At coeno, we have been conducting innovation and ideation workshops since the middle of 2016, not so much due to strategic considerations, but because we have gained a lot of experience with various creative and meeting methodologies internally, and the opportunities evolved for us to apply this methodological knowledge in collaboration with some of our longtime customers. As a result, this work has provided us with a lot of fun and along the way we have helped our customers get their respective workshop topics going.
This positive experience has encouraged us to offer, and further expand, workshops as part of our services.
What exactly did we work on in the workshops?
Of course, I cannot name any details, but basically, most of the workshops dealt with similar questions: How can opportunities resulting from new technologies be used meaningfully and profitably by our customers? Examples include the topics of blockchains, artificial intelligence and augmented reality. For this purpose, it is important to first create a common understanding, then to think about the possible products and services from the customer’s point of view and then provide the necessary prerequisites for the production of, for example, prototypes or product visions.
How is coeno doing this?
We do not have a standard procedure, but rather, a comprehensive toolbox of different methodologies, from which we can compile a suitable program according to the objectives and the participants. The workshop, or workshops, are therefore prepared by us, methodically and in a structured way, and then delivered – the customers themselves, however, provide the participants. We act only as moderators.
When we talk about technology-driven innovation workshops, we usually start by demonstrating how the technology can be applied, whether in the customer’s industry or in a completely different field. Also, technical background information as well as the testing of the technology, or experience reports, are helpful here.
Once the possibilities are understood, everybody can be completely free and maximally open about, for example, new products and services, or optimized processes, and things becomes very creative. In this phase of ideation, it is about opening the horizon, clearing the cobwebs out of your head and “going crazy” as much as possible.
After that, the ideas are continually consolidated, distilled and made more tangible. This often reaches a point at the end of a two or three-day workshop where a list of user stories for a prototype has been developed, which then leads into the implementation.
When it comes to creativity in the ideational phase, is it best to hold such workshops with creative people, right?
No, on the contrary – the more heterogeneous the participants are in the workshops, the better the results, based on our experience. A good mix of the abilities, strengths and hierarchies of the participants leads to new visions, both in the initial workshops and later in the implementation.
Why should you hire someone from outside for these workshops?
Basically, such workshops can, of course, be planned and carried out internally if there are methodologically competent employees in the company. More important is that the neutral structuring by a third party really helps to get the most out of the workshop days. We, as an agency, are timekeepers, encouragers, and sometimes referees when, for example, there are risks due to corporate policy constraints or because of technical discussions that become too detailed.
In addition, with our background as user experience consultants, we always have a unique view of what the user or the customers want. This helps to make the ideation of products and services run in a customer-oriented manner and it is not just about the technical feasibility. It is thus the mixture of UX know-how, methodological competence and curiosity about new topics that characterize us as a partner here.
And what about the time – both for the agency and for the customer?
As an agency, we take care of the content and timing, preparation, implementation and follow-up. Ideation workshops that take place over two days have proven themselves. We are represented by two people, since one person alone is not able to present everything. The total expenditure for us is therefore about 12 to 15 person days (PD) for a 2-day Ideation workshop.
On the customer side, there should be eight or more people. During the preparation, there is some effort involved in coordinating with us and for scheduling. Since we prepare the follow-up, for example, in the form of presentation documentation, the customer does not have to worry about it.
There is a lot of effort, is it worth it?
Definitely. Let us assume that the goal of an innovation project is the creation of a functional prototype, so that a lot of new technology, how to deal with it can be learned with the prototype and on the way there. We are talking about an effort that can easily add up to over 100 PD spent.
The initial effort of – the agency and the customer taken together – 30 PD is easily recouped over the course of the project. Simply by the fact that all stakeholders were involved in the process, and the idea-finding process, right from the start. All have the same vision in their heads and there are no branches on the road, and therefore, there is no need to justify themselves to others during development.
This common “pride in work” helps enormously and easily outweighs the expense and costs.
What are the most important lessons regarding innovation and ideation workshops?
When innovation projects are not technically focused, but rather, interdisciplinary with a good share of “design” know-how, then these projects become more successful. Such an interdisciplinary collaboration must be encouraged and initial ideation workshops are a very good way to do that.