Do innovation processes need moderation or facilitation? What is innovation facilitation after all?

To come to an innovation there is a backing process one could describe as anything but linear or smooth. Ambiguity, alternative vantage points, limited perspective, confronting opinions or lack of resources such as time, are some of the many factors involved in innovation projects where several team members are involved.
And yet, it is in these situations when perspectives either collide or friction where the richness of an innovation project lies. It opens space for creativity and enables a wider perspective that was probably not considered before. But to come to agreements, to converge the multiple visions and, ultimately to define common goals, demands in many cases the mediation of an innovation facilitator.
To understand the role of an innovation facilitator, her multiple characters along the process and the tools at her disposal, were the topics of the Innovation Facilitator Training, in which I recently had the chance to participate. The Workshop was organized by INNOX and was conducted by Klaus Wiesmann.

An innovation facilitator is a person who does not account for the development of an innovation project but rather supports the team to conduct innovation projects. It is her role to guide complex and non-linear innovation processes within groups of people that may come from different teams or divisions. The facilitation of an innovation workshop, like most things in life, starts with the preparation. By defining goals, topics to explore, participants, their characteristics, and their contribution to the innovation project and furthermore, the expected outlook of the project once the moderation process is done.
The toolbox is perhaps the most relevant element to consider when moderating an innovation workshop. The set of methods and tools that participants will interact with, should drive inspiration, open up new questions, and support decision making processes. The toolbox has to be carefully selected and should mirror the aims of the workshop.

At the training, all participants had the chance to actively moderate. We experienced a wide diversity of methodologies ranging from the so-called Tricky questions method to better understand the problem to solve, going through the customer journey by using lego serious play to find out pain points, or the espresso pro action cafe which aims at enriching the discussion and opinions about a concrete topic. Feedback was an important component of the workshop as a way to nurture the facilitation skills of each participant. We had rounds of open feedback in which each participant commented on the performance of a participant.

What unfortunately was not covered by the training is how innovation facilitation skills and methodologies transform to either online or hybrid settings. The pandemic has enforced many of us to work from home, far from our workplaces, and from our colleagues. This of course challenges teamwork in the form we used to know it. Fortunately, the virus has also sped up the development and the spread of digital tools that allow team communication and interaction. Although the virus will be gone someday (hopefully), I believe the transformations in the workplace will not have a U-turn. These new forms of interaction and communication will even adopt a more prominent role and we will have to learn to better run workshops and enable the streams of innovation in digital environments and integrating delocalized colleagues.

Do you have ideas or experience in innovation facilitation? what is your opinion about online workshops? What are your all-time moderation hacks? Let´s talk about innovation facilitation!


Photo courtesy of Hans Sailer @ INNOX