Workshops are magical things. They help extract ideas from inside peoples heads. They cause participants to frame their thoughts, build on each others thinking, be inspired and create solutions collectively. Idea shaping. In the moment. In ways it would be impossible to do alone. In ways that help all participants to feel they have been heard and that they “own” the output.
This is the power of a good workshop.
As a consultant to executives and business leaders I run all sorts of workshops. Leadership workshops. Brand strategy, positioning, personality. Customer experience design. Brainstorming. Solutionising. Design thinking. Innovation. Ideation. Customer experience design. Planning workshops. Insights. Steering Groups. Engagement. Roadmapping. Culture design. Etc etc. I basically can’t consult without being able to get the right people in the room to shape ideas.
I often get asked what makes for a successful workshop. Of course, the outputs make a workshop successful but I would say the experience and how people feel whilst in the workshop is crucial. They have to feel safe and able to share thoughts without judgement. There has to be zero fear of looking silly (fear is the enemy of creativity).
My workshop rules
One way to create an atmosphere which can enable this is to ensure that some clear ground rules are set. I’ve been developing my own set of workshop rules over the last few years - feel free to use them the next time you run a workshop. See what you think:
Give ideas a chance Try to not shut ideas down too swiftly. Sometimes the wildest and unexpected ideas can be shaped into things of beauty.
Make it human Sometimes as businesses we like to think why something is a good commercial idea. We think revenue. We see pound signs. But this is short term. Ask: why would this be better for a customer? What value would this create for people?
Welcome other points of view Diverse thinking is a benefit and can lead to better ideas. Ensure everyone contributes and listen to their ideas.
Think outside the box We can worry about overcoming difficulties later. Think blue sky, no barrier, growth mindset. Be open to possibilities.
If you don’t like it build on it Ask “what if…” or “how might we…” Positively challenge and help push ideas to be better.
Do not get too precious Ideas will continue to develop into the future. Allow others to shape them and be open to challenge and modification.
Capture it One idea on one post-it! Don’t just say it. Make sure you get it down / on the wall / documented.
With these rules explained and in place you’ll find the mindset of participants shifts. They have been given permission to go outside of the comfort-zone. They are primed to document outputs. They are ready for a productive, collaborative time.
Of course, there are lots more factors which will play into having a brilliant workshop. The workshop design and activities. The selection of the people in the room. The facilitation Etc etc. But these rules go some way to help to reaching positive outcomes.
So, I hope you have found this helpful. If you use these let me know how they go. Have I missed a golden rule you feel is essential? Let me know!
All the best workshopping!