Teaching people to think creatively may feel like a freeform exercise, and it can be. But even the loosest session will benefit from adherence to some best practices. Here’s how to ensure any innovation workshop is both creative and productive.
Decide The Goals First
Ideally, before everyone takes a seat, they should know what the goal of the workshop is. Locking in a goal beforehand will give the session a useful overall focus, even when you’re in the early stages of innovation. It will also get the creativity of each attendee working; chewing over a goal for a day or two means the thinking starts much earlier.
Appoint A Facilitator
Someone needs to run the workshop, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be you. A facilitator is someone who maintains the overall structure of the workshop, who runs the activities that are necessary, and who pulls out both a pen and paper to take notes and a stopwatch to keep people on target. Look for someone who embraces this role and can roll with structural changes as needed.
Choose The Right Stakeholders
Another important factor is a mix of stakeholders. Even for internal discussions, it shouldn’t be just one department in the room. This limits perspectives and it may result in missing crucial information; if there’s a challenge of which only one department might be aware, you need that department in the room.
Pick A Good Space
When holding the workshop, pick a space that has everything you need; equipment, seating, and so on. It should have enough room so everyone can be comfortable, but it should also lack distractions so everyone stays fully engaged. If you keep finding your team pulled away in the office, book a function room or a hotel conference room.
Choose Some Questions
There are all sorts of ways to start the creative process, and one effective way is to start with a couple of questions tied to your goals. There are several ways to design these questions. One way is to ask a few “What if” questions. For example, “What if we lost our biggest client tomorrow?” or “What if one of our biggest competitors suddenly exits the industry?”
Another approach is a “How could we” question. Phrase your goals in the sense of how they might be achieved. “How might we double the revenue from sales in the space of a year?” “How might we launch an industry-leading podcast?”
Break The Ice
Launch with a task or game that gets everyone to relax. This can be as simple as everyone introducing themselves with something the group doesn’t know about them, or it can be a game that gets people talking. Don’t forget you can provide other icebreakers, like bringing people together for a meal.
Take Notes And Formulate Next Steps
Finally, take notes, or record, throughout the meeting and end by asking what some concrete next steps should be. That not only ends the meeting on an upbeat note, but it’ll help you keep track of the results and follow up with the rest of the team. Be sure to include them on your follow-up messages, as appropriate.
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