Charlotte Rush18 June 2018

How to become a champion at running innovation workshops

I spent last weekend attending two days of training (Yes, that’s right – both Saturday AND Sunday!). After spending the last couple of years focused primarily on running innovation workshops, I was surprised to find that I was sitting in the role of ‘workshop participant’ with a fresh pair of eyes – and when I say fresh, I mean critical.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The focus of this workshop was not innovation. And they embedded some great exercises throughout the day to encourage engagement (not to mention the chocolate that was handed out after lunch). But, when it comes to innovation workshops and you’re faced with a collection of unpredictable humans experiencing any number of distractions such as sleep deprivation, an endless stream of emails, or an impending deadline, what do you need to remember to ensure that you aren’t facilitating a ‘waste of time’ workshop?

First things first – let’s get clear on what exactly we are trying to achieve in running a workshop. The purpose of a workshop is to unleash the potential of all brains in the room to achieve the desired outcomes. So, whilst you may have been clear on what you were trying to achieve when you ran your last workshop (for example, generate ideas to solve a particular problem), how much thought did you put into how you would unleash the potential of all brains in the room?

If your answer is ‘Not much at all!’, then not to worry – here are three tips to radically improve the outcomes for your next innovation workshop:

1. Provide crystal clear clarity and structure

Innovation is a confusing enough concept for most people, so build structure and clarity into your workshop to guide your participants’ thinking processes. This is as simple as writing up an agenda (and sticking to it!), providing participants with a roadmap for the session and communicating to participants as you move through each milestone (this is where your slides will be a useful tool). Whilst activities are seen as good opportunities to ‘break up’ content and engage participants, be sure to only include activities that support participants’ learning. There should be a clear link between each activity and the content that has just preceded it, with the focus on allowing participants to experience the learning first hand.

2. Get the optimal group of people together

We generally select participants out of habit, for example by choosing those who are in the right place, at the right time, or people from only one functional area of the business. However, every workshop is different and every group needs to be personally created. When selecting participants, aim for diversity across the following dimensions; demographics (sex, age), functional, knowledge, experiential and fundamental (values and beliefs). Secondly, select individuals who have the appropriate personality profile. Desirable traits in the context of innovation workshops are openness to experience, tolerance of ambiguity, positive mood and assertiveness. Finally, consider inviting ‘externals’ to your session to really boost the diversity of your group.

3. Be sure to utilise brains prior to the workshop 

You may only have two hours to run your workshop, so why not utilise participants’ brain power before your session to optimise your results. We know from research that our unconscious mind is a brilliant problem solver. If you set it a problem to solve, and then turn your attention elsewhere, your unconscious mind is very good at working away in the background and producing great results. So, send the problem that you are looking to solve in your innovation workshop to participants one week before the session and instruct them to carry a notepad around with them everywhere they go in that week before. Advise them to capture any ideas that come to them to solve that problem and bring them to the workshop, ready to share with the group.

These are three tips to start you on your journey of unleashing the potential of every brain in your innovation workshops. If you are looking for advanced innovation facilitation techniques, why not join us at Inventium’s annual Facilitator Training program?

Throughout this training, we will be covering the following:

  • the fundamental tools used in Inventium’s facilitation methodology
  • working with your ‘client’ to identify the problem/opportunity
  • preparing stimulus thoroughly and easily
  • engaging workshop participants
  • running the workshop confidently and effectively.

Sound good? Get in touch with me here to secure your spot now!

And enjoy the rest of your week!



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