How to Conduct an Innovation Session
An Innovation Session comprises four phases: Ideation, Building, Evaluation, and Action Plan.
Ideation: The goal of the first phase of the Innovation Session is to enable and encourage the participants to generate as many ideas as possible. A key for success in this phase is to suspend any self-editing on the part of the participants.
Building: In the second phase of the Innovation Session, participants take their ideas and partial ideas and turn them into more defined and detailed concepts.
Evaluation: The third phase of the session is for evaluating the concepts and determining the most likely to succeed. Next Steps are then established for moving the new product idea from concept to the next stage in product development.
Action Plan: All ideas, concepts, and Next Steps are captured for the Ongoing Planning Database.
10 Tips for Fostering Innovation During Virtual Team Meetings
- Clarify the difference between content and process. Content refers to what’s being discussed, the subject or purpose for having a meeting in the first place. Process refers to virtually everything else including:
State the purpose of the session. To avoid spending too much time on this, write what you understand the goal to be as the title of your meeting invitation.
Request a volunteer to write down unanswered questions in a group chat. Thank the person who volunteered each time he or she gets up to record an unanswered question to make sure everyone embraces the value of the unknown.
Get the group’s permission to take a break. Have everyone turn off their cameras and audio for a specified amount of time. After a break, ask each participant to move to a different area of their home, if possible, because it requires participants to change comfort zones, increases their attention levels, and adds to the overall energy level of the session.
Start the meeting with a time-constrained idea dump. Instruct your team to write as many ideas “without discussion” as they can in just a few minutes. The combination of short completion cycles (three minutes) and the instruction “without discussion” increases the energy level inside of the video conference. It short-circuits cognitive comfort zones and encourages energized participation.
Display everyone’s ideas, but limit discussion to two ideas at one time. The reason for taking only two ideas from each person is that many people have similar ideas and by the time you get to them they complain that all of their ideas have already been documented.
Convert raw ideas to concepts. The difference between a new product idea and a new product concept is in the degree of completeness. Often, a new product concept reveals itself when several ideas are combined or when a value-added feature is integrated with an existing product or service.
Assist the group in identifying viable concepts. Pattern recognition is a useful tool to employ for this. Suggest to participants that they look at the big picture before getting into details. Ask them to review all of the ideas and identify patterns or interconnectivities that spark their interest.
Distribute a list of all ideas after the session. Assure your team that a list of all the partial ideas, complete ideas, and concepts will be written up and distributed via email to participants within twenty-four hours after the conclusion of the session.
Develop an action plan. Document the Innovation Session output in an actionable format with Tasks, Responsibilities, and Due Dates.
- How loudly are people speaking?
- Who’s talking the most?
- Who’s apparently not listening?
- Who’s not participating?
- And more
With a standard session group of fifteen participants, you typically get approximately seventy- five ideas from this step. You’ll want to try and limit the team to their top 10 concepts in terms of their viability. Concepts with the strongest viability feedback would subsequently be scheduled for quantitative testing.
There is a paradoxical element to the Innovation Session in that we’re using structure to access creativity; the Innovation Session structure is primarily the act of separating two collaboration dynamics: freewheeling creative Ideation and thoughtful Evaluation. Both can be achieved in-person, as well as virtual, team meetings.