The workshop aims to generate many ideas for your new product or service. Therefore, you should have some ways to create this type of atmosphere where people can develop these brilliant ideas.
Facilitation is a multi-disciplinary field. Therefore, you will have to understand how people interact and communicate with each other to facilitate a product ideation workshop successfully.
In this article, I want to explore where our facilitators’ skills overlap with your team’s creative thinking skills that can help you conduct a practical product ideation workshop, allowing you to generate many ideas for new products.
The types of skills 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. You can do this 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 2023? Is it to generate ideas on what kind of products we should focus on in 2023?
This agenda can then be used as a guide for the facilitator to help them direct the conversation towards areas that may still need to be explored.
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 to get the participants thinking creatively.
The facilitator can also use techniques like brainstorming, encouraging all participants to share their ideas openly and without fear of judgement. The use of flipcharts and whiteboards (or Miro or Mural boards where the session is held online) 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 crucial to make everyone as comfortable as possible so that they can focus on the task at hand.
The facilitator should ask if any attendees need anything and ensure that there are no distractions before starting. The facilitator should also remember that not all attendees might be familiar with each other. Therefore, they must facilitate introductions and ensure that everyone feels included.
Facilitators should also be mindful of 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. If there is any discomfort, they should make changes accordingly.
Assist the group in making 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.
Suppose ideas are not being shared or tabled. In that case, the facilitator should ask questions encouraging all attendees to share their ideas without judgement. If an idea needs more detail, the facilitator can ask questions that will encourage more discussion.
Encouraging group participation is also about providing feedback to everyone, not just those at the top of the class. We all want to be treated as equals and should feel like our ideas and contributions matter. An effective facilitator will ensure that this happens and that every attendee feels valued.
Keep quiet when the time is right.
Staying quiet when the group is working well and making good progress is 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 to maintain 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 must move between exercises or activities seamlessly, depending on the group’s progress or where they are stuck in their thinking. The facilitator should always know how far they want to go with each activity and when it is time to move on.
Introducing materials and content that are useful for participants, such as research, case studies, and methodologies, without overloading participants is critical.
You can do intensive work by walking participants through a step-by-step process. At the same time, 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, which can impact 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.
Suppose a participant becomes too disruptive or negative. In that case, 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 completed during the workshop to ensure that the group feels like their contributions matter.
This might be as simple as sending out meeting minutes or asking for feedback on how they felt it went. Offering some recognition is also great, whether this is publicly or privately.