This is a really simple one to help you get better results from idea workshops.
If you are looking for radical, potentially disruptive ideas (rather than “this broke, any ideas how we can stop if happening again”) you can greatly increase your chances by taking the time and effort to disrupt the status-quo of how you run meetings and workshops. Changing the location, roles, participants (ideally involve an outsider as facilitator) and approach to the meeting can make a profound difference.
There’s tonnes of evidence that the environment can make a big impact on creativity so look for somewhere more inspiring and engaging free of distractions from business as usual (BaU). btw. booking a sterile boardroom at the local hotel for your idea workshop isn’t necessarily that much better than using the sterile boardroom at the office! Think more radically!
Science and technology museums often rent space. As might your local art of tech University. Your brain is affected by such triggering factors and will possibly change track in new surroundings. Even simpler, go outside! Many of my best (and potentially most courageous ideas) were born in the pub! Indeed some of the ideas that changed the course of science and modern society were born in coffee shops and bars (if you haven’t already seen it, this is a brilliant video about where good ideas come from, http://youtu.be/NugRZGDbPFU). Running an idea workshops in your local pub might seem a little strange (and possibly inhibit participation), but you might also consider
Here’s a brilliant idea workshop game. The ideas below came from a group of staff in a Bank in London – one of our new clients.
I asked them to imagine they worked for a business that made plastic bin-liners (something so far away from banking) and set them a Challenge to come up with ideas for new products or product extensions to increase margin.
To help them out, I then gave them the following hints as to where to find ideas;
– Think of the purpose rather than the product (what’s the purpose of the bin liner and has that purposed changed since the introduction of wheely bins)
– What problems might we, as consumers have that can be solved?
– Can we add value by changing the customer experience?
– Whether we differentiate by challenging convention (the materials used / colour / shape and size)
They were in groups of 5 per table and had 20 minutes to choose one of the approaches above and come up with some ideas. Then one person took their ideas to a different group and ‘pitched’ the ideas and sought feedback, comments and questions in order to build on some of the ideas. After another 10 minutes a different person took those ideas to the next group who were asked to rate the ideas in order that we had a ‘sifted’ and ‘shaped’ list of ideas. The last step was for them to pitch the highest rated, most complete idea to the rest of the groups. It’s essentially the process that idea management software tools support, but in real-time.
The range and diversity of ideas we got was brilliant. Here are some of the highlights. You can click on these to see more about them.
Brilliant Idea #69. Coloured / themed waste paper bin liners. This is a variation of the small bin liners that you might use to line a waste paper bin in a home, bathroom, office or bedroom that break the normal convention of being plain white. More
Brilliant Idea #70. Bin liners that have a insect repellant coating to deter flies from your bin in the summer months. More
Brilliant Idea #71. An insert wrapped into the roll of bin liners saying there is only 5 more bags left so you know to buy some more. More
Brilliant Idea #72. A bag that bio-degrades quicker than normal bin liners. More
Brilliant Idea #73. To address the problem of loading bags into the bin, 25 bags come in a pack, but loaded into each other so when you first load the bin with a bag you are actually putting 25 bags into the bin. When one is full you pull it out but the other 24 bags are still in there. More
Brilliant Idea #74. Organic re-usable bin liner so you take it out and empty into the wheely bin. This reduces the mount of plastic in the landfill because you only need to replace it every ten or so times. More
Brilliant Idea #75. A bin material that absorbs methane so as to reduce the smell from the bin. More
These were the winners. There were probably 10 times as many captured. The whole event took no more than 30 minutes. Brilliant.
I did some work with a new client which offered some fascinating insights into what is required to create the right conditions to stimulate innovation and creativity in the workplace.
I had the opportunity to launch the initiative at our new customer’s conference – their top 100 managers were in a luxurious hotel in Scotland for two days. Innovation was a key theme.
I did a short presentation to follow-up on the keynote from a Board Director and introduced the task which was to use the TalkFreely software to respond to some strategic challenges with ideas, comments and votes. I then showed them how to do it. Every table of 10 people had an ipad and instructions on how to use their smartphones or laptops and asked them to enter, comment and rate some of the existing ideas before the next session the following morning.
Before I reveal the results, I need to introduce a model that we use to explain what we call the Adoption Challenge.
The graph above basically says that if you offer people the option of doing their day job AND participating in idea sharing or just do their day job, most people will just do what they are paid to do and adoption is likely to be low, ie, most people will defer and do nothing (none), some people will View, a much smaller number will Rate, an even smaller number will comment and very few will offer ideas. The left hand activity (none) is easy and by comparison and the further right you go, the harder it gets. I think this model works for all corporate comms, not just ideas.
The graph below shows what happened in the first morning. Remember, they were sitting amongst their peers of the most qualified, highest paid managers in the business. The numbers are per table, so out of 10 managers, there were 15 page views so each person looked at just over one page before they gave up. There were just 11 ratings (the strategic challenges had some ideas against them already), 5 comments were put against these ideas, and 3 new ideas were offered.
The following day I had another opportunity to present, but this time we got completely different results as you can see from the graph below. There were three times more views, more than ten times more idea ratings and more than three times more comments and ideas.
What was the difference? The difference was simple, but provides a powerful lesson in what you need to do to motivate people to participate. The second time around I;
– Had the CEO introduce it, make it compelling and give it context
– Made it fun and rewarding (I had a range of prizes – mostly fun)
– Made it collaborative (I gave them an introduction to some innovation techniques and they had time to work together)
– Carefully showed people how to do it so as to remove any barriers (perceived or real)
The last nugget of insight I got from this experience which I believe is useful to share is the same graph, but just showing the activity from the person that offered the most ideas – 7 in total in one session. But notice that they didn’t rate or comment on other people’s ideas. They were very creative, but also very selfish. This is quite normal.