Engaging people in your innovation

Innovation is not a solo sport.  It requires you to be aware of and understand opportunities, explore options and perspectives, be knowledgeable on the issues, develop ideas and test them. You could try to do this by yourself.  But, I would not recommend it.

Bringing together people with diverse experiences, perspectives and knowledge will make the process more fruitful. (In the association community we often compound the experience by engaging volunteers, staff, colleagues and experts in our innovation projects.)  While diverse groups can help the overall project efforts, successfully engaging them doesn’t just happen, it takes real work.

On one of my first “innovation” projects I was privileged to work with an incredible team.  (We invited some of the most amazing people in our community, and they agreed.)  I wish I could say it was a huge success. But, it wasn’t.  It was good, and we learned a lot.  I really wish I knew then, what I know now. Now I know that to be truly successful we needed to invite people from outside our community, design experiences that engaged them, encouraged them to share their knowledge and experience, united them in a shared challenge and invited them to explore areas that others might deem ridiculous.

One of my take aways was, don’t discount people being unwilling to step outside their comfort zone. People can feel uncomfortable or unwilling to step up and share their perspective or crazy idea for many reasons. (Culture plays a big role in this, and I will explore that later.)  But you can help to alleviate this feeling by creating experiences that invite people to engage, shows them that you value their knowledge and contribution and creates environments where it is ok to toss out half-baked ideas.

The innovation plan you develop should engage diverse individuals, value the people and their contributions, frame the challenge, share project goals, engage people with the other participants, invite them to share their perspectives and challenge them to create something new. This is not easy. But it is necessary for innovation.

Here are a few of my go to resources when I start framing new projects.  I hope they are helpful as you consider your project.

Jeffrey Cufaude, Idea Architects.  Jeffrey is a wonderful facilitator and he has graciously shared facilitation tips on his website (www.ideaarchitects.org). Search “facilitation Friday” to access the tips.

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers and Changemakers  The Gamestorming team created a webpage sharing games and other related resources  www.gogamestorm.com

IDEO Method Cards.  The Cards highlight 51 research methods (most are very approachable) to help you better understand the people you are developing a new resource for.  More information at http://www.ideo.com/work/method-cards

What’s your favorite facilitation resource? Please share it.

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