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How to get the most out of your brainstorming workshops?

Tristan Fraud
Aug 23, 2021 ∙ 3 mins
Team in a brainstorming session

In this article, we further elaborate on our Discovery process, answering some of the most frequently asked questions about what happens during the “Workshop” component. The goal of this article is to clarify our methodology, as well as to share ideas for how you could go about running your own workshops when embarking on a new project for a client.

Why run a workshop with all the stakeholders involved, instead of just kicking off the work after gathering requirements?

Workshops are generally thought of as being a drain on time and resources. But when delivering a digital solution, they’re a key aspect to starting off a project on the right foot. As explained in our article, Discovery Phase - the key to a successful digital project, taking the required time to ensure you’re solving the right problems is incredibly important. Done correctly, a workshop will assist you in doing this.

The workshop portion of our methodology is critical to delivering a solid Discovery phase. It allows us to:

  • Gather ideas from all stakeholders, so that we know we’re building a solution that addresses problems from various perspectives.
  • Identify potential roadblocks to better plan the development stages.
  • Clearly identify the challenges at hand, and agree as a team on project objectives.
  • Unify the team around the challenges we’re trying to solve, to create ownership in continued success of the project.

Image of people in a boat following a leader

What are the key elements of a successful workshop?

Encouraging meaningful participation from all participants is one of the first things that comes to mind. Here are some of our recommendations:

  • First up, break the ice. We always start our workshops with an ice breaker activity. Before we can effectively tackle the challenges at hand, it’s important to set the stage for collaboration. There are lots of lists of ice-breaking questions out there, and they can be useful, but we’ve found the key is to allow each workshop participant to introduce themselves in an original manner.
  • Likewise, securing a strong facilitator for the ice breaker will guarantee that the workshop runs smoothly, follows a clear process, and engages all participants. You might find a facilitator from within your organization, or you could hire a professional Design Thinking facilitator.
  • Structure the workshop around proven activities, instead of just blank page brainstorming, to get even the quietest attendees to participate. For some guidance on how to do this, we suggest checking out the following resources: Lightning Talks (short presentation) and How Might We.

Have a strong structure and decision-making process to get the most out of the workshop. Our advice:

  • Before the workshop, validate the content and agenda with key stakeholders to check that it meets their objectives.
  • At the beginning of the workshop, explain what Design Thinking is, to help attendees visualize what will happen in the workshop. This will build momentum and keep engagement high.
  • Make sure you timebox different activities. Give each activity a time limit to accomplish a certain task. Then share and discuss.
  • Choose one participant to be the “sponsor”. The sponsor is the person who will ultimately be tasked with making the final decision on an issue, to keep the workshop moving forward.

Two individuals with ideas discussing during a brainstorming session

Remote vs. in person?

More and more of our work life has migrated into a hybrid mode, meaning that we can’t always be present with each other in person. Workshops, as part of the Discovery Phase, can effectively be run in both settings. However, it’s key to adapt the tools to deliver the same objectives. For instance, we use Miro to support us in certain activities, when we don’t have access to physical Post-It notes the way we would if we were all attending a workshop in an office. This enables workshop participants to share their ideas effectively and prioritize focus areas.

Final thoughts

If you want to innovate and empower your team to come up with the best possible digital solution to solve the challenges and opportunities your business is facing, a Discovery Phase is what you need. It’s a unique experience that will allow you to tap into inspiring co-creation with stakeholders, with impressive business results. Using our multidimensional approach to workshops, by the end of the Discovery Phase, you’ll have a clear vision of your digital product, and a functional prototype.

Reach out to us if you want to collaborate on your digital solution. Our expert design team will walk you through the most efficient way to reach your goals.