Prototypes, Collaborative Creativity, and The Impact of COVID on Child Development with Shivani Lamba, Founder at Brightlobe

We chatted to Shivani about her background and the hurdles she’s overcome to build Brightlobe as part of our industry series; The Inside Yak. Here are three key takeaways:

Shivani Lamba started out as a neuroscience researcher at the National Institute of Health. Heading into work, she would often notice kids who were undergoing chemotherapy and wondered about the long-term outcomes of their prolonged hospitalisation. “Is there a way to mitigate such impacts to ensure that they can live their lives to the best of their ability?”

From neuroscience research, she made an unconventional switch to software engineering focusing on educational games. “I’ve always been interested in the intersection between entertainment, education, and healthcare.” And so, the seeds of Brightlobe were planted.

Shivani founded Brightlobe with the vision of supporting healthy neurodevelopment in kids. Their mission is to make “games that are backed by clinical research to help parents, clinicians, and other caregivers understand how children are growing across four developmental domains: cognition, language, motor skills, and social-emotional skills.” Their vision is to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential. 

We chatted to Shivani about her background and the hurdles she’s overcome to build Brightlobe as part of our industry series; The Inside Yak. Here are three key takeaways:

Always Consider the User’s Experience

Too often, the healthcare industry is concerned about how regularly kids interact with software or games, Shivani explains. However, “what they miss is the fact that you really have to consider the child’s experience of that game.” To do this, Brightlobe asks, “what type of gameplay mechanics are we integrating into the system? Are they ethical? How are kids incentivised?” 

In most businesses, UX plays a critical role in attracting and maintaining a customer base. For a company like Brightlobe, their users’ experience feeds into how well they are achieving their goal of creating “a nourishing narrative-driven experience for children.”

To ensure they have the best experience possible, Brightlobe invests time into the quality of the narrative of their games. Shivani explains that “storytelling, of course, is fundamental to literacy but also just critical thinking and development in terms of a child’s broader personality and psychological wellness.” 

In addition, Brightlobe’s driving force is helping parents best support their child’s neurodevelopment. When looking through Google search results, parents may often stumble upon “a so-called expert, that may not have the credentials that they should” offering generic advice. With that in mind, Shivani’s goal is “for parents all across the world to have access to information that is scientifically rigorous.”

By always considering their user’s experience, Brightlobe can make sure caregivers “have easy access to insights and curated personalised information to help them best support their children.”

The Impact of COVID on Child Development

The ramifications of COVID-19 have touched us all. However, it may have affected kids most of all. This past year “has been an incredibly significant moment in history as it pertains to child development as we’ve never seen so many children stay at home and away from school for such a prolonged period”, Shivani explains. 

One of Brightlobe’s clinical collaborators published a study that looked at “prolonged hospitalisation and the impact of a child being out of school on their long-term neurodevelopment.”

The data was shocking. Two to four weeks of being away from school have a profound impact on a child’s neurodevelopment. “When you consider what we’ve asked of children as a result of coronavirus, you can see what the long-term ramifications of that might be.”

Shivani tells us that the data is starting to reveal the challenges, issues, and profound impact of COVID-19 on child development. With thousands of millions of children undergoing the same phenomenon, it is undeniably concerning. 

“Now more than ever, there’s a real need for us to pay attention to neurodevelopment. How a child is developing in terms of brain development informs their capacity to engage meaningfully in school, in their relationships, in every dimension of their lives,” Shivani explains.

Brightlobe is building all-important tools to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic and have also developed fun, mindfulness games to support their wellbeing.

Maintaining Collaborative Creativity During the Pandemic 

Like the rest of us, Brightlobe’s team went from working in close quarters where laidback office conversations “fuelled creativity and imagination that became so obvious in the work that we were producing” to isolated alone at home where “collaboration became challenging”. 

The reality is that when working remotely, we can’t replicate the idea-generating office conversations. However, Shivani discusses how “working from home has its obvious benefits for wellbeing, and people being able to pursue their pursuits with a little bit of extra time, for instance. So I think there was a trade-off.”  

But, how exactly do we maintain collaborative creativity when working remotely? Shivani says “one thing that I’ve learned is that you have to be in constant communication with specifically the more creative-minded people in the team. That constant feedback is necessary.”

No matter how many of us rely on Slack, fruitful conversations can’t sprout from a quick message. “You need to force yourself to have longer conversations about work you’re producing or ideas that you’re having.” 

Shivani thinks that “what Slack does is it attenuates conversations. People tend to obviously keep it brief on Slack, and I think that doesn’t lend itself well to creativity because creativity is all about just shooting the breeze.” We’ve all had conversations that deviate in all sorts of directions, yet a brilliant idea can suddenly spark. Can the same ever happen from a few lines on Slack? 

In turn, besides Zoom, Shivani’s team has scheduled time to play online games together. “This has been brilliant for team-building, but I also think there’s a component that does nourish creativity when it’s difficult to foster that.” 

The pandemic has reminded us all of the importance of sharing, collaborating, and the brilliant ideas that can sprout from that.

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