WHAT IS A TYPICAL AGENDA FOR A TWO-DAY WORKSHOP?

At a high level, the agenda is:

  • Needs Analysis & Constraints
  • Ideation
  • Soak Time (includes evening and morning between two days)
  • Solution Development
  • Action Planning
  • Solution Presentations & Debates
  • Solution Selection & Funding

HOW MANY PEOPLE SHOULD PARTICIPATE? WHAT IS THE BEST SIZE?

The goal of the event is initially quantity of ideas, and then, quality of ideas. In order to get to the best ideas, we must generate as many ideas as possible. To this end, the more participants we have, the better. So far, the largest group we have facilitated was 75 people on day 1 for ideation, and 35 people on day 2, for solution development and action planning. The smallest group was 8 people on both days.

WHAT TYPE OF CLIENT SHOULD BE INVITED?

The objective of the process is to two-fold. First, to create unprecedented and unique value for your client. Second, to develop a strategic relationship with your client. The ideal client, therefore, regards you highly and there is significant opportunity to increase the value that you provide, and consequently, the profitability of the relationship.

WILL OUR CLIENTS GIVE US THAT MUCH TIME?

In our economy, it’s safe to assume that everyone is overworked and no one has spare time. However, everyone has priorities. It is important to choose a challenge for the workshop that is strategic in nature for your client(s). When you tackle a strategic issue that will drive profitability, you get the attention of the most senior client executives and they will make the time to tackle the issue. Also, remember that we are now in the Experience Economy and you need to prioritize staging experiences for your clients. To quote Joseph Pine and James Gilmore:

“Those businesses that relegate themselves to the diminishing world of goods and services will be rendered irrelevant. To avoid this fate, you must learn to stage a rich, compelling experience. …Remember that staging experiences is not about entertaining customers, it’s about engaging them.”[1]

IS THERE PRE-WORK ASSOCIATED WITH THE EVENT?

Yes. The length and nature of the pre-work is dependent on the nature of the problem to be solved.

DO CUSTOMERS HAVE TO DO PRE-WORK?

Yes. Typically this involves participating in interviews and surveys. In some cases, depending on the nature of the problem to be solved and its priority to the client, more involved pre-work may be required.

WHAT IS “SOAK TIME”?

These workshops are intense. We completely consume the attention of the conscious mind while exploring the options of solving a particular problem or addressing a particular challenge. The best ideas, however, do not come from the conscious mind. They come from the subconscious. The subconscious is engaged when the conscious mind is given a challenge or problem and it has wrestled with it for some time but the problem has not been resolved. While the conscious mind turns its attention to something else, the subconscious mind immediately takes over and continues to wrestle with the challenge. We call this “soak time”. It is extremely powerful. In fact, as a society, many of our most creative innovations came to the inventors during periods of relaxation. The ideas just popped into their minds. This is the power of the subconscious wrestling with something “underground” and then, when it is ready, on its own timetable, it pops the solution into the conscious mind.

WHAT DO WE DO WITH CUSTOMERS DURING “SOAK TIME”?

It is important to remember two things about soak time. First, it is work time for the subconscious mind. It is critical, therefore, that the conscious mind be completely absorbed in something fun and amusing so that it takes its attention completely off the problem. Second, our Innovation for Growth Co-Creation Workshop is a sales event. The most sought after commodity for a sales team in today’s fast-paced world is the attention of buyers. During Soak Time, your buyers are spending time with you and your sales team. That’s time they are not spending with your competitors. Continue to provide them with experiences that will deepen your relationship with them.

IS IT NECESSARY TO HAVE “SOAK TIME”?

Soak Time will occur naturally overnight while participants relax and recover from the Intense Ideation session. However, the longer you can extend Soak Time, the greater results you will have when we move into Solution Development.

WHAT TYPE OF EVENING ACTIVITY DO YOU RECOMMEND BETWEEN THE TWO FULL DAYS?

Your evening activity can be as simple as providing dinner and an opportunity for the participants to converse. Ideally, you will host your guests to an immersive event. We have had great success with events like musicals, theatre or concerts. Be creative!

