In this next 9x9x25 post, I am going to share my thoughts on the impossible. Well, perhaps a more specific example, and how thinking outside the box and encourage students creativity. In a recent class we discussed a high dimensional problem (if you’re interested, you can read more about it here). Since we can only visualize three dimensions, and the four dimensional video we showed in class made some students queasy, we decided to settle on something fun for our in-class activity.

The class, working on four bristol boards with a set of markers each, set out to draw what multidimensional space is in the netflix context. Now since this is actually impossible, they each chose a different representation of how the data is stored in database, the flow of information, or the way in which it is connected. The drawings were all interested, and while one did use an idea we talked about in class (star or snowflake schematics as a representation) the others were interesting interpretations. As we walked out of class, one of the students remarked that this was a lot like drawing a scene from the movie Inception. I think this was a great learning experience for the students and was an interesting way to think outside the box.

This leads to the bigger question: How else can we instill a culture of thinking outside the box? In my program, the answer is not always obvious. In fact, as analysts, there may not even be an answer, but their job is to find the best data, perform an analysis, and recommend a course of action based on their judgement. Sometimes this is very difficult and may be motivated by many things. In a recent class project, students gave a wide variety of explanations as to why they decided to invest a particular way. From social investment to bucking the trend, each team came up with interesting ways to think outside of the box and consider the unexpected. I think this is a reflection of what real life is like. When there is no single right answer, interesting things start happening with the right tools and a creative imagination.

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