By Ioannis Lagoudakis, Senior Consultant

Innovation has perhaps been associated in the past mostly with images of the “crazy scientist”, however recent research reveals the potential of collective intelligence. From our long experience as Krauthammer business facilitators, here is how different formats of discussion involving different stakeholders can offer the motivation and material for innovative thinking and successful implementation:

1. Appreciative Inquiry (AI):

This strength-based methodology generates new ways of thinking by taking advantage of what already works well in a given situation and environment.

  • In the Discovery phase, the positive core of a team/ organisation is explored through questions, for example, “with regards to customer orientation, what have been your peak moments as a company”?
  • In the Dream phase, combinations of different stakeholders explore creative images of the organisation’s potential and an elevated sense of purpose. Participants at this stage are encouraged to listen with curiosity and ask questions rather than criticize.
  • The Design phase is a conscious recreation of structures and processes. It involves choices from the options created in the Dream phase.
  • The Destiny phase creates feedback loops in order to sustain the desired change and re-design improvements.

2. World Café:

What if ideas could physically move and meet other ideas? Would they produce something new? How would these ideas turn into action? The World Café methodology brings this image into life by exploiting team dynamics.

  • In the preparation phase, a team of stakeholders decides on the questions to be discussed by the group. Three to four questions are usually enough for a 3 hours event. Questions requiring divergent thinking (incubating ideas, sharing differences of opinion) should come first. Topics of convergent thinking (making decisions, mobilizing for actions) come last.
  • In round one, participants discuss the first same question (or different questions) in groups. Participants exchange, take notes, think out loudly. After the allocated time has expired, all participants change seats and move into new groups. Only one person from each group remains seated. He/ she debriefs the newcomers. New ideas emerge from the exchange. At the end of round one, participants from each group stand up and share in plenary.
  • The same process is repeated for the following questions.

3. Systemic Picturing / Constellations:

This approach offers a mechanism for seeing hidden dynamics in systems. Innovation comes as a result of verbal and non-verbal feedback regarding the interaction of different elements in a team or organisation.

  • The facilitator conducts a brief interview to clarify the aspects of the issue explored. For example, if the issue explored is the “launching of the new product”, important aspects may be time, profit, target groups, departments involved.
  • Participants are set up to serve as representatives for the aspects of the issue (eg. different departments involved in launching the products, different target groups)
  • The representatives have an experience of being that what they represent. They can express this experience by changing places, reacting to different representatives verbally or non-verbally, or by simply voicing their thoughts.
  • The facilitator does not seek for a particular outcome. The facilitator helps the process to unfold so that participants gain meaningful insights by observing how different aspects relate to each other: are persons A and B standing close to each other? Do they look at each other? Does one aspect seem to obstruct the movement of the other? What would happen if aspect A approached aspect B?

The three facilitation formats described make use of different approaches: Appreciative Inquiry (AI) seeks to use the strengths of a team or an organisation and to build on it by putting it into a different context. World Café helps making a synthesis of different ideas. Systemic Picturing/Constellations tap into the creative force of the subconscious. No matter what format is used, it can help groups to build powerful ideas for the future or to generate constructive feedback on painful choices.