How to find the right innovation facilitator for the right project and team

How to find the right innovation facilitator for the right project and team

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Published On:
August 23, 2023

Many businesspeople talk about being part of an innovation workshop without differentiating if it is run as a training activity or project. But innovation training is not the same as an innovation project workshop. The purpose of the former is to build up creative confidence and competence as well as some basic know-how of how to use a structured innovation method and related creativity techniques and thinking tools. In contrast, innovation project workshops aim to develop and later implement meaningful ideas for a concrete project with real-life bottom-line impact (i.e., save costs and/or boost revenues).

Facilitating innovation training is pretty straightforward, while in an innovation project workshop, many things can go wrong and require change on the fly. So you want to make sure that you select a suitable person as the facilitator for an innovation project. How do we find the best innovation facilitator for each innovation project at thinkergy? It’s simultaneously a science and art, with the balance leaning to the former. Let me share our approach by talking about the constant and flexible elements that play a role in an innovation project.

The constant: The innovation method (aka creative process)

At thinkergy, we use our award-winning X-IDEA innovation method and toolbox as a creative process method to guide everyone through an innovation project workshop. Because it is well-structured and fun to use, X-IDEA reliably delivers meaningful top ideas with a bottom-line impact by the end of a project.

The 5 Stages of X-IDEA

The variable elements of an innovation project

But, apart from the process method, we still need to align three other aspects to create magical moments in an innovation project:

  • A worthy innovation project case;
  • A suitable team of managers and employees from the company working on the project;
  • A competent innovation facilitator with a suitable cognitive profile.

With the help of the Venn diagram shown below, allow me to explain each of these three elements and how we try to align them to ensure better outcomes in innovation projects. Thereby, we make use of another powerful method in our integrated innovation product system: TIPS, thinkergy’s talent & innovator profiling system. 

Aligning case-team-facilitator in an innovation project

(A) The innovation project case(s)

Senior executives of our client usually nominate at least one worthy project case that they want one or more innovation project teams to work on in a series of innovation project workshops. Typically, an innovation project case relates to one particular modern innovation type (e.g., process innovation, product innovation, service innovation, to name a few) and promises the company to save costs, improve revenues, or achieve another important objective. In short, the ideas and innovation deliverables from an innovation project make for a better company.

(B) The innovation project teams

Our client’s senior executives also decide on the overall pool of managers and employees whom they think are most suitable to work on the innovation project (based on their expertise and experience). 

With clients with whom we work more extensively, we like to find out the TIPS profiles of the key managers and team members involved in an innovation project. This knowledge not only gives us insights into how different people tick but also allows us to compose later innovation project teams with a balanced mix of cognitive styles that click. 

For example, at the end of one recent innovation project workshop with three different project cases and teams, one project team leader summed up his thoughts on the project: “I don’t know how you selected the people, but I have never worked in a project team where everyone worked so well together and was in sync.” I smiled and thought: “Well, we used the TIPS profiles of everyone to pick those people for a project team who like the project topic while ensuring we have a cognitively balanced mix.”

(C) The innovation project facilitator

Finally, the third element that we add to the mix is a suitable innovation project facilitator. If one or more teams work on only one innovation project case, I run the event as I have the most experience and expertise given and also created X-IDEA. But if we have more teams working on different innovation project cases, we field an innovation facilitator for each team and case. 

To be a credible, authentic facilitator of an innovation project, you need to be creative, flexible, and able to “think on your feet.” While X-IDEA provides a safe and sound framework for a facilitator to follow while guiding a team through an innovation project, we encourage them not to be a slave to the schedule and tool plan and go with the flow (e.g., stay with a particular ideation tool beyond the dedicated time if the team keeps on adding ideas, and moving to the next tool if another tool stops yielding ideas before the time is up). Moreover, innovation projects tend to be messy. So, we need facilitators who can deal flexibly and creatively with the structured chaos of an innovation project.

