Innovation Workshops

Our bespoke innovation workshops are commercially focused, specifically for developing new products or services.

What problem are you trying to solve? Or do you need to identify a problem? We’ll work with you to map out the innovation landscape relevant to your business, focusing on discovering opportunities and developing solutions to move your company forward.

Our innovation workshops are filled with field-tested techniques to prompt and provoke you into new ways of thinking, as well as to guide and support you along your innovation journey.

Also see our Design Thinking Workshops and Facilitated Brainstorms.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

– Albert Einstein

Get started by questioning the brief

Prior to your innovation workshop, we’ll work with you to create a number of scenarios for consideration by your team on the day. By working up simple scenarios we can add useful context to your objectives – that will help you develop ideas that respond to likely outcomes.

These scenarios usually consist of a short briefing statement, with several background facts, and often some market research information. Participants read and discuss the material, and to think about their responses to a number of key questions or challenges.

We’ll then start questioning those scenarios. Questioning a brief doesn’t necessarily mean finding fault with it, but by asking questions about the motivations behind it, or the trigger points that led to it, can really help you come up with better ideas and solutions. We’ll help you look at why you might benefit from questioning everything, and we’ll look at some strategies for doing so – including an approach from the CIA.

We might also look for patterns which, when it comes to problem solving, can be invaluable. If you’ve spotted something that keeps reoccurring, you might be on to the root cause of a problem. If you’ve noticed that something works well in an industry similar to yours, there’s a good chance it will work equally well in your industry.

Zoom out to see the big picture

The modern world’s busy, time-constrained nature causes us to seek out quick fix, tactical approaches where possible. But these approaches are often limited in scope, and rarely cause big shifts in the marketplace.

By zooming out, we take the helicopter view. We might consider a whole industry rather than just a single product, or look for the root causes of a latest trend. In doing this we can conceive a much more strategic, far reaching, ambitious approach that is more likely to have a significantly higher impact.

We might also look to the future, which causes us to lift our heads from the immediate activities and project we’re working on, and the short deadlines we’re working to. We might have a good idea that something is highly likely to happen, but because it’s not a priority yet, we don’t act.

But what if we did start preparing now? What if we did come up with ideas to take advantage? Wouldn’t that put us in a better position?

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

– Peter Drucker

“Treat failure as a lesson on how not to approach achieving a goal, and then use that learning to improve your chances of success when you try again. Failure is only the end if you decide to stop.”

– Richard Branson

Learn from failure

More often than not, creative breakthroughs begin with multiple failures. By analysing and understanding these failures we can solve tricky problems and uncover valuable insights. But there are numerous barriers to this approach – humans don’t generally view failure in a positive light, and it can often be difficult to easily identify the source and type of failure experienced.

By using a number of effective tools and techniques for identifying, classifying, predicting and learning from failure, we’ll help you develop a positive mindset and approach so you view failure as a necessary and inevitable occurrence on the road to innovation.

One such technique is the “Pre-Mortem”: imagine yourself in the future, and that your pet project has spectacularly failed. What went wrong? What caused the failure?

This technique helps us get beyond the romantic excitement attached to a new project or idea, and asks us to look at why it might fail. By imagining ourselves in the future, dealing with the fallout of our failed idea, we’re forced to use ‘hindsight in advance’ to identify potential problems and weaknesses.

Generate a lot of ideas

We’re now ready to start generating some ideas to solve the problems and exploit the opportunities we’ve identified in your innovation workshop so far.

Here we’ll use some of the techniques outlined on our Brainstorm Facilitation page, to generate as many diverse, original ideas as possible to suit your brief. It’s important to keep the energy high and the emphasis on divergent thinking – steering clear for now from judgment and evaluation. At this stage, no idea is a bad idea!

The more ideas you have, the more chance you have that one of them will be really brilliant. Research backs this up: in Adam Grant’s excellent book Originals, he quotes creativity researcher Dean Simonton: “the odds of producing an influential or successful idea are a positive function of the total number of ideas generated.” 

Simonton says that prolific people are the most original people, and they generate their most original output during the periods in which they produce the most volume.

“The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas.”

– Linus Pauling

“Conformity means following the crowd down conventional paths and maintaining the status quo. Originality is taking the road less travelled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.”

– Adam Grant, Originals

Go beyond the obvious

We’ll help you push yourself to get beyond the first ideas you have, because the first idea is never the best idea. This is essentially shallow thinking – your first ideas are the most obvious, the most cliched.

