Innovation workshops with many contributors

Boost innovation potential and develop an innovation culture

In-house innovation workshops, with well-known teams in a familiar environment, do not always provide the most fertile ground for new ideas. Innovation requires other creative minds, with their specific knowledge and experiences gained outside the organisation, to help the in-house team break away from their conventional ways of thinking. Interested users, suppliers, scientific and academic staff, students, specialists and even experts from other fields enhance the level of quality in the search for ideas and solutions, by putting forward their view of the bigger picture beyond the organisation.

Application and benefits

The aim of an innovation workshop is to find new ideas or approaches for innovation projects in a specifically guided group process. It supports businesses in

  • Defining new innovation strategies
  • Discovering new ideas for new products, services, processes or business models, and
  • Evaluating and selecting proposals (ideas profile)

When it comes to methodology, innovation workshops are designed with a mix of different creativity techniques and methods for generating ideas and serve to prepare the ground for an individual innovation project.

Method

You need to schedule a period of at least 1 to 2 days for an innovation workshop. Careful team selection and composition is crucial for the success of a workshop. In the interests of group dynamics, the team should consist of people who socially “click”, but who bring a range of professional and specialist knowledge to the table (e.g. generalists vs. specialists; motivators vs. critical thinkers). The group may consist of a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 15 people. Right from the preliminary stage, it is very important to consider what your desired outcome is at the end of the workshop. Is it just to generate as many ideas as possible, to be subsequently developed solely in-house? Or are you looking for 2 or 3 rough ideas for ways of looking at a problem, a product or technological concept with some tips, to be developed outside the business?

The following is an example of the step-by-step approach to running an innovation workshop if you already have a known specific problem (see types of innovation workshops according to Geschka (1986; 2010)):

Step 1: In the preliminary stage, clarify the task, determine or specify the search fields that provide the framework for searching for the solution to the problem.

Step 2: Ideation/generating ideas:
Creative techniques, such as the 6-3-5 method, 6 hats method, brainwriting, card circulation technique, mind mapping or Walt Disney method help to generate new idea combinations. Ideation techniques, such as rip and rap, ego alter or reverse thinking involve the minds, imaginations and creativity of the people using them.

Step 3: Screening the various ideas

Step 4: Multi-level idea consolidation and transfer.

 

Summary: Ideas are generated following careful clarification of the task, they are sorted (structured), evaluated and prioritised according to field; in-depth, creative and content-related consideration is given to bright ideas that; and the most promising ones are re-selected; for these, only a few ideas are developed into profiles, which illustrate the further steps for implementation; finally, these developed creative concepts are ranked in order of priority.

Tips for fairness

The following selected influencing variables may have an impact on how the innovation workshop is held, conducted, or even on its outcome, at the level of the business, the participants and the workshop itself:

  • Preparation: The better the preparation for the innovation workshop (search fields as the framework), the more focused ideas will be and the more good ideas with strong potential will emerge.
  • Moderation: Moderators lead, decide and motivate, to encourage participants to think outside the box.
  • Sufficient time: In the interests of the solution, it makes no sense to heavily restrict time. However, a schedule for implementation should still be established.
  • Participants involved: Experiences and skills required must be clearly specified. A socially cohesive and technically diverse group is a factor of success, as is the involvement of relevant stakeholders and willing employees.
  • Specify a clear objective and an appropriate structure: This affects the motivation of participants and the quality of workshop outputs.
  • Generation of ideas: All ideas and recommendations for improvement must be treated impartially and taken seriously. However, the actual brainstorming should be fun and the innovation workshop should be an experience.
  • Motivation: Motivating participants contributes to their participation and has an impact on the quality of outputs. It forms the basis of all efforts and is ideally intrinsically driven. If motivation is extrinsic, participants should receive an appropriate reward/compensation and not feel that they have been exploited.
  • Sincerity and fairness: An honest approach and treating participants with respect, integrity and sincerity is vital. There must be compliance with agreements and arrangements.

Further reading and sources