4 min read

Why Workshops Aren't Working

Why Workshops Aren't Working
Maggie Franz

Maggie Franz

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Traditional workshops are the go to for a myriad of businesses and their different objectives.  Large companies with legacy products use them to explore new business initiatives or methods for improvement, while startups use them build their business model canvases, and value propositions.  You might be thinking, if people are continuing to host these workshops, they must be gaining something from them; IE, they must be working. You might have even participated in some of these yourself and seen first hand an idea be developed into a project that becomes a success.  So, why are the experts at Svava sitting here saying that the opposite is true?

When we say that workshops aren’t working, we really mean to say that they aren’t working well enough.  These traditional exercises require someone, or a team of people, to spend time planning, then hosting, and finally recording the results.  They move too slowly and have the potential for missing opportunities, maybe due to a voice not being heard, a post-it being lost, or because of distance from the actual event a notation is recorded incorrectly or is misinterpreted.  You’re investing too much into these workshops fo be unable to fully harness the potential of your team members.

Reasons Traditional Workshops Don’t Work:

Time Intensive:

There is a lot of work that goes into planning, hosting and recording each workshop, which means that while they are effective, and produce results, they are a major drain on our time and the number we can host is limited.  

Scope Creep:

Because we can only host a few workshops in a year with the number of hours it takes to complete them, the topic of the workshops tend to be too broad, which can cause paralysis on the part of ideators, or idea noise - cluttered spurts of ideas that cause the original focus to become lost.

Participant Dependent:

The successful outcomes of our workshops are heavily dependent upon our participants, and upon our ability as facilitators to excite and engage these participants.  If you’re not an orator and look forward to getting in front of your team and rousing their energy levels, your workshop can often suffer the consequences.

Disruption Prone:

In order for these traditional workshops to work, you need to be able to capture the attention of your participants for large chunks of time.  But life, and their jobs don’t stop just because you need to get a couple of post-its out of these people. Your participants are likely to get receive phone calls, and higher level personnel are likely to get pulled away from the workshop, causing a disruption and requiring the facilitator to reign in everyone’s focus again.

Lack of Follow up:

It takes a lot of time for some unlucky team member to compile and digitize all of those post-its, having to make sense of the many doodles, and some handwriting that may or may not be so terrible it looks like it’s in a different language.  This lengthy recording process creates distance from the event itself and by the time you have anything to report from the workshop, the participants may have grown disheartened or lost their excitement and sense of being valued.

Enough with the Doom and Gloom.  How do we improve workshop output?

Put Down the Post-its

While those bright colored, multipurpose pieces of paper might sound fun and look like they promote creative thinking, they invite inherent risk along for the ride.  Replace them with either a large tablet of paper that will not get lost, blown away by the wind, or any other business doomsday scenario.

Or, designate someone to take notes and digitally record the ideas as they happen.  This will help you be able to group ideas as they are submitted, refine them and cut down on the amount of time it takes to do all of this after the workshop has ended.

Better yet - find a digital framework, like the Svava collaboration platform, and allow ideas to be entered by the participants, as the workshop is being conducted.  Ideas are recorded in the ideators own words, and tied to their user account, which provides them ownership and a sense of pride. Ideas can be grouped, and co-creators can be added when ideas are refined.  

After the workshop, the participants can log back into the tool to track the progress or conversations around their ideas, vote for other ideas, and ask questions of or interact with other participants.  This works to help create a culture of collaboration, of innovation, or even design thinking, based on the types of workshops you host.

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