Seven Secrets for More Creative Facilitation

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Great facilitation is a critical factor for a successful team meeting, and it's especially important when facilitating a creative ideas workshop. This blog covers a seven secrets to consider to help maximise out-of-the-box thinking, especially from a large and diverse team.  If you are tight on time, check out a short video from our creative facilitation training course.

1. Create the Environment for New Ideas

When you are facilitating an ideas generation workshop, take time to create the right environment for creative thinking. The choice of venue is really important. Select a room that offers good space for both group sessions and for small team working. Make sure the room has natural light, good wifi connectivity, and “dress the room” with posters that will make people say: “wow, this is going to be a fun session”.  Watch the following video to see different venues used for our Idea Hothouse™ workshops.

2. Be Different and Be Dangerous

As a facilitator, you will have a huge impact on the outcomes of a creative ideas workshop. Your objective is to guide and inspire the team, to generate new ideas linked to agreed objectives. To achieve success, “go into the danger zone”. Take risks and try to be different with your approach. Try out new idea generation techniques, mix up the seating layout of the room, try our different games to keep the team energiseed, and even think about wearing different costumes!

3. Use Different Styles of Facilitation

There are two broad facilitation styles – soft (catalytic, cathartic, supportive) or strong (confronting, prescriptive, informative). Both styles can be relevant and used in the same meeting. However, when selecting a style, consider carefully the objective you are trying to achieve, the time you have available, and the impact your style will have both on the group and on individuals. Think also about your own body language and your own personal impact on the group e.g. whether you stand or sit, your tone of voice etc.

Softer and Supportive
Catalytic – encourage participation e.g. “what if money wasn’t an issue”
Supportive – approve or add to a point an individual has made
Cathartic – release tension and feelings in individuals e.g. “you look frustrated, why?”

Stronger and Authoritative
Confronting – challenging the group e.g. “how do others see it”
Prescriptive – give advice or suggest solutions e.g. “in my opinion”
Informative – when you impart knowledge or information to a group as a “teacher”.

4. Encourage Maximum Participation

When facilitating a diverse group of people, always look to maximise participation from ALL delegates. Encourage contributions from people who are naturally quiet and “manage” people who tend to talk too much. A simple technique, is to pose a question and to then give each person time to write down their answers on a card. Then go to each person in turn for their answers. If time is tight, give a time limit for each person’s answer. In large groups, split tasks and discussions into mini-teams.  Other techniques including the use of online brainstorming tools, especially if you want fast input from a wider global team. See how we run virtual ideation workshops with Zip-Zap Ideas®

5. Use De Bono’s Six Hat Thinking

Edward De Bono is a physician, psychologist and creative thinking “guru” who devised Six Hat Thinking. The simple philosophy is that in order to be truly creative, we need to think in different ways. As a facilitator, the six hats help you “manage group thinking” and “set the agenda for creative thinking”. For example, encourage everyone to wear GREEN for new “anything can go” ideas with; BLACK and YELLOW hats when encouraging people to give positive or negative comments about an idea; and RED when you ask people to vote using their “gut reactions”.

6. Focus Idea Generation on Key Insights

After introductions, kick-start idea generation activity by focusing on key insights and "pain points" that are identified before the main workshop event.  For example, split the group into mini-teams of 2 or 3, and give each mini-team a print-out with 5 or 6 insights. Encourage the teams to spend 10-15 minutes focusing on each insight, and ask them to produce at least 2 or 3 new ideas per insight.  For inspiration, provide one or two examples, or work on one insight as a whole group. Take a look at the following video with techniques to quickly gather and identify relevant insights.

7. Use Different Lateral Thinking Techniques

Prepare and use different lateral thinking techniques to encourage the team to generate a wider range of ideas.  On training courses that we run, we provide delegates with a toolkit of different techniques.  However, ensure that you are well prepared and adapt the technique to your own style.  For most events, it is wise to have 5 or 6 techniques ready, even though you may only have time to use 3 or 4.  Be flexible and be ready to switch techniques if the team is struggling.  See our top ten idea generation techniques.

Get in touch if you have any questions or comments - we'd love to hear from you.