Running a successful solutions workshop isn’t something you can do off the cuff, and it’s not about standing in front of a group of people, and talking at them for a couple of hours. You need engagement, interaction, encouragement and creativity to come up with design ideas and solutions. But how can you try and achieve that? Here at SimpleUsability we run lots of workshops to help our clients, so here’s my five top tips to help you run a successful one!
1. Have a plan
Tip number one comes before the workshop has even started, and it is to plan a schedule for how the workshop will run. Not only is this useful so that the facilitator knows what timings and activities to expect, it is also important for attendees to understand what they will get out of the session so they are happy to commit the time to attend. Activities should be short and last no longer than an hour, with short scheduled breaks in-between. This will help retain focus on task, without exhausting everyone. Introduce the plan at the start of the workshop to check that attendee expectations are met, and allow the opportunity for change before the workshop is in full flow.
2. Warm up activity
In a solutions workshop, a typical activity is to get attendees to sketch design ideas to solve a particular problem, as it’s a powerful way to generate ideas and transform them into concreate solutions. But a lot of people are worried they can’t sketch so it’s great to start off with a warm up activity to get people into the flow, before the real design challenges take place.
Activities could be as simple as sketching a daily event, such as making toast or drawing their commute to work. On the other hand, you might get everyone to draw an animal, such as a bird, but without taking the pencil off the paper. These activities would require everyone putting pen to paper, which activates parts of the brain used when sketching.
However, if sketching is not something that is going to be the focus in the workshop, other ways to get people thinking would be to distribute post-it notes, and encourage people to jot multiple ideas down to solve a daily problem. For example, thinking about three ways in which their commute to work could be made better.
As well as getting everyone into the sketching mood or thinking of ideas, this also relaxes everyone before focusing on the issues that are more important.
3. Get everyone involved
A successful workshop will involve attendees from many roles including; product owners, designers, stakeholders and many more. With a variety of people, this means that a range of knowledge and ideas can come together, getting a better understanding of what may or may not be possible for the design changes. Therefore, a successful workshop will get all who have attended to join in. Whether it’s discussing a certain topic, or drawing solutions for a usability problem, everyone should be encouraged to share their knowledge and have their say. This can be achieved by asking for input from around the room and choosing people at random, or getting everyone to draw a design sketch, before sharing this with other team members.
4. Facilitate different activities
If the workshop slows down, or gets boring or repetitive, attendees can disengage. You can counter this by making it fun and engaging with a variety of activities planned and encouraging people to get out of their seats as much as possible. What you do can depend on the focus of the workshop, but there are many different methods for creating discussions or sketching solutions both individually and as a group. For example, if you’re wanting to redesign a page on the website then you could get everyone to sketch individual ideas for how this could look, and then re-join into small groups to produce a final design. This could also be timed, so that the focus is not on the quality of the drawing, but more on the idea. On the other hand, if the topic is more discussion based, ideas shared could be captured in a list or drawn into a spider diagram for everyone in the room to see and contribute to.
5. Come to a decision
After all the creativity, discussions and expansive thinking, you need to bring them together again so they can make decisions. This enables the team to see how much they have achieved from the workshop and can help move forward with the design ideas and discussions. One way to reach a quick decision would be by dot voting. This is when everyone gets a select number of dots and can vote for design features or ideas by sticking a dot on their preferred sketch. By doing this, you can visually see the most popular design idea or discussion point, which can then be taken forward to shape the transformation.
So, you’ve read about what you could include and how to manage your workshop in order for it to be successful. It may not be essential to include every idea that’s mentioned, but each tip holds value and when pulled together, is more likely to produce a productive session with every attendee engaged. After all, the aim is to get the project team excited about the possible design ideas and have a clear direction for the future.