Often when we schedule workshops, brainstorms and problem solving sessions, we set the topic but don’t set parameters for the solutions. And why not? Thinking big, shooting for the sky is exciting. It won’t tie the hands or minds of our participants, meaning we won’t miss out on those big 10x ideas that will really change the game.
What we fail to realize is, having a totally blank canvas, can actually inhibit or rather, intimidate our ideators. Strategic boundaries not only limit some of the ideas that might come out of a session, but they can also help act as a springboard or starting point. Your boundaries will narrow down the scope and therefore give them a place on which to focus.
The first and most common way to set strategic boundaries for your workshops and meetings is to narrow down the topic. Rather than ask what the next product should be, try asking what product will help to solve a specific pain point for your customers.
Another way to set strategic boundaries can be setting the size or scope of the project. By giving a budget, time frame, etc. you can narrow down the possibilities and help your participants think of some truly great ideas.
The best way to communicate these boundaries is with a powerful combination. First, visually displaying them and second, verbally communicating it, you make it absolutely clear what those boundaries are.
By creating a visual, you have the ability to display it or reference it throughout the session, reminding your participants and helping to steer their creativity, and inspire actionable ideas.
Imagine if you were a participant in one of your own workshops. Let’s say you work in customer service and this session is to develop a new product or service. The facilitators know that you have valuable input from your day to day interaction with customers. However, you might not feel that you are a creative person or that you have any new ideas that will help drive the company forward.
If you have a blank page metaphorically placed before you, it can be very daunting to fill it with ideas. If your facilitator however, gives you some parameters or guidelines, it may spark some memories and those might trigger ideas. One idea, often leads to another and soon you have contributed a number of ideas backed up by your experience and customer input.
In this example, you went from being reserved and shy to being a major part of the event and ultimately your company’s continued success.