experienced extreme enthusiasm. This was the primary reason I returned the 2nd, 3rd week, and so on. Once I become familiar with the process, I realized there was a learning process to public speaking. I experienced exponential growth the first year. There were two reasons that kept me going beyond a year; awards and inspiration from others. I was making progress toward (DTM) Distinguished Toastmaster.  Only one percent of 350,000 members obtain this award. It typically takes three years to achieve. The other reason I continued to attend Toastmasters is because of the community. I became friends with several people interested in public speaking, learning and development, and sharing stories. This club culture inspired me to create a new club with similar features. In addition, I had many new ideas to add to a new club that Toastmasters. For example, it would be great to create a community of practice in areas such as Science, Religion, Health, Music, and Art. Additionally, it would also be great to share our ideas and knowledge online.


I considered starting a new Toastmasters club, however, I am already a member of one and a Director of four other clubs. I believe it would be interesting to experiment with a new process by trying some ideas from Toastmasters, other clubs, and incorporate new ideas every week.


For example, the great values of Toastmasters is the supportive culture, creativity, and diversity. The reason for returning long term include learning and development, community, awards, and competition.


January this year, I started a new club in Data Science. I choose Data Science because I believe it’s an area for our community to grow. My friend Rohit Malshe inspired our group by presenting for the first eight sessions. He presented once a week for an hour on Saturday. Rohit did amazing presenting to new guests. He covered many areas and was very successful at articulating his content to everyone. In fact, many were very thrilled because the material he was presenting would cost thousands of dollars to learn at a University.


We expected we would get more people to volunteer to give more talks. However, this was not the case. I realized we needed more involvement. I started brainstorming a few new ideas. I considered broadening our audience, continue searching for more presenters, and consider a new time and location. The main feedback given was our talks were very specific that it was not always relative to everyone. Instead of only Data Science, we expanded to all areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. We established enough of a community, I was able get new presenters. As far as location, most of our guests were from many parts Portland. I also wanted to include coworkers from my workplace to provide a mix within our community. I surveyed our guests for alternate times we could try. Wednesday evening was a popular time among our group. I found a new location at our West Campus where our Digital department is located. The idea was to bring in more talent from the near the campus at the end of the workday. I was able to get presenters for the next eight weeks as we experimented with a new time and location.


After another eight weeks, we experienced the same challenges. We were unable to get guests to return every week. I continued to ask for feedback. The most important feedback, is we still need more involved to be enthusiastic about the club. This reiterates my experience of why I returned to Toastmasters the second, third, and beyond.


It’s time to reboot our club once again. As a third experiment, it’s time to try a new format. As part of my vocation, I contribute to an innovation lab. The model is crowdsourcing ideas. I have a passion for tapping into the wisdom of a crowd and sharing ideas openly. I also believe if you share your own idea, you will be passionate about making it better. I’ll share my idea today and then ask for the club to participate in an experiment.


I’d now like to share my vision for a successful club. I’ll start with values to create a growing culture. Enthusiasm, Open Ideas, and Science. Enthusiasm will bring guests back every week. Open ideas will create a supportive, creative, and diverse culture. Science will bring us together as a community. The value to our members is learning and development, community, and improving ideas.


Immediate involvement from guests is important to keep our engagement. After several weeks we can experiment with competitions and awards to keep members coming back longer term. We’ll continue to create creative content by trying this formula.


There are three types of learners. The first, typically prefer to learn on their own. The second type will learn on their own and from others. The third learn exclusively from others by connecting areas of knowledge. No matter what type of learner you are, we all get inspiration from ideas and ideas from others. For those who learn on their own, they can get validation about ideas. For those who learn from others, they can improve their idea.


In order to communicate and improve your idea you should be prepared to share your idea openly. Many people fear communicating their idea because they may consider someone else could negatively criticize or even steal it. Our culture can improve our thinking. If we provide feedback in a positive way, it will inspire new ideas. If we consider constructive feedback in a positive way, we can improve our ideas. Either way, we’re improving. If someone wanted to steal an idea, they would only have a portion of how to implement it. Many ideas are incomplete and need new ideas in order to succeed. The risk is far greater not to share and miss new ideas than not to share at all. Our club will inspire new ideas so you may grow and continue to innovate.


