Reflections on the Innovation Discovery workshop in Boston

Last week, I facilitated my fourth Innovation Discovery workshop. I learned a lot! Here are a few quick reflections:

  • The account team was amazing. They briefed us on participants’ backgrounds and passions, and that helped us shape the agenda.
  • Planning was helpful, and I’m glad I joined the meeting. We set aside Wednesday afternoon for team preparation. Everyone reviewed their sessions and gave feedback. I felt nervous as the most junior person in the room commenting on other people’s presentations (particularly, ahh, asking questions about a VP’s upcoming presentation), but we came out with better work because of all that, and I learned tons in the process.
  • Tag-team facilitation rocks. I stumbled a little during my persona exercise because the structure I’d chosen wasn’t a great fit in terms of energy and flow, but we got back on track with a little prompting from my co-facilitator and another Innovation Discovery team member. That really helped, and I ‘learned a lot more about facilitation by watching how we improvised.
  • Visual note-taking was fun and effective. I took graphical notes (icons + keywords), and participants liked it a lot.
  • Presentation style improvements are percolating through the organization. Although some of the presentations still relied on bullet points, a number of the presentations were aesthetically well put-together. =) There’s hope!
  • Downtime was good. I decided not to try to schedule anything in the evening. The extra space and quiet helped me stay energized throughout the workshop.

What can I do to prepare the ground for an even better next time?

  • Explore facilitation techniques. The more I know, the better I can plan and the better I can improvise. The deeper I understand, the smoother things will go.
  • Limit personas. We presented a large number, hoping that they’d prioritize a few. The clients responded to all of the personas quickly, and wanted to keep them all. Eep! Lesson: Limit the personas we present up front, then add more as necessary. Printing photos on letter-size paper instead of posters might make this easier.
  • Continue building a visual vocabulary, and experiment with visual metaphors. Practice, practice, practice!

This was lots of fun, and I look forward to making the next one even more awesome. =)