From the journal

Running a successful ideation workshop

Imagine the scene. You know that innovation is key to driving your business forward. You need to inject some energy, spark and innovation into your business and you also know that those who can help you do this best are your team, the same team who are perhaps entrenched in your company’s brand identity, values and loyalty to the product or service. So, you set up your first ideation workshop to help get those ideas off the ground and flying. Here are some tips to ensure you maximise the most from the next hour.

Define clear guidelines on how the session will run – It is essential that everyone is clear from the start about session rules. This will make sure their inputs are captured and translated into valuable ideas in the most effective way. First step is to give a time limit to the session, perhaps about 20 minutes to keep motivation high. Participants should stand facing towards each other, to helps energy flow and interaction. Post-its should be available to capture any thoughts, ideas, words, pictures. Yes, drawing can be a great releaser of ideas and means that for some, visualisation makes communicating new ideas easier.

Focus on one conversation at a time – In an ideation session there is always the risk of going from silence to everyone talking over one another. Participants can (and should) get excited about the topic, have ideas to put forward. It is essential that the parameters for the group are set out and that you manage it from the start, with one conversation at a time, ensuring no one person dominates and others can be mere observers.

Target many ideas, not few – The more ideas are generated, the more likely it is that there will be gems buried there. Make sure participants of your session understand that they shouldn’t be shy or constrained in terms of creativity. Encourage them to produce as many ideas as possible. Generally, a good target is two ideas from the group per minute. Try not to become too attached to one idea at this stage. Having one observer/additional note-taker for the whole group might be useful, here.

Don’t restrain creativity with rationality – Boundaries and rationality are the scourge of a brainstorm. They can discourage creativity and prevent innovative ideas from developing. Make sure participants are clear on the fact that they should set their creativity free and worry about rationalisation later. What might look like a ridiculous idea might seem entirely possible to others or might spark further ideas which are easier to implement. All contributions are welcome. It might be worth having a few crazy ideas up your sleeve to use as examples if the team are shy at thinking more laterally .

Avoid shutting down ideas – Try to build on participants’ ideas, be open and consider the positive sides of what is being suggested, avoiding criticism, negativity and focusing in on points of failure. Judging an idea when first hearing it is very easy but not the most effective way to give space to potentially very good ideas to develop. Any input can be useful and shouldn’t be shut down by anyone. Rather, try to build on it and use it to spark new ideas. Finally, make sure ideas are voted by the group based on how much they address the challenge and how well they can be understood by the target market.

Categorise the ideas – Within your 20-minute session, it’s hopeful that a high volume of ideas will have emerged. You will need to group them, discuss them, and then evaluate and prioritise them according to implementation time line, feasibility, benefits, category and cost.

Then you are ready to go.

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