The key areas for our presenter to communicate will be a problem(s) you trying to solve, your idea, and your desired outcome. We’ll use my presentation as an example.


The problem I am trying to solve is creating a process for a new club to sustain a community. My idea is to experiment with a new format in which I’ll share in the next five minutes. The desired outcome is to create a fun environment in which guests will return every week.


Here is my idea for our new club format. I would like to propose to break our meeting into three parts. The first twenty minutes a presenter will share his/her idea. It is easily understandable if you present the problem, idea, and desired outcome.


The next thirty minutes will be engagement from the audience. We’ll start with first person next to the presenter. He or she will come up to the front of the room. The format will to start by describing what he/she understood and what they did not understand. They will also have an opportunity to clarify information. Then he/she will write at least one idea on the board for improvement. There is no limit for ideas but five minutes will be the max to allow everyone to participate. The minimum guideline is three minutes to provide good context and allow the audience member some room for creativity. The presenter will time each member of the audience.


Then the next person will come up to the front of the room and repeat the process. This process will continue until everyone has participated. Once everyone has participated this will conclude the feedback session and the presenter will come back to the front of the room.


The last ten minutes the presenter will perform three tasks. First, he or she will hold a voting session. The presenter will ask for a vote on each idea and mark how many votes each idea receives. He or she will continue down the list until all ideas are voted upon. The audience member cannot vote on their own idea. If there is a tie, the presenter may break the tie by explaining why they picked one idea over the other. The winning idea will get recognized for innovator of the week!


The second task the presenter will perform is committing to iterate his or her idea with the newly provided ideas and present within a month. The presenter will commit to a follow-up date. The group will incentivize the presenter to sign up again to improve for next time.


Lastly, the presenter will choose a preferred method how they will share material online. This will promote more sharing, more ideas, and inspiration from all.


Now you have heard my story with a problem, an idea, and desired outcome. We’ll run this idea through this experiment in next forty minutes of our session. For those who may not be interested in club process, I’d also like to share the Science involved my club planning. This involves building a website to advertise to our members. I’ll spend a few minutes sharing how I designed the website. This may give you more context to share ideas as part of our feedback session.


During my advertising of my club I used may tools including Meetup, Facebook, LinkedIn, Slack, Google Docs. I started thinking we’re going to need a product for our club to be successful. I started with a website to include information about our mission, our time/location, upcoming presentation signups, and a blog to share all of our content.


I reached out to our Facebook community and asked the easiest way to create a website for our club. Someone suggested I try a free site called Wix. I didn’t have a lot of time or resources to program a site. I looked into how to create a simple meetup site. Website creation has come a long way in twenty years.


I’d like to demo how easy it was to create a website from scratch. First, I picked a template for club meetups. This gave me the framework for a meetup such as time and location. I filled in the location and social media groups. Then, I found a widget for the meetup groups and added it to the main page. I found a Google Doc widget for upcoming presentations. I added a feedback form for a contact. Lastly, I added a blog to post all of our presentations.


The last step was to connect it to a domain name. I registered the domain name from I got the DNS name servers from Wix site and added them the to GoDaddy’s DNS servers. This way, when users type they would be directed to the Wix site. There is also a lot of SEO Search Engine Optimization features on Wix to boost your site to the top of Google. This website started as a central place everyone can get to access all of the needed content for our club.


Let’s recap the the next two sections of the meeting. I’ve shared with you my problem of getting guests to return. My idea to to implement a new format, and my outcome is to have people exciting to return every week.


Now we’ll go around the room. Each person will stand up at the front and describe what they understood and didn’t understand. You may ask clarifying questions. You must write down and least one idea on the board. You have 3-5 minutes minutes. Next, call on the person sitting next to you.


I’ll come back up for the last ten minutes of our meeting. I’ll perform voting on each idea. You may not vote for your own idea. If there is a tie, I’ll break the tie by choosing one and describing why I like it best. The winner is crowned innovator of the week.


I’ll commit to incorporating at least the winning idea to my presentation within a month. In addition, I’ll share all of the ideas online.


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