Last Thursday, the 20th September, we helped to facilitate a Speed Innovation event at the MADE Entrepreneurs Festival. In this post, I'd like to explain how it came about, what we did and what we've gained from it.
For the last 18 months or so we've been working with our partners at Gripple, Sheffield Hallam University's Innovation Futures unit and Creative Sheffield to host 'Accelerated Innovation Workshops' for local businesses and clients. These are intended to provide a theoretical and practical introduction to an innovation process heavily influenced by 'design thinking', and cover the design of physical and digital products and services. They take place over a day and a half, and have so far been expertly facilitated by Colin Burns of Elmwood.
Back in July the partners met to discuss whether there was an opportunity to put on a shorter version of the workshop as a fringe event at the MADE Entrepreneurs Festival. We threw some ideas around and eventually decided on a format that mixed structured conversations using cards with rotating people 'speed dating'-style in order to give up to 40 delegates an overview of all the elements we believe contribute to an organisation's innovative potential in two and a half hours.And we called it 'Speed Innovation'.
Here's how it works:
First, we identified seven topics that we felt covered the most important areas that an organisation needs to think about when developing its creative potential. These were:
- Physical Environment
- Information Environment
- Idea Creation
Within each topic, we came up with four aspects that often stand in opposition to each other; we called them 'tensions'. These are things like whether the culture is playful or serious; whether prototypes should be beautiful or functional; whether the work space allows information to be made visible or whether it hides it, etc.
So, in total there were 28 tensions in 7 categories. We then asked the fabulous Sarah Smizz to do quick sketches to illustrate all of these ideas, and produced a deck of cards to represent each of tensions. We drew together a team of seven facilitators, one for each topic, and invited delegates to register for either of two workshop sessions at the beautiful Channing Hall on Surrey Street in central Sheffield.
On the day, delegates were seated at round tables in groups of six (ish), and, after an introductory presentation by Alex Prince from Innovation Futures, the facilitators sat with each group for fifteen minutes and used the cards to explain and spark conversations around the tensions, before rotating to the next table and repeating the process.
In addition, we asked the delegates to indicate on a separate form where they think their organisation currently sits against each of the 28 tensions, and where they would like to be. We are using this data to generate 'radar charts' for each delegate, as well as an aggregated one that combines all the responses gathered from both sessions so we can see where there are general aspiration gaps.
Each delegates got to take their own deck of cards away at the end; to remind them of the topics covered and to use with their colleagues to foster further conversations 'back at base'.
It was a fantastic day, and was well attended, especially as it was a fringe event and there were plenty of other things going on elsewhere. The feedback has been very good, and it was a real privilege to work with such an engaged and creative team of facilitators.
More than just the day itself, though, this type of methodology is very useful as it allows us to do simple but quite deep evaluation of our clients' appetite and readiness for innovation. We are able to run similar workshops using the same assets but with groups of people from within a single organisation. Not only does it encourage them to think about areas in which their ability to apply technology in new ways could be improved but it also provides a way of measuring aspiration gaps and facilitates alignment between individuals and teams.
I'm really looking forward to running more sessions in future!
Thanks once again to the MADE team:
Alex Prince from Innovation Futures at Sheffield Hallam University.
Siobhan Newton from SHU.
Ian Ellison from SHU.
Gordon Macrae from Gripple.
Erica Packington from OID PARC.
Saul Cozens from Technophobia.