One of the fun parts of my job is facilitating ideation workshops for our clients. They can be challenging and exhausting, but incredibly rewarding. When a group of stakeholders emerge from a difficult discussion with a new direction and sense of purpose, the energy can keep me going for days.
When I plan these workshops, I like to use some simple worksheets. The participants are often new to the process and worksheets help to focus their attention and make it clear how they can contribute. They also encourage participants to record, share and discuss their thoughts.
Over the last few years the worksheets I use have converged into a simple set of four: Manifesto, Sketch, Storyboard and Concept.
At Foolproof, we often use workshops to create experience principles, design principles and vision statements. For this I encourage participants to work on their own or in pairs, and use the Manifesto worksheet to record candidate principles or the elements of a vision statement. I give participants big pens so that I can stick the statements up on a wall and have everyone read them easily. These statements are great for exposing and resolving conflicting goals and priorities — did I say that these workshops can be challenging?
Story and sketch
In ideation workshops I always go through at least one stage where I want participants to record and share initial ideas. For these stages I divide the room into small groups, ideally of three, and use the Story and Sketch worksheets. In workshops I encourage the participants to use these sheets in any way that they want, as long as they record lots of ideas. Many people are uncomfortable drawing pictures in front of others, so written notes are fine at first, and using the Story worksheet to written process descriptions is fine too. With encouragement, most people will eventually start to draw stick people, and simple diagrams that they can annotate.
As a facilitator this is a great time to walk the room and ask questions about the content of the participants’ worksheets. If they tell you something interesting that they haven’t expressed on one of their sheets, suggest that they incorporate that thought. This tacit knowledge can be gold dust later in a project.
Once a group have collected their ideas on a stack of Story and Sketch worksheets, I encourage them to review their ideas and see how they can combine, refine and adapt them, and to record their most interesting ideas using Concept worksheets. The boxes on this worksheet bypass the barrier of a large blank sheet of paper, and help participants to keep their ideas simple — ideally passing the ’elevator test’.
Once each group has a number of concepts they are happy with, they present them to the other groups, and we can all look for further refinements, combinations and adaptations.
I can’t show you any examples from recent client workshops as they are confidential. So here are some participants using the worksheets to show off the ideas they produced in a workshop we ran at Clerkenwell Design Week last year.
Here is a copy of the ideation workshop worksheet (PDF) for printing on A3 (preferably) or on A4 (if it’s all you have).