A couple of weeks ago I finished teaching the online course that I teach at this time every year. It’s called “Innovation Tools and Processes” and is the second course in Royal Roads University’s Graduate Certificate in Workplace Innovation. I wanted to share with you an idea that one of my students came up with that might help you have better meetings and think more innovatively at your organization.
During my course, the students – who are all mid-career professionals – need to run an innovation project in their workplace. These can look different from each other depending on the person’s work context and the issue at hand, but they generally involve facilitating a half-day or full day of processes and methods that will lead groups to come up with innovative solutions to a problem. In the course we draw on The Innovator’s Method (Furr & Dyer), The Field Guide to Human-Centred Design from IDEO, Liberating Structures and more. All three resources are full of structures and processes that can be used in meetings, workshops and within the workplace and draw on design thinking and other innovation processes.
One of my students, Sandra Cascadden from the Government of Nova Scotia, gave me permission to write here about a kit that she assembled for her project’s session. She called it a “Design Thinking Kit” and put one in each large boardroom in her workplace – eight kits in total. Sandra’s kit included a selection of supplies and supporting resources and texts. The kit included:
- The Field Guide to Human Centred Design
- IBM’s Design Thinking Field Guide
- Liberating Structures reference sheet
- Mantras of the Master Facilitator (an IBM Design Thinking resource)
- The Innovator’s DNA and Innovator’s Method books by Furr and Dyer
- Sharpies, pens
- Lots of Post-it Notes (of course!)
- Emoji ball which can be used as a talking object
All of these items were placed in a labelled tote – “Design Thinking Kit” – and left in the boardrooms for anyone to use as they venture on their “path to creating a design thinking culture”. Fantastic!
To be clear, the methods and processes that these books showcase are ones that help get us out of some traps that we often fall into in traditional meetings. First, they help include everyone in the room and work to level out power structures that may exist. Second, they help us keep our “user” in mind – what client/customer/person is at the centre of our work and what are their needs? Lastly, they are usually just plain fun and they wake people up from the ennui of typical meetings which may not be participatory or lead people to think creatively.
We can all make our own Design Thinking Kits of course, so take this idea and run with it. What kind of kit could you put together to place in your own training rooms and board rooms at your organization? What other tools could you place inside it to help people think creatively and innovatively? Additional supplies I might suggest are tape, markers of every colour, lots of blank paper of varying sizes and colours, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, and anything else that might help you build prototypes of your ideas as they arise. You could also include a card deck such as the Visual Explorer or other items that might help prompt people’s thinking visually.
This kind of kit is a facilitator’s ‘must have’ so even if you don’t work at an organization, if you teach or facilitate in any setting I hope you are regularly bringing a kit of facilitation materials with you to any meeting or facilitation to support the agenda and interactive processes that you have planned. Leave a comment below if you are using something like this and have additional resources to share that are in your kit. I’d love to see what you’re using! And thanks again to Sandra and the 2018 class of WINV 685 for contributing ideas like this which continue to make the course useful and practical for all.