For any idea generation session, we are in search of creative thinkers. So how to find them? How to engage them for our goals? In my experience, this is closer to home than you think, because we are all creative however it is not that simple to harness.
We are all capable of looking at a challenge from different perspectives. But we are not creative the same way. We cannot come up with ideas based on the same impulses, the same way and in the same rhythm. This is why it is very important to consider the following factors – I call them the 6Ps of a successful innovation day:
1. (Well more like step 0): Preparation
Due diligence is the most crucial for such a day. It can take up as ‘little’ as two days but sometimes many months to prepare for an innovation day. Never underestimate the time for this phase – the success of your day depends on it.
The most important part of the preparation is to decide what topic you are going to work on. Defining the scope of the idea generation workshop is crucial as it influences the other steps in this 6P toolkit.
Timelines, script, Plan A and Plan B, sometimes Plan C are all outcomes of the proper preparation.
Leave the office!
Forget meeting rooms. Depending what the topic is that you are going to work on, look for something different and new as a location. Somewhere related to your topic or totally extraordinary. These days most commercial spaces can be rented for workshops – so, for example, why not to have a workshop about chocolates for gifting in a flower shop (while the rest of the shop stays open so you can observe potential customers)? Or discuss on-the-go convenience in a smaller group while sitting in your car?
Remote teams can make the innovation day a bit more complex to organise. In case you cannot have all the team members at the same location, visual connection through technology is your best friend. However, make sure to send the necessary material on time to further away locations and calculate with a bit more buffer when it comes to the timeline.
I cannot agree more with this statement from Stephen R. Covey. Invite people across your organisation: the best people are those who don’t have a daily connection to your topic. In a bigger entity, consider including colleagues from totally different units and departments as well. More importantly, if you are a smaller organisation, participants may be found outside of your company. Be brave with your invites, the ideas and your future business will be grateful!
Go with the flow
So by now, you have your topic, a great venue and a versatile team all lined up. What are you going to do with them? Create a day that will inspire and challenge the whole team. Support their creativity with matching activities and make sure that they are not having an easy time, as your secret juice for your day is the flow:
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” says Csikszentmihalyi.
Not every participant can verbalise their ideas, nor can all of them draw or write a poem about it – hence an activity is necessary which takes all of them to their creative zones, or a series of different thinking and delivery methods where everybody can find their best ways. Extroverts need to be able to find a common wavelength with the introverts and hierarchies should also not block the discussions.
There is more than sticky notes
When deciding what material to use, try to avoid or at least minimise the classical office technology and tools – a PlayDoh session or literally walking in the shoes of your customer will generate better and more results.
A facilitator is always great to design and lead the day – this person might come from inside your organisation or might be an external support. Best to avoid the project owner being the facilitator, or somebody very close to the topic so the ideation can fly, also into new directions!
6. Post Workshop
Equally important is the work that follows the innovation day – just to name a few: how do you process the ideas, how are they going to be ranked (on the day or afterwards) and how you keep the participating team informed about the development phases.
Sharing successes and learnings are vital for a healthy organisation – make sure this also happens as a follow-up to the innovation day. This way your colleagues would already be waiting for the invite for your next innovation days based on the experience they have had on the session and beyond it.
Alexandra is a WeWent provider. She guides teams on their collaboration journey and creates magic when it comes to innovation.
After 20 years in motivational roles at global companies, she founded her own company that specializes in team facilitation and innovation consulting. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences & Arts Lucerne and at the Business and Hotel Management School in Lucerne.
Alexandra has a Master of Sciences Degree, is a Proteus Alumni from the London Business School and has a CAS in Business Strategy from HSG. She is a certified facilitator of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method and a Design Thinking practitioner.