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As a Design Thinking Coach and Trainer from SAP Services I have managed several internal and external workshops, from 6 to 150 people, and I would like to share and get feedback about some best practices I have figured out about preparing a Design Thinking activity in a workshop format. I will organize a few ideas in the two aspects of a Design Thinking engagement: Approach and Environment.

APPROACH:

A workshop has a pre-defined time, from half a day to three days. You will not have the luxury of using a lot of time for agreeing on what to do in the workshop. The scope to work on has to be defined in advance with the sponsor. The challenge can and should be revisited during the session, but you need a very clear starting point. Too broad and the team will get lost, too narrow and it will be an unexciting journey.

As a coach, you need to clarify the expectations and desired outcome before the workshop. If the final product will be a low fidelity prototype, and business model canvas or an action plan, has to be agreed as one of the first steps.

Once you have the two points of the line, you can design the workshop flow. Keep in mind that one step is well connected with the other, keeping always the challenge in mind and an integrated view.

It does not matter if you have done similar sessions before. Build the agenda for you and the other coaches in detail, activity by activity including breaks, and pay attention to the emotional ride of the workshop. You build one layer after another till the group is ready to start solving the challenge. The promise of a great work has to be lived by them in order to keep the momentum during the hard work of understanding the problem.

Finally, when you have a very detailed agenda; be ready to change it as much as needed. It is about the group and their work, and there is no place for coach ego.

ENVIRONMENT:

The location is a critical factor for a workshop success. It has to be comfortable, have the appropriate material and enough resources to display the material created.

But I would suggest not be too picky with your requirements. If possible, always visit the place before the workshop or try to find pictures of the space.  You may see the space restrictions as an issue or as source of inspiration. The room is small but a nice corridor is available, make the teams work there. The walls are not good, use the floor. You don’t have enough flip charts, use the tables. The space, any space, can be your friend if you watch him with a kind look.

As everybody knows it is much better to go out of the office, and have the workshop in a nice location. And having plenty of good food and coffee and water available always help. But the “space” is more than anything a mental state. The key is the participants feel comfortable, more than being comfortable.  One of my best workshops I had was in a quite bad room, but the people were engaged and worked very well. You need them to feel safe, to feel free that their opinion counts, and that as a group they can overcome any obstacle.

A Design Thinking workshop is hard work but is also an exciting experience. If you are enjoying the moment, they will feel your emotion, and that feeling will spread in the room. You have to be there for them, and this will pay back, big time.

Please, share your experiences participating and managing Design Thinking workshops. Beyond the Design Thinking technique, we are aiming at a more productive and engaging way of collaborating in the enterprise world.

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