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Innovation in Times of Corona

Introduction

When you write a text and need to translate it into another language a simple word-by-word translation often doesn’t do the trick. The text won’t have the same flow as in its original language. We need to think in the structure of the other language. The same applies for innovation tools as brainstorming, brain writing, innovation workshops in general. We need to learn to think “digital” and not just translate our face-to-face meetings into “online” and be confronted with a bad copy with lots of restrictions.

How to

Check your innovation process. Identify the phases where you can work individually or collaborate as you collaborate normally every day. Eg. the planning phase with trend analysis, marketing briefings, search field definition and preparation for an ideation workshop. Or the evaluation phase in which you might want to cluster ideas or concepts and present the outcome to your stakeholders. In these stages you can use common online meeting tools such as Zoom, Teams, Webex, Gotomeeting, Skype or Jitsi etc. and organise your innovation project online and remote.

But what about the core of an innovation process, the ideation phase? What about group collaboration, the group dynamics, a lively brainstorming, kicking ideas back and forth, interrupting the other or supporting the other, the playfulness, letting go of thoughts like feasibility, getting into a flow, the group exercises, the wild ideas which laughter, switching into a game-like mode?

There’s two ways to meet in times of Corona, face-to-face or online. For a face-to-face workshop you have to work out a Corona concept, a hygiene concept, including wearing masks, reducing the number of participants, ventilate or filter the air, wash your hands, keep a distance, do at quick test and check if there’s anyone positive for the Corona virus in your group before you start the workshop. You know the drill! Set-ups like this will have an effect on group dynamics and the fun factor.

Let’s look at the other option, to go online. Basically you can use most of the online tools you use for normal online meetings, just make sure you have break-out rooms at your disposition.

A disadvantage might be that you cannot touch anything that is on the other side and you hardly see the whole space with the post-its and all the products you might have collected for inspiration. But you can see the others, their facial expressions, you can laugh and ideate together. You can organise group exercises and plenum sessions. You can share and improve ideas. Some tools have an integrated whiteboard and there’s collaboration software like Miro and Mural where you can write as a group or pin posts to a board.

As a moderator an important preparation is to adapt your workshop rules and consider the technical limits. Interrupting one another might lead to not hearing the other. A new digital mindfulness and respect for others is important as you need to give the other a chance to finish her thought. This means that you might have to interfere more often than you normally would during an ideation workshop. Before starting an online workshop check the tools and internet connections with your participants. You could use tools like surveymonkey or mentimeter to prepare, engage or follow-up. Be prepared that some exercises or discussion will take longer than in a face-to-face meeting.

Have you thought about bringing your brainstoming or ideation workshops to the next level? With 3D-virtual meetings (VR) or augmented reality (AR) for customer journeys? There’s collaboration software available for virtual meetings like Spatial, MeetinVR, Glue, Arthur, Immersed or Engage with different virtual environments and 3D meeting spaces. Several platforms with brands like Oculus Quest and Valve Index support collaboration software. These applications cannot replace reality yet, with expensive VR-headsets, high subscription costs for some of the software solutions, normally a lower resolution than 2D-software, the possibility of motions sickness for motion sensitive people, floating avatars and the discomfort of wearing VR-glasses. But disregarding all this, you can collaborate in a truly new way, build virtual models together, choose your environment to go with your workshop theme and have fun! This might seem a bit surreal but can beat our current reality. For 3D-meetings we’re just at the starting point and it will be interesting to see what follows.

Conclusion

Innovation in times of Corona can be a great experience. The change of view that the pandemic and our interactions have given us is a great chance too. To see things differently. To leave the trodden path and embark on a journey into the unknown. Choose your facilitator with care so you get a chance to see the extra dimension that “online” will give us. Until the pandemic ends – and beyond.

#onlineinnovation #collaborationtools #VR #AR