What are Business Brainstorms?

Commerce drives our economy and nearly all aspects of our lives. In addition to paying our utility bills and buying groceries, most people spend money on hobbies and activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, boating, hunting, fishing, hiking, climbing, or other outdoors activities. 
These activities involve being outdoors, which link people to nature, and so they present opportunities for learning and teaching about ecology. 

Business brainstorms (BBs) are opportunities for scientists to explore sales outlets with ‘new eyes.’  In a BB, Research Ambassador staff and scientists walk through a sales outlet and discuss how to connect ecological principles to tags, signs, or other means that customers may interact with products.  They also talk to patrons of the business to informally survey what areas of science they may find interesting, or talk with staff of the outlet to learn about shopping habits of customers, trends in the industry, and industry groups.

Business Brainstorms may lead to ideas of industry conferences scientists could attend to connect with manufacturers and larger sales outlets.  They may lead to an understanding of community groups and recreational clubs where scientists could present their work, and the relevance of their work.  They may lead to ideas of magazines and publications which recreational audiences may read.

How we did it

Research Ambassador staff drew upon local connections and their knowledge of the business community of Olympia. In some cases, they made “cold calls” to establish a connection and set up a meeting prior to the visit. In other cases, they simply showed up at the store or business and began talking to sales people.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned

Business Brainstorms demonstrate that opening one door may by extension open many more doors.  By stopping by a business and engaging staff or customers, a scientist can learn of a local boating club that hosts guest presenters once a month, they may learn of a special event the business itself hosts, and they may learn of a magazine that skiers or snowboarders often read.

Scientists are scientists, but they are often also mothers, fathers, skiers, boaters, and participants in their own local communities.  Often the best connections are local – and available within our own social sphere.  A scientist with a passion for skiing, who studies climate change, has a ready-built audience of friends and skiing enthusiasts who have motivation (less snow in different climates) to learn more about climate change. 

Further, BBs offer a full spectrum of commitment and involvement.  A few minutes in a store could offer new research questions.  A few hours of preparation could lead to guest presentations or publication in popular media outlets.  A few months, , could offer the opportunity to market a new ecologically-minded product to a specialized audience.

Who Participated

Research Ambassador Fellow Matthew Hurteau has a passion for skiing, and studies climate change mitigation.  With Nalini Nadkarni, Matt explored a local outdoor recreation store, observed advertising space that could incorporate thematic science messages, and began to think about potential ways to incorporate messages about climate change effects into ski lift tickets and ski resort venues.  Finally, Matt began looking at the skiing magazines he reads and considering how he could write a piece that explained climate change effects in an intriguing way to that particular audience.

Research Ambassador Fellow Molly Mehling is a young mother. As she walked the aisles of a toy store, she began considering the ways that toys could teach a child about aquatic macroinvertebrates, or signs warning about lead content could actually explain why led is harmful.