Feeling Stuck? Try This Problem-Solving Exercise ASAP

We all have goals—large and small, for ourselves and for the world. But when you really want to try, learn, or change something, it’s knowing where to start that’s the hardest. Our new project, a collaboration with Girls Inc. of Orange County, helps you do that. We call it The Popcorn Project.

When you have a goal ahead of you, what do you need to break through? Some perspective and actionable steps. The Popcorn Project is a simple exercise we created to help you get both

How It Works

All you need is a pen and Post-its, some friends/collaborators, and a commitment bring fresh ideas to the table.

Step 1: Grab a stack of Post-its.

popcorn project brainstorm 2

Step 2: Decide on a prompt (e.g., “I want to ____”).

the popcorn project brainstorm exercise

 

Step 3: Write your goal on a Post-it and pass to the right or left.

popcorn project brainstorm 2

Step 4: Cover the goal you receive with a blank Post-it, and write down one step you would take to achieve it.

popcorn project brainstorm

Step 5: Pass the stack, and repeat as each person adds their suggestion (only looking at the Post-it on top).

the popcorn project brainstorm exercise

Step 6: By the time your original goal comes back to you, you can unpack your stack of suggestions and tips. Then get started on them!

the popcorn project brainstorm

The Popcorn Project is a game and a bit of a reveal since you don’t get to see the original goal when you respond to the Post-it in front of you. The coolest part is the journey from daunting goal to encouraging next steps.  

Why We Made The Popcorn Project

We are always looking for opportunities to put our storytelling skills to use, especially when we have a chance to help our local community. We admire the work of Girls Inc. of Orange County, an organization that coaches girls (kindergarten to 18 years old) to be strong, smart, and bold through STEM-based initiatives, so we wanted to collaborate on a passion project to further their cause.

The goal was to do something meaningful for our team and our neighbors: a project that would involve our community, foster a sense of empowerment, and give us the chance to experiment with illustration style, motion, and format. After meeting with the Girls Inc. team (who was 100% on board), we were given the creative freedom to pitch them, well, anything.

The Idea

We spent hours sharing inspiration links and discussing how we could create something to help achieve a sense of “revelation,” a moment of self-discovery, which is key to building confidence. We also wanted it to be actionable and practical.

To achieve a goal, you need inspiration, focus, and support. And so, we came up with a creative exercise to provide that. The idea was inspired by our favorite parts of the brainstorming process: creative ideation in a community setting. But because this project was about empowering individuals, it needed to have a personal element. And so, The Popcorn Project was born.

the popcorn project brainstorm exercise

We tested our concept until stacks of Post-its littered our desks, and we bribed teammates with pizza, bagels, coffee, and whiskey to get their feedback. That in-house testing brought us to another exciting revelation. While the project was first intended to help school-age girls, we realized it could work for everyone after we tested it with a group of 20-something male developers (thanks to the whiskey bribe).

The Execution

To bring the project to life, we created a landing page to give step-by-step directions on how to play. Through color, animation (we especially love the Post-its scroll effect), and simple directions, we created the site to be a useful, shareable tool.

Our core group (two designers and a producer) was part of every phase, from initial brainstorm to design, and other members of the C5 family—from the communications team to founders—weighed in and shared guidance along the way.

The True Test

The ultimate test came when we invited the Girls Inc. Teen Leadership Council—a group of six high school girls—to our office. First we chatted about what a creative agency does, then we asked them to try our activity to see if it worked.

As the girls shared their goals and responded to their peers, we were blown away by their poise, enthusiasm, and openness. Often, the girl who was last to respond to a goal (and could only see the most recent response on top) shared the step that was most insightful.

“I want to try things I’d be afraid to do” led to “Make mistakes and learn from them.”

“I want to be a philanthropist” led to “Don’t second guess helping someone out when they are in need.”

There are so few chances in our busy, technology-fueled lives to sit down with a pen and really reflect on what we want to do. With this project we invite you to be open—with friends, with colleagues, and with yourself.

We hope you’ll try The Popcorn Project, share it, and let us know how it worked for you.

For more of our passion projects:

  • Explore our People For Periods interactive infographic, which aims to destigmatize menstruation. 
  • Check out our Beyond the Beat interactive infographic, a celebration of African-American musical history. 
  • Play Groove Glider, our very first video game.