One of the techniques we use to help a group generate ideas in Innovation Discovery workshops is to create light-weight personas. Anchoring the brainstorming using a name, a face, and a story makes it easier for people to generate and later evaluate concrete ideas. The personas also give the group a common vocabulary for talking about different audience segments. For example, if the group defined John as a middle-aged professional concerned about healthcare issues, people can then ask, “What would John think about this?” during other sessions.
The persona ideation exercise is great for sparking energy and getting people to stand up. It can be used in different places, and it can become a running theme.
Structure of the session:
Goal: Concrete vision, ideas for initiatives
Input: Light-weight personas which we flesh out with the help of the clients during the workshop session.
Output: Scenarios for each of the personas, and possible summary of key initiatives to explore in the next session.
During a break before the session:
During the session:
Analysis (can be done in another session or by another facilitator):
After the workshop:
Summarize the persona characteristics and stories (may be bullet-point form) in the workshop output document.
Dark blazers are a newbie facilitator’s friend. No one could see me perspire as I wondered what to do. My session wasn’t working. The exercise structure I picked didn’t fit the energy and interest of the room. I needed to improvise.
Fortunately, my team helped me out. One of my colleagues asked a question that was really a hint about one thing we could try, so I latched onto it. That was better, but not quite all the way there. He suggested something else, I wove that suggestion in, and that worked. People got up and discussed the personas. At the end of the session, one of the clients asked if all of that would be summarized and sent to them: value!
It’s scary getting up there in front of a group, but it’s a darn good way to learn. My team helps me stretch and learn by giving me opportunities to facilitate workshop sessions and coordinate online brainstorming conversations. Over the past two years, I’ve surprised myself by having opinions, ideas, and even answers when people ask me about topics. And it’s awesome doing this with experienced people who can step in and smooth things over.
Maybe this is why large companies can be great learning environments. You’re surrounded by people with years of experience and a vested interest in helping the team succeed, so you end up learning tons along the way. =)
Last week, I facilitated my fourth Innovation Discovery workshop. I learned a lot! Here are a few quick reflections:
What can I do to prepare the ground for an even better next time?
This was lots of fun, and I look forward to making the next one even more awesome. =)