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Breaking Bread, Breaking Ice: Toasting to Innovative Design in Mental Health Services

Icebreakers are great tools that can be used to facilitate connection, creative thinking, and to set the stage for what’s to come within a meeting - especially when the activity is connected to the content of the meeting. 


Recently, Audra was leading a collaborative design thinking workshop that required the group to reimagine how children, youth and families could better access and move through local mental health services. As an icebreaker, Audra borrowed an activity from designer and author Tom Wujec that can be used to solve what he calls wicked problems. To kick it off, group participants were asked to draw the process of making toast. 


Wait, what? 


Sounds strange, but it turns out that drawing toast highlighted some key components and similarities that parallel how we might approach the redesign of a service, program or system which was the purpose of our meeting. 





Can you see the similarities and differences in these depictions of toast making that the group came up with? The similarities show us that all participants approached the activity the same way by creating what Tom describes as “nodes”- the tangible objects, and “links”- what connects the tangibles together to form a full system model. The differences in the drawings are interesting too. We can see that some pictures had more of a focus on the person’s experience making the toast, others focused on detailed steps with the toaster, and there was variation on when the toast making actually starts (e.g. is it by taking the bread out of the cupboard, cutting the bread, or the moment it goes into the toaster?). These differences highlight that all group members have different perspectives that should be considered when thinking through larger actual complex changes and improvements in service delivery. 


This icebreaker was fun and it set the stage for the work that came next: planning the client journey of access to and through service and thinking through those “nodes”, “links” and different perspectives that would inform the design.


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