Many of our facilitated events are designed to develop innovative approaches to current problems. The activities that are often used to explore innovation tend to focus on energetic activities which engage participants with each other and encourage a free flowing dialogue.
These are often great and do create energy and ideas. What has troubled me for a long time has been that these types of activities are well received by extrovert types but the quieter, more reflective type of participant will often be observed on the edges of these activities. There is an assumption that creativity is needs noise and activity to be truly “out of the box thinking”.
There have been many critiques already about this approach to creativity http://bit.ly/paspNY My own personal experience is that whilst some great ideas have emerged from conversations with others some of the best ideas have emerged during quieter periods of thinking often when swimming or travelling.
I wanted to experiment with bringing some quieter reflective activity into an innovation event and started exploring different approaches. One approach I really liked came out of my work within Software engineering companies where we had been exploring the use of Agile as a method of project management. A book related to this project was “Agile Retrospectives: making good teams great” http://bit.ly/qRGNol
I adapted an idea from here on Reflective Writing for my innovation conference. We had a group of 40 people and they were working on tables of 5 people. We held the reflection session after two days of input and activity. Each participant had 10 minutes to reflect on the ideas that had emerged so far and was asked to write or draw the thoughts that emerged. After 10 minutes they passed their work to the next person in the group who then added their thoughts and comments to the work, until the work had gone round the small group. The group then discussed the emerging themes and the light bulb moments during this activity.
One of the amazing experiences was being in a conference room with 40 people with no noise at all, it made me realise how little peace we provide at events for people just to sit back and reflect. The activity produced some fascinating insights which were shared as wall posts for others to read at a later stage.
One area I do want to develop with this technique is how best to use it with people who do not want to write things down, they would be happy talking about it but not writing for various reasons. How do we keep them engaged but also keep the quiet which seems such an important principle.