The University of Minnesota has a new Toy Product Design program, guided in part by twentysomething Barry Kudrowitz, a new addition to the teaching staff. The unusual Kudrowitz taught the same class at M.I.T., studied theme park design and forewent culinary school to get a masters in Mechanical Engineering; somewhere in between these things he sang in a "gypsy pirate rock band," wrote children's books, and had toy designs appear in Hasbro's lineup and on "The Martha Stewart Show."
If it's not obvious from his background alone that Kudrowitz is a different thinker, a Minnesota local newspaper's article on the guy brings it to light:
At one of the first classes, devoted to idea generation, Kudrowitz talked about research showing that the area in the brain that lights up with an innovative idea is the same one that gets excited when you get the punch line to a joke. "I believe all innovation is funny at some point in time," he said. "Those silly ideas, the ones you think are funny, those are going to be the innovative products in the future." Kudrowitz also told the class that the best way to come up with a good idea is to have a lot of bad ideas. So when brainstorming, defer judgment. Just crank out ideas.
He cited research that says higher levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine are associated with the ability to see the off-the-wall connections that produce good ideas.
He invited everyone in the class to dig into the dopamine enhancers he left at each table: bags of candy. Then he had groups brainstorm. The theme: dangerous toys. Lead plushies, nitroglycerine snow globes, extreme Jenga, barbed wire jump ropes and that old reliable, the board with a nail in it, came up.
Check out Kudrowitz's long, illustrious, and rather bizarre bio here. Hard to believe the guy's just 28.