6 Strategic Tips for Facilitating Innovation

At Stratos, we’ve played a range of roles in the strategic front-end of the innovation process. In our experience, we have found that clients often need more than research insights. They need help bridging the gap between design research and the implementation work streams of their project. If you want to add value to your offering, your role might go beyond that of a design researcher or even a design strategist and become that of a “facilitator of innovation.” Here are some lessons we’ve learned from working on innovation projects:

1. Navigate ambiguity while keeping others calm and confident in the outcome

The non-linear and ambiguous nature of the front end of the design development process can make decision makers nervous. Put your partners at ease by sharing both your logic and your intuitive reasoning when outlining the next steps. Help navigate the ambiguity with a clear plan, but be ready to update it regularly. Showcasing your ability to adjust on the fly will only build confidence.

2. Be a journalist: ask clarifying questions early and often

When scoping out the project, use questions to clarify which outcomes are “must haves” and what is a “nice to have” for your client team. The “must haves” will typically impact multiple internal work streams. Trust your intuition as to which questions can wait until more details are ready. Like a good journalist, document everything so that you can share your process with clarity.

3. Get ready to coordinate and align multiple teams and departments

Take time to learn each team’s language. Start by unravelling the meaning of important vocabulary, acronyms and keywords. Some innovation projects might even require that you create new words. It’s a good idea to build a glossary of terms for the project and then keep it updated and shared with all the stakeholders so that everyone is on the same page as the project progresses.

4. When possible, ask for an on-site space to display the work you are doing

Carve out a space in your client’s facility where your team can have a presence in a high traffic area. This will invite people from multiple client teams to read and review progress, ask questions, and create conversations organically. Even better, create a wall map of the different project work streams so stakeholders can understand the context of the work you’re doing.

5. Prepare small activities for stakeholders so they can contribute in a focused manner — without changing the overall process

Projects can benefit from having decision makers included in the process. But make it clear that their involvement will be through planned collaboration times and not spontaneous. So, have a plan to include the client team so they’re contributing and learning, yet keeping your team independent enough so that your team can work as efficiently as possible. Facilitate co-creative workshops so business teams can participate in translating your design research findings into a minimum viable product.

6. Plan a clear path to the “minimum viable product” or, in the case of designing for services, a “minimum viable experience”

Design research outcomes provide a good understanding of what people want a company to do or make. The next step, however, is helping the company build/develop what people want. Understand the client’s internal business processes and what it takes for them create a new service, product or experience. Internal teams find it very valuable when you understand what it takes to get the service or product to a place where consumers can test it.

Co-authored by: Monica Weiler & Anthony Weiler

Want to know more? Stratos Innovation Group has helped many companies facilitate innovation. Contact our Director Monica Weiler at monica@TheStratosGroup.com for more information and visit us at www.thestratosgroup.com.