Sunday, December 1, 2013

Innovation Arena: Get-together, pre-selection

I, my last blog entry was in January this year. I am sorry and apologize in case you have been waiting. I had some exciting projects and learned a lot. Now I start again to give back to the community.
So I continue with Innovation Arena and the agenda of an Innovation arena run.

The get-together

The room is prepared and the experts dropped in. Now it is you term to introduce into the ceremony of Innovation Arena. If Innovation Arena is well known to most of the experts, you might decide to shorten this step. In case of new externals as invited experts, I recommend do introduce in full length. External experts need to understand what is expected and to feel welcome and comfortable.
As moderator explain the overall objectives and every single workshop steps. It is important to highlight the collaborative nature of the workshop. All participants act on eye level. All participants have the chance and are expected to give feedback. Transport the idea that Innovation Arena is a positive meeting, so participants shall focus on adding and improving ideas instead of critics and risks.
It is very important to explain:
  • the way pre-selection of ideas is done (if used)
  • how to use the prioritization criteria
  • how the rating is executed
  • how the results will be determined
  • what the next steps are, when this Innovation Arena run is closed

Now all experts are prepared and hopefully in the mind set to drive the ideas of your organization with motivation and creativity.

The pre-selection of ideas 

In Innovation Arena, the crowd of experts shall concentrate on a restricted set of ideas. We recommend taking 5 to 15 ideas into one run.

For sure this is an option to play with. Some organizations use two full days on a similar type of workshop and take a hundred ideas of potential features of future development into one run. If you act more local and internal, a higher frequency, but shorter timeframe (as proposed in this blog) typically is preferable because of faster feedback cycles and reflection. If you are more globally and distributed, with many externals like key customers representatives, a lower frequency with longer time boxes might better suit the constraints of distribution. Play with these options and you will find the best fit for your organization.

Even this pre-selection step is optional. I recommend a pre-selection only in case you run Innovation Arena in higher frequency in your organization, with a more local setup, and based on an already established shared understanding of the ideas. With this setup pre-selection is easy. The majority of experts already know the ideas presented on the pinboards.

Image 1: How to arrange ideas pinboards in an Innovation Arena run

If the pinboards are placed as in the image, a collaborative and self-organizing way of pre-selection is to please the participants to place themselves in front of this one pinboard with the most promising ideas in this workshop run from their very personal view. Explain that we will work in this Innovation Arena run with about five ideas pre-selected by the most experts in front of the representing pinboard. This way of pre-selection fosters collaboration, movement and a positive start.

If you run Innovation Arena regularly in your organization, the experts understand the criteria “the most promising ideas in this workshop run from your personal view”. If the experts do not understand, this is a signal that you have to work on this shared understanding. This shared understanding under the experts in your organization reflects the alignment with strategic objectives. But that is a different story and maybe some time a blog on its own.

This pre-selection works better with more experts in the room than pinboards. Ideal you have at least twice the number of experts than pinboards. And you should have at least twice the number of experts than pinboards. Otherwise the group of experts is restricted to the idea owners and this is for sure a sub-optimal setup.

Be flexible in applying this pre-selection step. But I am sure you got the idea and see options how to play with this.

Next Blog will be about pitching ideas and probably the most important step: the rating...

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