Why Innovation Workshops Suck

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Don’t get me wrong…. I love leading corporate innovation workshops. It’s a show like no other. It’s morning and the sound of rush hour is just settling down outside. Our event space is a dance of wide, curious but somewhat averted eyes. The crowd is equal parts excited, hopeful, sceptical and fearful. Yet there’s an air of pride in the room – we are the few that were selected to innovate. My favourite ingredients.

We’re innovating with the ABC today, specifically looking at lean validation.



The group’s creative brains have been pulled in all directions the previous three days, they’ve learned about new ways of working, the competitive advantages of collaboration, human centred innovation and designing with empathy. They’ve talked about passion and purpose and impact. All great things and useful tools. Now, with expanded minds and limitless possibility, everyone now has a hundred ideas for how innovation will solve all their problems.

But now what?

What you would traditionally see at this point in an innovation workshop is a frustrating mix of group-think, a tendency to allow seniority to rule, and a panicked attempt to keep the enthusiasm and energy going by just lurching into the first idea thrown into the arena. Which is why most innovation workshops rarely produce tangible change, and why the next batch of star performers in the organisation will approach the next workshop with equal parts excitement, hope, scepticism and fear.

That’s not good enough.

If we are going to create the entrepreneurs and organisations of the future, then we ought to train them up to take their crazy, brave and game changing ideas and make them a reality. And quickly.

Tomorrow's entrepreneurs
Training tomorrow’s entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life

That’s exactly why the lean validation component for the ABC was run at BlueChilli – we’ve become specialists at taking crazy ideas and turning them into crazy good businesses. We’ve done it so many times that we can now teach corporates how to apply lean startup methodology, and particularly lean validation, to the outcomes of their innovation workshops. We really delve into the problems, which ones present the most opportunity and what tools to use to quickly test their ideas with real customers. Which in turn gives the participants a real opportunity to take their ideas further than a seminar room*.

The benefit of including Lean Validation into ideation and innovation workshops is that the effort spent on shifting perceptions and surfacing great ideas wasn’t for nothing. Everyone still left with warm fuzzy feelings and the belief that innovation will solve all their problems. But each one of them now also left armed with the knowledge and tools to evaluate, test and bring their ideas to life.

It was a pleasure to work with the ABC folks and hear their bold ideas. Thanks for giving us a chance to show you how to turn innovation into action!

*Just kidding – it’s open plan nowadays.