Create an Inspiring Environment

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe the goal of the Dare phase.
  • Understand the value of co-creation.
  • Describe tactics for ensuring successful participation and co-creation.

Dare to Dream

Now that you’ve created a headline for the future, defined the scope of your innovation project through a charter, and identified the needs and opportunities of your customers through archetypes, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start thinking about the solution.

We’ve reached the stage of divergent thinking (creating choices). It’s time to rally your entire innovation squad to contribute. Yes, we really mean all the folks that you identified in your role map back in the first module, “Innovation Basics.”

Usually at this point in the process, different individuals have been involved at different levels. Some feel super connected to the purpose and progress while others are thinking, “What’s going on with that initiative?”

In our experience, we find that it’s best to gather all the key decision-makers and influencers in person and dare them to dream. That’s why we call these meetings Dare events.

Getting in a Room Matters!

Perhaps you’re wondering why you should interrupt your flow at this point. Your core team has a good groove going, and you’re sure you can figure things out in a few hours by yourselves. You might feel tempted to keep rolling along, fleshing out some options for solutions, and then sharing the results with leadership for review.

****Danger. Bad idea alert!****

We do not recommend innovating in a vacuum. But like good researchers, don’t take our word for it. Ask us why?

Introducing real change requires adoption from multiple parts of your organization. Your vision is more likely to stick if key stakeholders feel as though they were a part of the process. We call this co-creation.

Here are other benefits of live, in-person Dare working sessions.

  • Mood—You can control the atmosphere and design the right environment for ideation. More on this below.
  • Quantity—Ideation is about being supremely generative. You want to surface as many ideas as possible and then converge them later.
  • Diversity—Not only do you want lots of ideas, you want different ones. Wacky ones. Unpopular ones. Beyond executives, make sure that your guest list includes end users, representatives of different geographies, and even outside experts and provocateurs.
  • Inspirational relief—Everyone in your organization, from top to bottom, is working hard to keep up with the daily grind. This type of event provides mental and emotional respite and provides a battery jolt for all participants.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to host only one event. In fact, we find greater success with a series of working sessions so that the ideation and development process can be more organic and iterative.

The Art of the Dare Agenda

Yikes—are you someone who hates event planning? If that’s the case, lean on members of your core team and steering committees who enjoy this work. Or, seriously consider engaging an agency or outside advisor to organize and facilitate your effort.

We’ll talk about some recommended logistics, but first, take a step back and grasp a few big-picture goals. What’s the best way to do that while making it a worthwhile investment of your colleagues’ time and energy?

Here are some tips for crafting an awesome agenda for a Dare event.

  • Icebreakers—Use warm-up exercises that signal to your participants that this isn’t a typical day at the office. We’ll share some of our favorite icebreakers later in this module.
  • Surprise guests—To avoid “group-think,” it’s helpful to the innovation process and rewarding as a participant to hear from outsiders. Guests could be subject matter experts, professors, customers, artists, or even scientists. Their role is to shock the room with knowledge of trends and research or to give insight into how the world is changing. When they’ve joined the group, it’s a great idea to invite them to stay and participate in the rest of the session. They can improve the quality of your conversations and ideation. Let’s check back in on the steering committee for innovation at Aqua Blue as they prepare to reimagine the guest experience. Their invitee short list includes:
    • Short-term staffing expert to talk about trends among part-time service workers
    • Artificial intelligence technologist on how AI could reshape hospitality
    • Panel of five customers available for Q&A about their opinions of Aqua Blue properties
  • Intro to the customer—Include some time to report out on your discovery process and the archetypes that you developed. Personify them with either stock or actual images of your customers and hang them on the walls or play video clips of your conversations.
  • Ideation and prototyping exercises—Allocate a bulk of your time (at least 90 minutes and up to three hours) to actually generating ideas. More on this topic shortly.
  • Shark cage—Ask participants to pitch their best ideas as though they were pitching investors. This exercise creates a sense of urgency, competition, and fun at the culmination of your session. Come up with your own name for the contest to build excitement.

Love the Logistics

As you plan these sessions, invest in the details to make your events impactful and memorable. You might think that your team doesn’t care about mood and atmosphere. That’s all the more reason to create an environment that feels different than your typical Monday morning meeting.

Here are a few aspects that we strongly suggest obsessing over: space, ambiance, and facilitation.

Space

Large space with ongoing workshop

These events can last a few hours and up to two days. Make sure that you choose a space that you can be comfortable in. Here are some guidelines for a good meeting space for innovation.

  • Yes, you need windows.
  • Yes, it’s okay to remove the chairs.
  • Yes, try to get out of the office or find a space that feels different than where you work every day.
  • Yes, you want lots of space to move around.
  • Yes, if you’re stuck with a small, stuffy, dimly lit room, you do risk having a mediocre session. Enlist your sponsors to find something better. Really.

Ambiance

We know this may not be your area of expertise. But believe us when we say that ambiance can make a huge difference to creative ideation. Think about the following when planning your event.

  • Music—If you’re starting to feel as though planning a Dare session is like planning a party, excellent! You’ve got the gist. Welcome your guests with entrance music—80s anthem songs, Hawaiian instrumental music, or this month’s latest hits—whatever fits the culture of your company.
  • Theme—Choose a theme for the experience.
  • Decorations—Whether you showcase quotes from famous innovators on the wall or pictures of your customers, consider what inspires and delights participants.
  • Food and celebration—Depart from the usual caterer and treat everyone to a different cuisine or vendor. Have a food truck park outside so that everyone can get some fresh air and hang out in the parking lot chatting. After your sessions, include time on the calendar for lunch or dinner.
  • Surprises—Make the meeting stick by taking any opportunity to create surprise. Whether it’s conspiring with your CEO to pop in and join the fun for a portion of the meeting or recording a video with employees who were not invited just to bring their voices into the room.

Creating the right mood allows people to let go, indulge ideas that they ordinarily think are impossible, and be more open to listening. With these elements in place, you set yourself up for a successful Dare event.

Facilitation

The last component to plan for is facilitation. Several exercises that you manage during your Dare event will involve small group breakout exercises that require facilitators. Again, external groups can play this role, or you and members of your core team can facilitate. One facilitator can lead a group of 4 to 7.

What makes a good facilitator? Someone who is:

  • Energetic—Like a coach, the facilitator motivates the team to stay engaged and excited for the course of the session.
  • Plugged in—Be familiar with the goals of the project. If you choose to work with an outside group, make sure they’ve been briefed and had a chance to spend time with some stakeholders in advance so they don’t feel like outsiders.
  • Conversation starter—At the start of every exercise, there is always that moment of, “Uh, what are we doing?” Your facilitator needs to quickly eliminate confusion and drive forward.
  • Good listener—Facilitators inspire group participation and contribution, but they must also understand it’s not just about their ideas.
  • Dot connector—A good facilitator knows how to listen to disparate ideas and quickly make connections, synthesize, and raise questions that could stimulate new ideas.

Putting care and effort into these three elements—space, ambiance, and facilitation—sets you up for successful Dare events. Now on to what happens during a Dare event.

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