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Changes in business and technology are occurring at a rapid pace while companies simultaneously fight to free themselves from the residual effects of the pandemic. Companies and teams must invest in innovation not only to stay ahead but to simply survive in today’s extremely fast-paced environment. Utilizing innovation exercises and innovation training can help create impactful, powerful results. 

A McKinsey study of over 200 organizations across industries found that 90% of surveyed executives said they anticipate the effects of COVID-19 to fundamentally alter how they conduct business in the next five years. 85% of executives said that they expect the pandemic will also impact their customers’ needs indefinitely. Innovation is the critical component companies need to heal from the current crisis, transcend its lasting effects, and adequately meet their customers’ needs.

“The truth is that there is no one ‘true path’ to innovation, no silver bullets and no shortcuts. There are, however, effective strategies that managers can pursue to dramatically increase their chances of success.” -Greg Satell, Mapping Innovation

In this article, we’ll explore five innovation exercises that you can incorporate with your team or organization to spur innovation and get creative juices flowing. There is no one way to approach innovation. Explore what methods work best for your team by applying these innovation exercises and strategies.

1. Group Brainstorming

This innovation exercise is great for getting the entire team involved, regardless of what project or role each team member has. Group brainstorming can take place in person using sticky notes and a whiteboard or wall or virtually for distributed teams using a virtual whiteboard tool like MURAL (and digital stickies). Have everyone write down any challenges they are facing on sticky notes and tape them to a wall or create them in a MURAL template. Next, everyone walks around the room and stops at each sticky note to add an idea with their own sticky note that can potentially solve that problem or challenge. For best results, have everyone write an idea on every sticky note and build upon what others said. This exercise increases productivity and creativity as employees have the chance to interact with individuals from different areas of expertise and perspectives, which helps spark new ideas to solve challenges. It also promotes full participation without anyone feeling self-conscious about sharing their ideas. 

2. Liberating Structures

Liberating Structures is a framework for facilitation that consists of 33 microstructures designed to build trust and enhance cooperation and communication between teammates. Incorporating Liberating Structures into in-person and remote team collaboration strengthens communication and improves attention management so you can do exceptional work as a team. When there is equal participation amongst the group, you get the best performance from everyone, i.e., you are able to create meaningful solutions together. Check out our library of Liberating Structures templates for MURAL and Miro.

3. Mind Maps

This innovation exercise can be done either alone or in a group setting. Start by writing a general idea in the middle of a blank piece of paper. From there, begin making connections that build off the main point and write them down. For example, if your idea or project is developing a mobile app, a connection that might branch out is Android vs. iOS. Continue building on each connection to generate a stream of new ideas. If you find your team is struggling to come up with connections, try to reframe the main idea and start a new mind map to get a new perspective. The output will be many new ideas to start working with.

4. R&D

Research and development is a series of innovation activities to develop new products and services or improve existing ones. This is a reverse version of Group Brainstorming (or standard innovation process). Instead of starting with problems and brainstorming solutions based on them, encourage your team first to examine the latest technological developments and then ideate their application to your organization’s challenges. This is the flow in many engineering industries, where technology comes first. The Design Sprint process is effective for exploring R&D and solving big challenges quickly. The 5-day structure allows you to align team members and key stakeholders to solve a problem, rapidly prototype and test potential solutions, avoid costly delays in the innovation process, as well as decrease the time to bring the idea to market. Learn more about how and when to incorporate a Desing Sprint into your innovation journey here


5. Template Exercises

Exploring innovative ideas can be daunting. Where do you start? How do you bring an idea to fruition? We’ve created a library of interactive and customizable digital templates for you to use with your teams to ignite and accelerate innovation. The templates are created for MURAL and Miro, digital whiteboard tools that allow teams to work together async and in real-time in a shared space. Each template serves a different purpose in your innovation process. For example, the How to Remix Anything Template helps you vary your points of inspiration and approach to achieve a different outcome for an existing idea. The Beyond the Prototype Template helps you overcome roadblocks in innovation by navigating slumps and maintaining momentum. Explore the full library of free resources here.

Facilitation Certification

Develop the skills you and your team need to facilitate transformative meetings, drive collaboration, and inspire innovation.

Innovation is more important than ever for companies to stay relevant in today’s economy. Stay ahead of the curve by utilizing various innovation exercises and implementing innovation training to incorporate effective strategies for your team to succeed.

Want to learn more about innovation training?

We can help! Voltage Control offers a range of options for innovation training. We know that no two teams are alike. Companies are complex, with their own unique set of structures and company culture. That’s why we build and curate custom workshops to find solutions based on your team’s exact needs.

Voltage Control’s experts will guide you through your choice of experiential, interactive learning workshops and coaching sessions where individuals and teams learn and practice how to successfully apply the best of today’s innovation methodologies and facilitation techniques to any business challenge. Contact us if you want to learn more about innovation training, design sprints, or design thinking facilitation.

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