So, how do we identify a suitable facilitator for an X-IDEA innovation project?

  • Our innovation guides must have detailed know-how and experience on X-IDEA or sufficient practical innovation project expertise with a sufficiently effective other innovation project method.  
  • All members of our thinkergy team have been TIPS-ed, so we know the TIPS innovator profile for each of our team members. Suitable TIPS profiles to facilitate an innovation project well in line with the factors outlined before are the ones positioned around the Ideas-base on the TIPS Profiling Map. So, our innovation facilitators are all Ideators, Promoters, Conceptualizers, and (Imaginative) Experimenters.
The TIPS Profiling Map
The TIPS Profiling Map

Aligning the variable elements of an innovation project

(A B) The innovation project case-team fit 

We also aim to ensure that the project case fits the interests and styles of the key members of the project team chosen to resolve the issue. Suppose we had an opportunity to TIPS-profile all delegates of the project. In that case, we can also employ the TIPS profiles to help ensure that the case and project focus fits the interests and personalities of the key team members. (In an earlier article titled What innovation types fit your cognitive style?, I linked key modern innovation types to the four TIPS bases (theories, ideas, people, and systems). 

For example, one process innovation project we ran recently with a company focused on a more quantitative, systemic case (improving the maintenance approach of bottleneck machines in a complex production line), so we made sure that sufficient members of the project team had Theories- or Systems-energy in TIPS.  

(A C) The innovation project case-facilitator fit 

Based on the focus area of a particular innovation project case, it may more or less resonate with a vetted innovation facilitator. Here, we ask two questions:

  • Does a potential innovation facilitator have prior know-how and expertise in the main topical area related to the project case? For example, when we worked with a client on two production-related project cases, we fielded three facilitators on our team with a professional background in this area. On the other hand, in projects with FMCG and F&B clients on projects, we fielded facilitators with expertise in consumer behavior, market research, and retail.
  • Is a potential innovation facilitator a good cognitive fit for a particular project case (and the related innovation type)? For example, Conceptualizers are big-picture thinkers who are an ideal fit to run a strategy innovation or business model innovation workshops. Yet, they are less suited for a process innovation project requiring attention to detail and a more operational mindset.

(B C) The innovation team-facilitator fit 

Finally, we also ask the question: Who in our team of vetted thinkergy facilitators resonates best with the dominating energy of each project team? Thereby, we aim to field a facilitator with the same or largely compatible TIPS-base energy, like the managers dominating the discussions in the project team and driving it forward. 

For example, one innovation project we tackled recently had an internal focus on a human resources-related topic, employee engagement (which post-pandemic is a hot and important topic for many companies). Many of the dominating characters in the team working on this project case flocked around the People-base in TIPS. We matched the team’s energy (and the project focus) by nominating one of our thinkergy facilitators who scores high at the People-base and profiles as a Popular Promoter in TIPS to work with this team. 

(A B C) The innovation facilitator-project-team fit 

In a perfect world, we can align all three elements and bring our facilitator, the client’s project case, and teams into a harmonious sync. That’s when everything falls into place, everyone clicks, and magic happens. Do we achieve this every time? The reality is that the world isn’t perfect. Still, we’re striving for excellence and aligning as many factors as possible. After all, we want to experience our thinkergy methods working their magic as much as possible in line with our tagline: thinkergy - know how to wow. 

  • Would you like to learn more about X-IDEA? Check out our website and consider downloading our X-IDEA booklet.
  • Or have you become curious to find out how we manage the people-side of innovation with the help of TIPS, our talent & innovator profiling system? Find out what talent & innovator type you are and get TIPS-ed for USD 89 by clicking here.
  • Or can you imagine having us take one of your teams through an innovation project case using our structured yet fun-to-use X-IDEA method in an X-IDEA innovation project with your company?
  • Contact us to tell us more about your company and how we may help you.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2023.