Monday, November 18, 2013

Fixing Innovation: Open Space Session Results

People love raising issues, and at the Back End of Innovation Conference, participants from various industries all over the world got together on the morning of Day 1 to share their stories and flesh out the details on what is and isn't working at an Open Space meeting (see the post from earlier today).

Round 1 was a nice, orderly grouping of four teams, each working through issues in response to the theme “What are the biggest issues keeping your organization from getting ideas to market?” There are issues common to many companies: bandwidth/resource allocation, solving the “not invented here” syndrome, dealing with idea scepticism, and the like. Sound familiar? By round 2 people were fully warmed up and formed two energized and animated teams.  The distribution was lumpy, 5 people centered  around the issue of "Resources: Management won't allocate people/money to testing and implementing an idea" and 15 people wrestling with "turning passionate people into business athletes to lead new stuff."   By the end of the morning, the room was filled with easel sheets. It is during this part of the Open Space process that the facilitator types up the notes into a “book of proceedings” for attendees to review. 

The next step is action planning. Participants voted on which topics were most important to develop further. Three topics emerged, but only two were carried forward. Why?  People felt that it would be too difficult to act on the issue of "Resources: Management won't allocate people/money to testing and implementing an idea.”

So, the two issues that went on for action planning were: “Risk: failing is not an option” and “turning passionate people into business athletes to lead new stuff.” 

People formed new teams, and team leads (which were not necessarily the initial team leads) led the groups in action planning. Four questions needed to be answered:
what are we going to do?
Who does it involve?
What barriers do we need to remove to go forward?
What are the immediate next steps?







In the final wrap-up, people sat in a circle and reflected on the experience. People felt the
technique is powerful to get input and action from many passionate people working together. The Open Space experience provided a structured, yet free-form process for creating an actionable plan for “fixing” innovation. Those of us in the room bonded through sharing our challenges and generating potential solutions. And through going through the actual experience and not merely hearing or reading about it, we could truly understand Richard Ruth’s exhortation to  “give people autonomy and freedom to pursue ideas.”

Ivy Eisenberg is founder of Our IdeaWorks, an Innovation and Lean Customer Research™ consultancy that helps companies connect to customers and other stakeholders to discover business opportunities, accelerate growth, and build and deliver successful products and services.  Ivy has more than 25 years of experience in the Front End of Innovation, user interaction design, and software product and project management. She has worked in healthcare, financial services, B2B, consumer goods, and telecommunications sectors.  Ivy is also an award-winning humor writer and storyteller, with an MBA in Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Innovation from NYU’s Stern School of Business.

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