We all know the meme: This meeting could have been an email. But what about this one: This meeting could have been a workshop.
So how could a meeting be a workshop?
One opportunity to change a meeting into a workshop is when the whole team needs to get a common understanding of a certain topic or issue. This is the perfect chance to have a workshop. The workshop format allows everyone to have a say even if they are the quietest in the room. The key to this egality is to start with something called brainwriting. This is not what you typically think of as brainstorming. Typical brainstorming is often a situation where the loudest or the boldest get their opinions put forward. This is the opposite of what we want.
In brainwriting, there is silence. Only writing ideas. Or, if you plan ahead enough, there will be silence and music! There are many Spotify playlists that are meant for the quieter parts of a workshop. Then the talking comes back when you go through the ideas and issues that have been mentioned.
We recently did this in our team. Here is a run down of how it was planned and what the outcome was.
We are a new team working on a new project that is not necessarily as clear to everyone as possible. I was a new team member and was not involved in creating the proposal that was approved. So to get everyone on the same page, a mini workshop was held. Using the walls of one meeting room, there were 5 post-it sections:
- Requirements (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
- Personal Vision
Requirements was first as it was to list all the requirements of the actual project. What needed to be fulfilled in order for the project to be complete and within the regulations.
Personal Vision was second because it was important to me to understand where the vision of this project came from. This is where we could discuss the original vision of the project and how that is reflected in the requirements. This is really important going forward to understand the original vision even if the project is different.
Ideal was next and this refers to what is the ideal outcome of this project. If everything goes perfectly, which we know it probably won’t, what does that look like for each person. What elements will the outcome have or will have accomplished?
Assumptions are very important to get out on the table in the group. What assumptions are we working under that everyone else should know? Many times, assumptions can sink (or seriously delay) a project or any kind of collaboration. If the assumptions are out in the open, they can be acknowledged, openly tested, and understood by everyone.
Outcomes was the final section of this workshop. This allowed us to reflect up on what outcomes we, as a group, wanted to achieve. Not necessarily what the project required, but they could even be more strategic or even more granular and personal. Maybe one person wants to learn how to use a certain software or wants the bigger team to be featured in the media for their work. This helps to put different levels of professional goals on everyone’s radar so when opportunities arise, they can be passed on to the right people.
We also added another section that was titled: “Issues to think about”. And this is a section where we gathered just 3 words. But they were big words – Relationship, Community, and Process. These words were more like markers or triggers of things that we need to keep in mind as we go through the project…something that we will tackle later in the project but that we need to be reminded of. What kind of relationship do we want to create with the users of the outcome of the project? What kind of community do we want to build (do we even want to build a community?) and What is the process we want our users to go through. Things to keep in mind as we go forward.
This took about an hour and we did all the sections at once, we didn’t stop and discuss each before we moved on to the next. We did them all with brain writing (with just a quick clarification of what each meant when needed) and then went through each one at the end in the order they were presented. This process may take a little longer depending on how many people are involved.
This process made sure that everyone’s thoughts and ideas were put forward fairly and equally and everyone were able to say what they wanted to say. This workshop also built up a common understanding for the entire team of the project and also what constituted success for each individual and for the project.
Pamela Spokes works as a Service Designer in Metropolia’s RDI team. Originally from Canada, Pamela has years of experience in university admin focusing on international recruitment, marketing, and the international student/staff experience. With a Bachelor’s from Canada, a Master’s degree from Sweden, an MBA in Service Innovation & Design from Laurea, and her AmO from Haaga-Helia, she is interested in purposefully designed experiences that are centred around the user. Don’t be surprised if she knocks on your door to talk about learning co-creation methods through intensive learning experiences.