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Don’t waste your time and money on an innovation workshop

Jürgen Oskamp

Founding Partner
In recent years, there have been an influx of innovation workshops. They throw around fancy terms like design thinking, scrum, design sprints, start-up innovation, and of course walls get covered with lot and lots of post-it notes to impress the audience. The question is, do these workshops really help you to innovate? What result can you expect? The truth is that an innovation workshop can only help you if it is placed in the context of a long-term innovation strategy, and how well the innovation culture and practices are embedded in your company.

It takes a lot more than a wall full of post-it notes to find a useful idea that is worth pursuing, let alone bring it to the market.

It’s easy to come up with a bunch of loose ideas if you’re not invested in the game, and your job stops after finding an idea. Most workshops recycle old ideas that are laying around, or they generate spontaneous ideas that do not stand up to a reality check. Innovation is not a thing that you can purchase just like that. True innovation is a combination of many factors such as mindset, culture, processes, teamwork, and timing. The workshop craze also gives you the idea that finding the right idea is the most important component of innovation. Finding an idea is only a small portion of the process. Much more important is timing and having the right team to follow the idea through to market, and that doesn’t necessarily mean only your own people.

So how can a workshop help us to be more innovative?

Innovation workshops can only contribute if they are part of a well-planned innovation roadmap and strategy, in an organisation that has embedded innovation into their cultural DNA. Innovation is not a single event; it must be an ongoing effort. Modern day problems/opportunities are being complicated by new technologies, changing markets, changing expectations… it is too much for a few workers within a company to handle all the different aspects and to have expertise in all the necessary fields. Open innovation and collaboration offer a solution. The most successful innovative ideas are born out of cross-border and cross-sector team collaboration, and they only succeed if they have time to be sufficiently developed  

Collaboration and time are the keys to success.

Don’t ask a consulting agency to do the innovation for you. Instead, ask them if they have experience in collaboration in long-term relationships with multidisciplinary teams. Ask if they have successfully brought ideas to the market. Ask if they know how to take a deep dive into your markets. Perhaps most importantly, ask them if they have experience in understanding what users and customers need or desire.
There is nothing wrong with organising a workshop, as long as you do not consider it as a one-time event that will bring you that golden idea.
Embed innovation in your company as a culture and an attitude that is always present. Involve people from every level in your company in innovation-thinking. Embrace open innovation and collaboration, cross company and with external agencies.

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