How to run a successful internal ideation workshop

By Reach Brands

It is possible to run your own successful ideation workshop. Just remember there is a direct correlation between the quantity of good planning and preparation and quality of output. There is a lot written in general about good workshop planning. It focuses on getting the basic elements right – stakeholder engagement; creating focus and structure; establishing good energy and contribution and concluding and following-up well. Here we talk more specifically through some tried and tested techniques in those areas that actually work.

Great participation

Smart pre-engagement of participants

Works best when: you’re clever about how you engage them.

Think about:

  • Where and when to catch them at their best?
  • What is their agenda? And concerns for the project?
  • What are the key messages you need to impart to them prior to the workshop?
  • And brief them on their role in the workshop

Great for: empowering your participants so you get better results. As much as it’s your ‘show’ you want them to arrive fired up, clear and confident.

Engineer your break-out groups dynamic

Works best when: you think politics, agendas and psychology:

  • Avoid putting new, or junior team members with very senior colleagues – they will not be able to resist the desire to impress and this can be a distraction
  • Don’t have too many similar personality types or skill sets within the same groups
  • Put trickier attendees, or those lacking confidence in your group so you are able to facilitate to get the best from them

Great for: creating a great team spirit and getting the best out of even your trickier attendees

Good energy

Pre-agreed measurement criteria

Works best when: You create and get approval of measurement criteria prior to the workshop. Good measurement criteria will help ask the right questions before an innovation is taking forward or discarded. For example, does it align with the business priorities and strategy? Is it a good fit with the brand values?

Great for: not getting bogged down with lengthy measurement criteria discussions in the workshop, thus spending more time generating great ideas.

Create a competitive spirit (but not too competitive!)

Works best when: you have a prize to play for and introduce at the beginning of the session or each exercise.

Think carefully about what you want to reward as it will set the tone for the day and affect the output you get, is it:

  • volume of ideas?
  • creative thinking?
  • embodying desired behaviour?

Great for: focusing energy of teams in the right area.

Generate energy

Works best when: You mix things up a bit. Especially important for long sessions i.e. more than a couple of hours. You don’t have to carry out cringy ‘icebreakers’ and ‘energisers’ if you don’t feel comfortable.

Try simple things like:

  • changing the environment
  • swapping group facilitators around
  • exchanging ideas with another team for development
  • taking short breaks
  • timing break-out exercises with an egg-timer

Great for: Keeping the team alive and generating more and better ideas

Quality output

Prepare consumer-led problems to be solved in the workshop

Works best when: you move the starting point on from the workshop objective to focusing on more insight-driven, inspiring problems to solve. So instead of ‘How to fill the CleanMouth NPD innovation funnel with lots of great ideas’ you might try a selection of problems to solve, for example:

  • How to make dental hygiene easier to maintain throughout the day and on the go?
  • How to make flossing easier and less daunting for CleanMouth consumers?
  • How do we help mums to get kids cleaning their teeth better/for longer?

Great for: Inspiring useful and relevant ideas. Giving participants the confidence that their ideas are hitting the mark. Structuring the session.

Visualise as you go

Works best when: invite a couple of designers or illustrators to your workshop to quickly sketch up ideas throughout the session. If this feels like a luxury – nominate a colleague who is good with a sketch pad and pencil.

Great for: helping the group to quickly ‘get’ and engage with ideas. Developing ideas on slightly. Understanding/remembering what the idea was post-workshop.

Secret voting on ideas to take forward

Works best when: It’s done in the session, with the whole group in attendance, but is done ‘blind’ so colleagues don’t know what each other is voting for as they are placing their votes. Votes are made against clearly communicated, pre-agreed measurement criteria. It can be particularly successful if each individual is given responsibility for one criteria against which to judge each idea. It’s more focused and less room for personal bias.

Great for: minimising the chance of colleagues being influenced by senior team members choices.

Useful follow-up

Keep attendees informed of what happens to the ideas

Works best when: stakeholders receive regular, short, snippy status updates from development & testing, right through to launch and measurement of ‘in market’ success.

Great for: ensuring attendees can see tangible value from the workshop they attended – therefore much more likely to want to be involved in the next brilliant workshop you run!