Think :: Create :: Share
Innovation Thinking Activity
This activity works well as an opening to set the context for more detailed innovation mapping and solution-finding. OR as a closing to examine what was learned, found useful, and possible applications.
Outcomes & Objectives:
- To break “stuckness” in thinking
- Create breakthrough ideas rapidly
- Generating new ideas and improving existing ones
- Framing ‘what success will look like for the day
- Framing ‘what did we do that was useful & how can we apply these ideas after an innovation process
- Post-it notes
- Flip Chart Paper
- Sufficient space for people to spread out
- Pens or markers
- Stopwatch or Countdown Timer
- An ideal size is 8 to 10 people
- The larger the group, the longer the entire activity will take
- With a team of 10 people, the activity is about 30 minutes
You will want to have an idea or topic to be explored. It is best if you can keep it two words or less, for example, “Tomorrow’s Customer” or “Decrease Turnover” or “Increase Profits” or “Machine Utilization” … I have found that working to determine the two words is tough and necessary.
It will be tempting to use the two-word statement in a sentence like “How will we find tomorrow’s customer?” Hold off from using a statement.
Keeping it broad with the two words will focus the topic open enough to encourage breakthrough ideas that can be useful in later phases of the innovation process.
- Have stacks of multi-colored post-its and pens available for each person.
- Display the two-word topic or idea
- Distribute the post-its and pens, then move into the instructions.
Instructions and Facilitator Script:
This is fast-paced; you will want to allow time, in the end, to dive deeper into the innovation process following this activity.
- On a flip chart page or slide, have the two-word idea or topic you will explore.
- Explain to everyone the instructions in the following order.
Everyone will have 3 minutes to think of aspects of the two-word idea or topic. Write down as many as you can think of, one idea per/post-it.
All phrases, terms, ideas, inspirations are great, and try to write as many as possible. Please think of this like free association; anything that comes to mind, write the idea and stick it on the table. Brainstorming is about open sharing, and the goal is to get out as many ideas as possible.
Yell GO! And start the 3 minutes. Once 3 minutes is up, yell STOP! And continue to the Create phase.
Ask people to get into teams of 3. If the numbers do not work out perfectly, a team of 2 or 4 is fine … 3 is ideal.
This team of 3 the team has 12 minutes to complete the following:
- Sort through their post-it notes ideas
- Identify 3 main concepts that are most useful & valuable based on the two-word phrase and the teams’ judgment.
- Develop a 3-minute presentation sharing their ideas and concepts for innovation / solution-finding based upon the two-word phrase.
In developing these presentation ideas, teams may create prototypes, sketches, ideal solutions, flowcharts, or speeches to share with the larger group.
Yell GO! And start the 12 minutes. Once 12 minutes is up, yell STOP! And continue to the Share phase.
The teams of 3 now have 3 minutes to share their findings. Teams can present in whatever way they find most useful.
Keep each team to 3 minutes. The time pressure will help keep things focused and precise, plus allow other people to listen and think about how all the ideas fit together.
After every team has presented, you may want to guide the group, as a whole, through the following processing & reflection questions.
Processing and Reflection:
Here are some ideas for processing & reflection questions. I recommend you use some of the responses to frame a further Innovation Process.
- What was your initial reaction to this process?
- At the beginning of the 1st three minutes, what did you think about the idea or topic being explored?
- How did that change?
- What processes were successful in determining how the teams of 3 were going to analyze and share the 3-minute presentation?
- What do you feel was gained through the time pressure? What else?
- Now that we have heard ideas and approaches to innovate and solve ideas or topics being explored, what do we need to understand better for us to be successful?
Ideas for Next Steps:
With this activity, sometimes the team will gather the ideas and prioritize through a forced ranking or a Useful:: Impactful::Helpful matrix, then spend time developing the top concepts.
Sometimes we use the presentation concepts and discussion as a starting point for a TRIZ Structured Innovation Process.
It is important that the concepts and ideas be incorporated into the larger Innovation Process and that people see their ideas being listened to and used.
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