Creating Value of out Thin Air (or Rubber Bands)

Stanford has an ‘Entrepreneurship Week’ with a rather interesting ‘Innovation Tournament’.  A mundane object (this year’s being the rubber band) is the theme for groups to innovate and create value upon:

The 2008 Innovation Tournament is open to teams of Stanford students, as well as students around the world. Teams can be of any size. Your challenge is to create as much value as possible using rubber bands. You can use as many as you want, of any size, shape, or color. Value can be measured on any scale you choose. Remember, value comes from actually implementing your ideas and delivering results. To be successful, challenge assumptions, seize opportunities, be creative, and Make it Happen!

This, I guess is probably really the equivalent of the common ‘drop-an-egg-from-a-certain-height’ assignment that many design/engineering students get. With the minimal of materials (and usually time), teams have to be really creative, innovate and in this case, get the most amount of value (money?). Here’s the video of the winning team, who effectively leveraged the visuals of an bigger-and-bigger rubberband ball as a focal point in their donation appeal, and subsequently trying to harness the internet viral effect.

Would you’ve been able to pull off something like this (or even better!)? For good measures too, they did it in 24 hours.


I quite like the prizes in this competition too. In most university efforts, what you’d probably get is maybe a certain budget, with the top prizes invariably some variant of iPod or some other ‘young hip thing‘. An object of desire of some sort – easily dealt with. But for this tournament, all of these are experiences that you can’t buy (in part with the sponsorship from Deloitte) – “A day of sailing on the San Francisco Bay on a 36’ yacht provided and skippered by Club Nautique; Meet Deloitte’s Global leaders, hear Al Gore speak in person, and enjoy cocktails and dinner at Deloitte’s World Meeting at Stanford University; Box seats to Sharks game – Donated by Deloitte, etc”.

I’m sure Deloitte et al could’ve have it much ‘easier’ by signing a cheque for a certain amount to buy prizes – but putting effort into creating experiences and meeting the winners shows some measure of sincerity. Plus it’s a win-win situation for both parties – for the experienced directors to meet with the young upcomings – I’m sure the exchange would be both much more fruitful and remembered.


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