How to Run a Creative Thinking Workshop [Yes! And. Blog #86]

If you take a risk and run a creative workshop it can pay dividends…

“Can you imagine, they asked me to do an extra session so we could do the “Disney Technique!”

Open University MBA Student


Rich Pictures

Rich Picture Example

The excited quotation above is from a student (we’ll call her Inga) who attended my MBA – Creativity and Innovation Workshop.

In this case, Inga achieved more than just running her own workshop, but more of that later. Let me tell you first what she did.

As part of a course assignment, Inga chose to produce some new concepts for an existing product in her company.

She was rather nervous about facilitating a workshop but decided to use the creative and facilitation techniques she had experienced during our workshop.

Here’s a summary of what Inga did:

Session 1

She took a small group (four people including her) to the park to run the workshop:

  • On the way, each person had three minutes to speak uninterrupted about the customers for the product and their lifestyle
  • In the park, they summarised their points on paper
  • They reviewed key points about the original product concept and added a few more
  • They reviewed material on what makes a concept successful in their company, prior to identifying new concepts
  • They looked at key consumer trends for 2009, using material gained previously from the Internet
  • They looked at benefits to the consumer, splitting them into rational and emotional benefits.

At this point, they wanted to know why these benefits were important but ran out of time so stopped for further review. This session lasted just an hour. One person did not take a very active part in the session but the other two did.

The above can be classified as the Fact Finding stage of the creative process.

Inga wrote a fun report around the session and included homework, requesting participants to develop two concepts for review. (Note here that Inga is saving time at the next session by asking people to do idea generation outside of it).

Inga also stated her goals for the next session:

  • To fine tune the concepts that we created at home
  • To analyse critically the concepts we have fine-tuned by using the “Disney Technique” so that we can develop concepts to take forward

Session 2

The team met the following week having prepared some paperwork on their concepts. Inga prepared a workshop outline and prepared some backup activities in case her original plan went wrong.

She also had a word with her colleague who had not participated. She confided that she did not think she was creative but Inga encouraged her to think she was.

Here is what happened in the second session:

  • Inga warmed the group up by throwing a ball between them and asking them for adjectives and nouns that described the product
  • The team reviewed the concepts. As these were all different, they paired up and divided them into segments
  • To build energy and laughter following this intense session, Inga had the group do an energiser
  • The group used three criteria to evaluate the concepts
  • From this, they chose two concepts to explore with two criteria i.e. is it understandable and does it provide the benefits reviewed previously?
  • From this analysis, they did some reworking of the concept and then tackled the second concept

At this point, they ran out of time but agreed to rewrite the two concepts they liked and chose to review them in a third session. Inga mentioned that her colleague who thought she was not creative was an enthusiastic participant.

Session 3

  • The team used the Disney technique to evaluate the two concepts. [In this technique you evaluate your topic from the perspective of a Dreamer, Critic and Realist]
  • Based on this evaluation the team chose a concept to take forward and produced a final version back in the workplace.

You can classify Session 3 as the Evaluation Stage of the creative process.


What do you think are the learning points from this exercise? These are my learning points:

  • Whilst you may have some fears about running a creative workshop, people will most likely want your session to succeed. You have to try
  • By planning and following a set process, you are more likely to be successful – but be prepared to flex the process and go back over steps
  • Sessions don’t have to be run over a whole day, in fact, it is often better to split them
  • Play with and adapt techniques – they are tools, not a rule book
  • Changing the environment for the session can relax people and spark creative thought
  • Encourage people who see themselves as “not creative” – they may surprise you
  • You can run steps in the process outside of a formal workshop e.g. idea generation
  • Preparation saves time
  • Involve people enough and you don’t have to use separate energisers to maintain energy


What lessons did you draw? Review the material again and reflect. Think about how you might run a creative session.

To Close

In Inga’s words, here is what happened next. “The product concept went through the approval process in Head Quarters and they agreed to launch it to the market! Today we have celebrated this fact at work. Furthermore, my boss has asked me to do more creative sessions for further product development.”

What a result that was! If your creative session might turn out like that, wouldn’t it be worth taking the risk?

Have a creative week…

John Brooker I Yes! And. Think Innovatively.

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