Liberating Ideas

Marshmallow Minds was founded and incorporated on March 4th, 2016 with a mission to inspire innovation through Design Thinking and STE(A)M education and build Creative Confidence in young minds between grades K-8 of all abilities. At the start, neither the process of getting there, nor the outcome was clear. But the need for a better early education experience was clear. Since 2016, Marshmallow Minds has delivered quality Design Thinking and STE(A)M programs to thousands of students in public schools in Santa Clara County. As we complete 3 years, we would like to celebrate all the liberating ideas that helped in the transformation of the organization!

I asked myself every single day,  “How are you feeling about going to work today? Are you excited at the prospect of solving the customer problems that you can hardly empathize with?”. Although I didn’t get great responses, I didn’t see any other alternatives. So, I started to fall in love with technologies and solutions.

In 2005, I hesitantly joined Intuit, a financial software company, with little clue on what this company does. Soon, I was exposed to tools that enabled me to get out behind my desk and talk to customers which soon unlocked new ideas and helped me see problems in a new light. I participated in many ideation sessions with our customers and partners. I was able to shadow our customers and learn how their daily life is, what tools they use and the problems they face. Soon I fell in love with their problems.

The design for delight (Intuit's take on Design Thinking that involves Empathy, Go Broad to Go Narrow and Rapid Experiments) and Lean startup methodologies (Build — Measure — Learn) provided guidance, clear structure, and enabled freedom to bring my ideas to life quickly.

A few years later, I started volunteering as part of the project cornerstone program at my son’s elementary school. As part of the project cornerstone program, I read specially selected books and lead activities that help teach young kids to develop skills to handle physical, verbal, relational and digital bullying and to stand up for others in need. I developed a passion for teaching and learned to empathize with others through this process. I soon realized that we are headed into a world where kids are being a container of mere knowledge rather than being someone who can be a creative designer of the future. Making these young kids learn the allegedly ‘one correct answer’ by heart by following a knowledge-driven curriculum through a ‘one size fits all’ teaching approach’, leads to sucking the creativity out of them.

Recently, I was offered an opportunity to be part of Marshmallow Minds to make a small dent through sharing the design thinking experiences I have been exposed to at work in order to benefit students of all abilities, educators, and parents. I also hope to apply my learnings from this experience back to the corporate world. As a Board Of Director at Marshmallow Minds, I am excited to bridge my passion and my profession and promote and preach the benefits of design thinking and build creative confidence in young minds.

(Posting by
Nirmala Ranganathan, Treasurer, Board of Directors, Marshmallow Minds)