Inspiring Innovation Series: Workshop Wonders

It should come as no surprise to our readers that collaboration has been identified as one of the top trends of  2010.  Collaboration is  nothing new. People have been collaborating for eternity.  In fact, Charles Darwin once said, " In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed".

Collaboration has stayed "on trend" all these years simply because it works. Especially now that we are operating in a networked, digital age where open platforms and social media are the norm, collaboration is as important as ever.  Companies may now claim to have a "collaborative approach to business", but what exactly does that mean and is this just the buzzword of the day?   At Sparxoo, we believe workshops are a great way to ensure collaboration is more than jargon at your company.

Workshops are a truly collaborative way to supplement  both secondary research and traditional and non-traditional primary research. No matter the client, we encourage them to roll their sleeves up and participate in our day long worksessions. These workshops exemplify collaboration as they bring client, agencies and partners together across multiple levels and strata of the organization. Learning from history, we want our clients’ brands to be differentiated from their competitors and we believe the workshop exercises outlined below are a fun, productive, and collaborative way to do so.  Outlined below are  snapshots of three such workshop exercises you can easily replicate to inspire breakthrough innovation for your brand.

I. The hat trick.

You may have been told at some point to "put your thinking cap on," but what exactly does that mean?  Next time a professor or boss asks you such a reductionist question, consider replying "which cap?" There are, in fact, many different kinds of "thinking caps" a company could consider sporting and, depending on which thinking cap, they may be inspired by different thoughts and reach different conclusions. This "hat trick" exercise is derived from Edward de Bono’s  "Six Thinking Hats" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats)   Besides being a fun team bonding exercise, this exercise is an important personification tool to help you work through the reactions—opposition and support—from various audiences approaching a problem differently.

In a more literal interpretation of de Bono, you can assign the team members different colors that represent different outlooks or potential reactions (for example, the supporter, naysayer, etc) and then have each person role play according to their symbolic assigned color.  You can reference de Bono’s assigned colored hats or brainstorm your own color designation. Black for example could represent the devil’s advocate, yellow the blind follower, or white the fickle.

If you want to take this exercise a step further, you can literally give team members physical hats representing the various audiences: perhaps a policeman, a chef, and a doctor.  In this situation, besides having fun wearing the actual hats, we can understand what the challenges might be to these audiences and can then work through ways to preclude naysayers, for example, by thinking what the red thread  or commonalities would be to please these disparate audiences.

II. Cut it out.

Great brands stand the test of time by not only thriving in good times, but also enduring in bad.  While you cannot predict the future, you can help plan for it the best you can with this "Cut it Out" exercise.

What is the fundamental ingredient of your brand?  For example, if you are Coke, perhaps it is water or the disposable can.  Now imagine a world in which this ingredient is eliminated, compromised in some way, or is simply out of fashion.  Then what?  Perhaps Coke creates a thick syrup that is directly squeezed onto the tongue, perhaps the syrup is added to lime or another juice.  If people no longer want disposable cans, perhaps Coke creates a home delivery service of the syrup which can be pumped through the kitchen faucet or  is delivered by door like the old milk bottle service.

The point of this exercise is to brainstorm perhaps far-out there scenarios, not to prepare the company necessarily for these actual challenges but to spur innovation in their current...

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