Middle Schoolers Learn Creative Problem Solving Through Frugal Innovation with Heilicher Parent Simone Ahuja

Middle Schoolers Learn Creative Problem Solving Through Frugal Innovation with Heilicher Parent Simone Ahuja
Dr. Simone Ahuja and son Niko

  Dr. Simone Ahuja and Niko


In May, Heilicher parent Dr. Simone Ahuja worked with our middle school students on the topic of food injustice. As noted on her website,, Simone is the CEO of Blood Orange, a global innovation strategy firm; co-developer of Jugaad Innovation, a frugal and flexible innovation methodology; a bestselling author and groundbreaking innovation researcher; and a top keynote speaker. She is also parent to Niko, now a rising second grader.
With the help of Niko, Simone led the sixth-eighth graders in an interactive session about “frugal innovation,” an approach to problem solving that isn’t dependent on resources (like money) or titles (like mayor or adult). She said frugal innovation can help us “leverage individual and community ingenuity and improvisation to solve problems (such as social justice and food deserts), rather than assuming we need traditional resources.”

A first step in the process is learning to reframe problems as opportunities. A part of this mindset shift means thinking about failures as a form of learning that helps us understand what to do next, rather than as something that didn’t work.
With this new mindset, the students worked on a real, global problem: how can food be kept cool without any electricity? In small groups, they brainstormed and put their creativity into action by making a physical model of their solution using simple materials like paper and pipe cleaners. 
Finally, they presented their solutions to the entire group. It was good practice in sharing concise explanations.

Middle school students present their solutions for keeping food cool without electricity.


“Kids feel empowered when they understand and experience their own problem solving abilities,” Simone said.
She added that the middle schoolers used innovation and design principles to show that everyone — even kids — can help address issues such as sustainability and food deserts.
The mindset and approach of frugal innovation is “inherently equitable and fosters inclusion,” she said. It supports a mindset that everyone has the ability to solve problems, and it emphasizes the value of diversity in innovation and creativity. 
Simone said: “Building a flexible mindset and practicing problem solving in this way helps build resilience, the ability to collaborate, and valuable problem-solving skills.”
Heilicher is fortunate to have a community of talented and knowledgeable people. If you have an expertise you would like to share with students, please contact the Institutional Advancement Team.

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Simone’s frugal innovations simulation was one of many great learning experiences Heilicher students had last year around the themes of food insecurity, food injustice, and sustainability. 
Heilicher started with Sustainable Soup Sunday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Creating and sharing a sustainable soup made from whatever ingredients one has available to them was inspired by Miss Rose McGee, the local innovator of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie who brings pies to communities hurt by tragedies.
Continuing throughout the year, students learned from vegan chef Thandisizwe Jackson-Nissan, a racial justice advocate, housing counselor, and Miss Black Minnesota 2018; Princess Haley Titus and Michelle Horovitz from Appetite for Change; and Chef Lachelle Cunningham of Healthy Roots Institute.

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