WHAT TYPE OF VENUE IS REQUIRED?

At a minimum, we need a room large enough for participants to work in groups of 4 to 6. The more creative, or unusual the space, the better.

IS THE GROUP MAKE-UP TYPICALLY A 50/50 SPLIT BETWEEN CUSTOMER AND EMPLOYEES?

No. We typically have a 60/40 split in favour of the client. The actual split doesn’t matter as much as the diversity of the group. Invite participants from different functional areas of your organization and the client(s) organization.

SHOULD GUESTS BE STRICTLY CLIENTS OR CAN WE HAVE SUPPLIERS AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS?

The more diverse the group, the better. Be creative about who you invite. Just be sure that everyone will be comfortable in each other’s presence. It would be a mistake to invite participants who might feel threatened by each other’s presence.

HOW DO WE MANAGE SO MANY PEOPLE IN TERMS OF IDEATION?

We do not use traditional brainstorming techniques. We have a wide variety of ideation processes that ensure everyone’s voice is heard and the process is fast and efficient. We typically generate thousands of ideas within four to six hours of ideation.

DO THE PARTICIPANTS PRESENT TO EACH OTHER?

Not on day one. Day one is all about generating ideas. On day two, participants actually square off in debating teams in an effort to sell everyone else on their solutions. Their solutions are challenged and they are given the opportunity to refine their solutions to make them stronger. Through this process, the best solutions get stress-tested and float to the top.

WHAT IS THE PROFILE OF AN IDEAL PARTICIPANT?

The ideal participants on the client side should be senior executives with an emotional connection to the problem to be solved (i.e., they will personally benefit in a big way when the final solution is implemented). They should be strategic thinkers and your relationship with them should be significant to your firm. In terms of your staff, you should seek participants from every department in your firm in order to ensure you have cross-functional perspectives.

AT THE END OF THE SESSION, SHOULD WE FOLLOW-UP WITH A REPORT BACK TO THE PARTICIPANTS TO SAY WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE IDEAS?

The event is designed to be action-oriented. At the end of the event, specific projects will be defined with action plans and specific accountabilities which will be shared with your team and your client’s team. In the course of managing these project accountabilities, everyone will remain informed on the actions being taken.

DOES WHETSTONE RECOMMEND TURNING THE GROUP OF CUSTOMER PARTICIPANTS INTO A CUSTOMER ADVISORY GROUP?

Yes! Once you have captured the attention of your client(s) in this special way, you want to maintain the momentum. Attention paid to you, is attention that is not paid to your competitors.

WHAT SHOULD MY TEAM KNOW BEFORE THE EVENT?

Through the pre-work process, your team will be briefed on the value innovation/co-creation process. However, if there is one thing we would recommend, it is to remind your team that this is a sales or business development event. During the process, participants become very comfortable with each other and relationships that might otherwise take years to develop, deepen rapidly. With this level of comfort, your staff may forget that they are with buyers and may inadvertently begin airing dirty laundry. From the client’s perspective, everything that happens from the moment they are invited, until the moment they head home is part of the “experience” you are providing.

DOES WHETSTONE PROVIDE SEVERAL FACILITATORS TO HANDLE SUCH A LARGE GROUP?

Yes. We will scale our facilitation staff based on the number of participants.

WHAT RESOURCES SHOULD WE PROVIDE?

You should provide a venue, catering, travel and accommodation, a small gift to the participants as a token of your appreciation and as a memento of the event, sufficient laptop computers for idea capture, a laser printer, and flip charts.

FROM THE MOMENT WE SIGN-OFF, HOW LONG DOES THE PROCESS TAKE?

Typically six to twelve weeks.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS WHETSTONE’S CUSTOMERS HAVE EXPERIENCED AS A RESULT OF THIS PROCESS?

To name just a few, our clients have reported:

  • more fulfilling relationships with their customers and their staff,
  • greater insight into what makes their client and staff tick,
  • significant revenue opportunities, a paradigm shift in the thinking of their executives,
  • deep appreciation from their clients for hosting such an exciting event,
  • an injection of innovation thinking into their culture,
  • greater competitive advantage.
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