How to Run an Innovation Workshop

The main goal of an innovation workshop is to spark… innovation.

An innovation workshop serves to identify ideas for innovations and to develop initial concepts, not come up with the final solution. 

The ideas generated aren’t evaluated until later on, so participants are free to explore novel ideas without getting hung up on whether or not they are possible. This judgement-free aspect is critical to running a successful workshop!

So let’s discuss how to plan and run a successful innovation workshop.

1. Define the workshop purpose

Innovation workshops usually take place once you have a clear problem statement; a business challenge that you need to solve. This problem statement should help to inform your workshop outcome and the purpose for holding the workshop in the first place. 

This problem statement should then inform the creation of key focus areas or topic areas for your workshop. To make this sound easier, work backwards from the problem that you are trying to solve, the sessions in the workshop should extract key information and brainstorm ideas. 

Tip – make sure your problem statement has a clear list of issues that need to be addressed. 

2. Create a simple structure 

The workshop agenda should clearly mark out sections of the day that will take place at certain times. These should be based on the workshop’s problem statement and should be set in stone! Do not allow them to deviate. 

In creating a simple structure that does not cram too much in, you will prevent attendees from feeling fatigued or overwhelmed and it helps you to focus on the problem and how to solve it.

We find it helps to have a mix of interactive exercises, brainstorming, presentations and activities to look ahead into the future… but get interactive as soon as possible. See our workshop outlines for some inspiration. 

3. Get the right people in the room

It can be tempting to keep things within one particular team, but effective innovation requires a diverse mix of perspectives. When curating your guest list, think outside the box. Who can add a fresh perspective to the session?

When planning your workshop, consider not only who will be working on the project but also those who deal directly with your customers. These people play an important role.

Tip – while you want to invite a diverse group, it’s important to stick to a reasonable number of participants. We recommend 8–10 people; if the group is too big, people might not feel comfortable speaking and sharing ideas.

4. Appoint a workshop facilitator 

To make sure the session runs smoothly, you’ll need a designated facilitator. The facilitator is in charge of leading the workshop and keeping everybody on track.

The workshop facilitator should have the schedule and make sure everyone sticks to it as well as create a clear documentation of ideas brought forward in the workshop. 

At the end of the session we highly recommend dedicating time to allow for the facilitator to present all of the ideas and outline the next steps.

You may even choose to work with an external facilitator to help curate and plan your workshop.

5. Follow up

Don’t let the energy die after a great workshop. Maintain the motivation by having a great follow-up, because after all – what is the point otherwise? Take some time to reflect on the session before making any big decisions or implementing changes. 

We recommend utlising your workshop facilitator to send out post workshop communications such as feedback forms, workshop reports or even solutions that may have been created as a result of the session. This will enable trust amongst attendees in taking part in future workshops, should they arise.

Encompass Innovate has over five years of experience of running workshops to achieve innovation and transformation. Get in touch to learn more about running an online remote workshop with us, or alternatively visit our Innovation Labs page.

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