This can be hard to accept and move on from – sometimes we might really like our first ideas. They’re perfectly good, we might argue, why waste time thinking of more when we have some gems already? This tunnel vision we experience around our first ideas is often called “design fixation.” We get excited by our first idea, so get bogged down in proving it works rather than looking for better alternatives.

Another term for this is confirmation bias. We like our idea so much we look for things to back it up, to prove us right, whereas it would actually better to look for reasons why we might be wrong, in order to reveal any weaknesses or failings in our idea.

We like setting an idea quota. Rather than the usual 5 or 10 ideas for a project, try and generate 100. Thomas Edison set idea quotas to make sure he was pumping out ideas regularly. His personal quota was a minor invention every ten days and a major invention every six months.

Of course you can go over your idea quota if you are on a roll. Some of the ideas you come up with may seem ridiculous or far-fetched, but this is OK – the exercise of stretching your brain is incredibly useful. And some of those far-fetched ideas might become starting points for new waves of thinking about your problem at hand.

Select the winning ideas

Usually, when you’ve had lots of ideas, some will be similar. They might be variations on a theme, but they might also be similar in scope, or resources required. The first step is to identify these similarities and arrange them on an “Affinity Map” – essentially clusters of post-it notes.

Then we might move on to “Dot Voting”, which is a very popular method when you need to clarify the preferences of several people. Give each person a set number of dot stickers to represent their votes; each person sticks their dots next to their personal choice.

Often it’s not clear which ideas are likely to give us most return on investment – of effort, budget and time. Sometimes an idea looks great, but the huge effort taken to implement it might become a drain on resources – maybe other ideas are more easily achievable?

“Easy High Impact” (pictured) is a remarkably simple matrix to determine which ideas to pursue based on the ideal that they should be easy to implement and achieve a high impact. Hard, low impact ideas are binned.

We also have a number of other evaluation techniques depending on the brief and the range of ideas generated.

Using a flipchart or large piece of paper, draw a large plus sign. At the top write “Easy”, and at the bottom write “Hard”. On the left, write “Low Impact”, and on the right “High Impact”.

Then, write all your ideas, projects or tasks on the target. Place them according to how easy / hard they will be to achieve, and how high / low impact they will be in terms of end result.

The first place to look is the top-right corner. These are the ideas that will deliver the highest impact for the least effort / resources. These should be your immediate priority!

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

Make foolproof plans

Often an idea has a ‘fuzzy’ outcome or implementation plan. We know roughly what we want to happen, but the steps to achieve it aren’t clearly defined yet.

Our “End In Mind” technique allows you to put your chosen ideas through a process where we first determine the desired outcome or end point. We then work backwards to reveal the necessary steps and actions required to achieve that outcome. This might include plans for prototyping your ideas.

An ambitious idea with great potential will likely have a range of features and aspects that need to be planned out in detail. Creating a timeline is an essential task, both to lay out all the necessary actions and to set a tight, yet realistic timetable that determines when these actions will be achieved.

We’re fans of the approach outlined in the book The 12 Week Year. Rather than set out your goals according to an annual timeframe, the authors recommend you instead set everything out over a maximum of 12 weeks. Their rationale is that a year is too long to maintain a sense of urgency. When you’re in January, December seems an awfully long way away, so inevitably time gets wasted on the belief that it can be made up later in the year.

We’ll help you close out your innovation workshop by setting out a tight, 12 week timeline to set you on the road to achieving exciting results.

Perfectly sized, and in your comfort zone

Innovation workshops work best for teams of 12-20, however they can accommodate more if you have a spacious venue.

Depending on your brief, three hours can be a good length for an innovation workshop – long enough to explore a topic, generate ideas and agree on a strategy; short enough to keep the energy high and enable you to get the day’s other important tasks done too.

However we also highly recommend full day innovation workshops if you have time – this enables you to really go deep, plus we have plenty of activities and tricks up our sleeves to keep everyone upbeat and productive.

If you have a suitable space within your offices, that’s great. Ideally, a large room with natural light, walls for post-it notes, not too many tables, a couple of flipcharts and a projector / large TV screen. Alternatively we can suggest some great creative spaces.

We come armed with reams of post-its, Sharpies, worksheets and props – including a rubber brick and ping-pong balls! – to help stimulate creative juices and problem solving powers.

“After the session, my colleague and I couldn’t stop talking about the new ideas we had generated in our heads, all of which happened in such a short period of time. I would recommend Creative Huddle to any company who have reached a creative stalemate.”

Heidi Swain, University of Sussex

“James led us through some of the leading thinking in creativity and got us all engaged in hands on activity specifically aimed at developing new ideas to solve the most important challenges we face.”

Russell Findlay, London Youth Games