Better Workshops for New Ideas

Friday, June 30, 2023

As firms look to encourage more face-to-face team interaction and team workshops, here are five quick reminders and top-tips to ensure that you get the most from these meetings.  If the focus of the session is about generating creative new ideas for the business, take a look at our ten best idea generation techniques that we use with leading brands. Remember, getting people together in one room is not always take time to plan the meeting so that you maximise the team's effort, together with the quality of the workshop outputs.

1. A Clear Agenda and Manage Expectations

Boring but important....make sure you have a clear workshop objective and agenda.  Be realistic about what you can achieve in the session and then work to keep the team focused. Have an agenda that looks to balance time to ensure people have a chance to contribute with relevant feedback and ideas. Our most successful creative workshops have innovation objectives that are written to inspire creative thinking, and importantly, where all key stakeholders are fully aligned.

2. Avoid Time Wasting Death by Powerpoint

If the purpose of the workshop is to maximise time for your team to provide feedback or new ideas, then make sure you avoid long and lengthy power-point presentations. This really is an energy killer and can burn up valuable time.  For example, rather than present 40 or 50 slides from different research projects, have all the research material summarised BEFORE the workshop, to produce one piece of paper capturing 5-10 key insights.  These "key insights" should be written to inspire deeper thinking relevant to the workshop objectives. The one page summary can then be given to small break-out teams, to discuss specific insights or to develop potential solutions.

3. Room Layout for Small Team Working

Often overlooked but very important. Take time to think about the venue for the workshop, and the layout of the room itself.  On venue, if budgets allow, take your team away from their normal working environment. And if the meeting is about creativity and new ideas, try and find a venue that will help inspire fresh thinking. For the layout of the room, ensure you have space that can be used to encourage interaction between all team members.  We certainly recommend that you split larger groups into smaller teams, coming back to a group session to share ideas and for wider discussion. For inspiration on room layout, take a look at how we run innovation workshops and different venues that we use, including a cool glass space on top of a mountain!

4. External Facilitator and Creative Agents

To provide workshop inspiration and to keep people focused, you might want to bring in an external facilitator. They should look to provide guidance and inspiration, with clear instructions and good examples of what the meeting is trying to achieve. Alternatively, if you are running your own workshop, take a look at different facilitation styles that you might want to deploy with your team.  Another suggestion is to invite external creative agents or experts, but beware that they are well briefed on what you are trying to achieve and that they don't dominate the workshop agenda.

5. Don't Rule Out Virtual Options

Finally, before you commit to running your workshop face-to-face, don't rule out running the session, or at least part of the session, using online meeting and collaboration tools. Of course, we would never say a ZOOM meeting can replace the energy, focus and fun of a well run face-to-face workshop.  However, with good planning and a clear focus, we have run some really successful online brainstorming sessions over the past 18-24 months using ZOOM and our Zip-Zap Ideas® collaboration platform.  We keep agendas tight to no longer than 3-4 hours, and ensure that we have time for small team working in virtual break-out rooms. With this approach, we have achieved some great results, as part of more agile innovation projects. 

Check out our other blog posts for more thoughts and ideas on how to get the most from your team workshops.  And if you are looking for better ways to share ideas online, check out Zip-Zap Ideas®, for idea sharing made simple.

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