How to get the most from your innovation workshops

There is no pressure like forced innovation. You are about to be faced with the need to identify improvements across the business from a group of individuals. 

So, how are you going to make sure that innovation occurs?

It all comes down to your preparation beforehand.

Why are innovation workshops so popular?

Innovation workshops are an incredible way to generate new ideas, identify and resolve problems and foster teamwork within the business. Innovation is able to redefine product roadmaps, save the company money or increase retention amongst key staff.

What it can't do, is any of this without propoer facilitation.

Define the scope

Before you go about sending calendar invites, you need to ensure you have specific goals and a scope for your innovation workshop. What is it you want to achieve? Are there specific topics to focus on? What boundaries exist (if any!)? What is the measurement of success going to be for the cohort? 

Defining your scope will not only ensure your results are likely to be on-task, but you as the organiser will now be able to select the right attendees, and brief them accordingly.

Choose your Models

Depending on the goal you will need to leverage different models. Consider the goal of "increase the business revenue by 20% in 5 years". You might want to leveraging the Business Model Canvas from Strategyzer and McKinsey Three Horizons. These models will help you inform your particpants of the baseline, buy also provide a structure for you to innovate. 

A brainstorm may also involve different styles of brainstorming to generate growth ideas.

  • Writing Slip Method: write as many ideas on slips of paper, or post-its as possible across any category.
  • Card Method: write as many ideas on slips of paper in a specific category. Once time ends you can move to a new category.
  • SCAMPER: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify (maximise or minimise), Put (to other use), Eliminate, Rearrange

These brainstorms can be done through divergence (by yourself) or convergence (coming together as a group). Great brainstorms allow for both divergence and convergence to allow all individuals time and an environment that will match their most produtive self.

Prepare Participants and Material

Now you know the goals and models you are going to use, you now need to find the right people. You don't want a cohort that represents the same thinking. You want a diverse group of individuals and roles that can provide different context. Be wary of including direct line managers, as it will often result in juniors not willing to question results, or seniors wanting to stifle others.

Make sure you have enough material and spare material to not run out. Ensure pens are working, whiteboard markers glide smoothly and you have any paper material required. 

The innovation workshop venue

Knowing where to host your innovation workshop is a critical, yet often overlooked item. If you are planning to run a successful workshop where the staff are dedicated to what you are showing, you need to consider the environment. Running in the office is great if you have the space, however you will find people ducking off for urgent tasks, or constant interuptions. 

In many cases it is better to find a workshop venue that has the space and facilities you need. These can be found through a Google search, or by using a service like BizziEvents to recommend the most popular places. Often these venues will have flipcharts, whiteboards, breakout spaces and catering can be added if requested. 

Workshop Facilitation

Before the workshop commences you need to ensure you have touched base with all participants and given some information as to the topics. You want people to be aware of what is coming, but not so aware they come with a list of proposed solutions.

On the day of the workshop you need to be at the venue early for setup. Once arrived you can start off with an introduction and to talk about the goal and scope of the session. If you are wanting to run some ice breaker or creativity games you can run a 15 minute creative workshop

Set the ground rules of the day and ensure any off topic conversation is kept to a minimum. Time is valuable here and you are in charge.

If energy starts to get low, propose a short energy break, organise some coffees or call a tea break (particularly if your venue is providing unlimited tea and coffee).

Once you have lead the group through your brainstorm methods, ensure to summarise the event, decide on next steps and thank everyone for their time.

Innovation workshop follow ups

After the workshop you should be collating all the responses, highlighting any key learnings and sending a thank you to everyone involved. Sending out personalised thank-you notes individually is a great way to acknowledge the hard work these people put into the day. 

If any additional actions or meetings are required, ensure to document these and set a calendar reminder to follow up on the items yourself.

Feedback is always welcome and getting this can also help you reshape the next event. 

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