Let’s Ideate! NYC OpenIDEO community ideates for the End-of-Life Challenge

June 13, 2016

How do we even talk about Death, and more specifically re-imagine the end of life experience?

Death and the journey towards the end of life are often categorized and regarded very differently in various cultures, countries, and continents around the world. In effect, discussing it seems often at times too taboo or constraining for fear of ending one’s life is something many of us try to avoid. Yet, many of our lives’ most important marking moments are centered around the passing of a loved one. So how might we re-design the end-of-life experiences for ourselves and our loved ones?

Storytelling  session:

Last month, the NYC OpenIDEO Chapter encouraged its members to dive into exploring the the end of life journey by sharing stories. Lots of interesting, sensitive, and striking thoughts were generated. Karla Rohstein, a Columbia Faculty member (from the Columbia Death Lab) gave a stimulating talk about end of life rituals (e.g. burial) and particularly highlighted the negative repercussions on our environment. Not only do burials take up space, but even rituals of cremation have terrible environmental effects on our planets. She encouraged the members to think further of ways to re-invent customs in commemorating one’s death. (Find the previous blog post below!)

In turn, a breakout of smaller groups encouraged a more personal exchange of experiences and discussions. Some individuals lent themselves to tears, some were outraged by the normalizing of such sensitive conversation, and others observed in silence, while taking it all in.

We posted our member’s thoughts:



Ideation Jam

With the previous conversations as basis for people to start talking and building upon all the rich insights shared by OpenIDEO community members on the platform, we dove right into ideation. The members split into three different groups of five based on interest. The opportunity areas from OpenIDEO were great triggers to generate ideas.

Each group started by thinking of personas- who are the specific users) and stakeholders we are designing for?

Using their own knowledge and experience, as well research posts from OpenIDEO, each group chose to focus on different and  unique characters; for example, a young boy, in his mid 20s, studying abroad, away from his family, has just discovered that he has cancer. Another group chose to focus on a nurse, in her 30’s, mother of two who was working with children with terminal diseases.

Once they had defined the personas, we invited the teams to engage in a more in-depth analysis of what the personas do, think, feel, and hear in order to develop an Empathy Map.

In building onto our previous example, let’s think of this young boy’s pain points? What are his challenges? His gains? His losses? How can we best empathize with him to best design targeted solutions for him?

The empathy map (by highlighting the pain points and needs of each of our personas), allowed teams to define a specific and focused problem statement (or Point of View in d-School’s lingo). Writing the problem statement was one of the most difficult part of the conversation but an essential one to start a lively and fruitful brainstorming.

Once all those essential elements were decided on, the groups tackled the core of the ideation phase! From conservative more obvious thoughts to risky wild ideas, conversation and exchanges between members were non-stop!

Innovative ideas were eventually posted on the platform! Please read more about them here:

One of the groups decided to focus on the caretakers, in particular the nurses, realizing that they were key actors in the end-of-life experience. They focused in particular on nurses who they realized were emotionally and physically burdened in their work. They thought of how to better support them so that they had more energy to support patients and their families and friends: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/end-of-life/ideas/nurses-matter-too-setting-our-caretakers-up-for-meaningful-success

Here is another one about a robot/mentor system that guides terminally ill patients in finding comfort and dealing with their sickness:


We were impressed by the energy and passion at the Greenhouse. Groups kept talking and discussing their ideas after they all shared their ideas, and the official end of the session. Many discussed the possibility of exploring their ideas further. And in fact it happened.

An extra-ideation session took place last Sunday and a prototyping event is taking place on June 23rd - all thanks to one of our amazing attendee Lee Kim, a seasoned Design Thinker and transportation engineer who joined our group for the first time on June 13.We are excited to hear  and see what prototypes will emerge from the prototyping session. Stay tuned as we shared more in-depth development of the 3 group ideas!

NYC OpenIDEO Chapter