Product ideation workshops are about creativity. The objective of the workshop is to generate a lot of ideas for your new product or service. You should have some ways that you can create this type of atmosphere, where people are able to come up with these brilliant ideas.
Facilitation is a multi-disciplinary field. You will have to have a good understanding of how people interact and communicate with each other in order to be able to facilitate a product ideation workshop successfully.
In this article, I want to explore the area where our facilitators' skills overlap with your team's creative thinking skills that can help you conduct an effective product ideation workshop, which will allow you to generate a lot of ideas for new products.
The types of skill a group meeting facilitator needs are the ability to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable talking to each other, the ability to make sure that all ideas are respected and valued, the ability to find a way to keep the conversation productive and on track, and finally, the ability to be open-minded.
Designing an agenda
Facilitators help to make things happen. So the first task for our facilitator is to design a workshop agenda specifically for your strategic needs. This can be done by asking the right questions to your team before you run the workshop
What are the objectives of this strategic offsite? What is our goal for this meeting? Is it to come up with an overall direction for 2022? Is it to generate ideas on what kind of products we should be focusing on in 2022?
This agenda can then be used as a guide for the facilitator to help him or her direct the conversation towards areas that may not have been explored yet.
Encouraging engagement for all participants
Creating an event that is engaging for the participants and achieves the ROI required by the sponsor is the goal of every facilitator.
A facilitator needs to be able to use many different methods to create this engagement. Some of these methods may include using games, exercises or activities that will get the participants thinking creatively
The facilitator can also use techniques like brainstorming, which will encourage all participants to share their ideas openly and without fear of judgement. The use of flipcharts, and whiteboards (or Miro boards post-COVID!) can also help to get everyone involved in the discussion.
Most importantly, the facilitator must be able to keep the conversation on track and ensure that all ideas are respected.
Comfort is critical
Ensuring that all attendees are settled and comfortable is critical for a successful outcome. It is important to make everyone as comfortable as possible so that they can focus on the task at hand.
The facilitator should ask if any of the attendees need anything and ensure that there are no distractions before starting. The facilitator should also keep in mind that not all attendees might be familiar with each other, and it is their duty to facilitate introductions and ensure that everyone feels included.
Facilitators should also be mindful about how people are sitting (or standing!) as this can affect their ability to focus. A good facilitator will take the time to ask the attendees where they would like to sit or stand, and if there is any discomfort, they should make changes accordingly.
Assist the group to make progress
This sounds like a simple task, but it can be challenging. The facilitator must help the group to move forward by giving concise encouragement and feedback to the participants.
If ideas are not being shared or tabled, then the facilitator should ask questions that will encourage all attendees to share their ideas without judgement. If an idea needs more detail, then the facilitator can ask questions that will encourage more discussion on that idea.
Encouraging group participation is also about providing feedback to everyone, not just those who are at the top of the class. We all want to be treated as equals and we should feel like our ideas and contributions matter. An effective facilitator will ensure that this happens and that each and every attendee feels valued.
Keep quiet when the time is right
Staying quiet when the group is working well and making good progress is perhaps the hardest part of the facilitator.
That said, there will be times when the facilitator might want to ask a question or share an idea. The facilitator must use their expertise to determine what is best for the group at that time so as not to disrupt the flow of ideas.
If there is a lull in the conversation, then this might be the perfect time for the facilitator to share their thoughts.
Develop activities on the fly
Shortcutting too much conversation and getting to the heart of the matter will lead to a successful session.
The facilitator needs to be able to move between exercises or activities seamlessly, depending on the progress of the group or where they are stuck in their thinking. The facilitator should always have an idea about how far they want to go with each activity and when it is time to move on.
Introducing materials and content that is useful for participants such as research, case studies, methodologies without overloading participants is critical.
Intensive work can be done by walking participants through a step-by-step process, while lighter activities might mean the facilitator has to participate alongside them.
Orchestrate the group's emotions
A facilitator should always be mindful of the group's emotional state, as this can have an impact on their ability to work well together. Being aware of what is going on will allow the facilitator to ensure that the group remains calm and relaxed so they can focus on nothing but generating ideas.
If a participant becomes too disruptive or negative, the facilitator must be able to handle the situation and take control in a way that helps everyone involved.
The facilitator should always follow up on activities that were completed during the workshop to ensure that the group feels like their contributions matter.
This might be as simple as sending out minutes of the meeting or asking for feedback on how they felt it went. Offering some type of recognition is also great, whether this is publicly or privately.