How to Run a Successful Innovation Workshop

ASME innovation worskhop at the university of michigan

I was running an innovation workshop at a local library for teenagers. Working through the Subtraction Technique of Systematic Inventive Thinking, I tasked the teenagers to use the technique to create a product in their own lives (the subtraction technique involves removing an essential component from a product). This was a relatively small group of students, but that did not stop them from innovating. One group that stood out to me started with the product of a traditional paperback or hardcover book, and removed the cover completely from the product. When faced with this uncertainty of an absence of a cover, an essential component of a book, they decided that such a product is now better off when people make the cover for a book. Rather than an already published cover art, such books now can make use of the fact that anyone can make cover art. This can lead into a whole new set of directions such as cover art competitions, freelancing, etc. And all because of a simple removal of a component from a product. Let me remind you, these were teenagers thinking of these ideas.

What is an innovation workshop?

An innovation workshop has two main components to it. First, the facilitator or instructor walks a group of 20-30 students through an innovation method, specifically Systematic Inventive Thinking or Design Thinking. The second components involves exercises where the group of students work through the very methods that were just instructed. It tends to be more back and forth, where there is instruction then an exercise, instruction then an exercise, and so on for around one and a half hours. It is as simple as that. For example, I give very brief introductions, what the students should expect and what I will expect from the them, introductions to innovation and Systematic Inventive Thinking, and then approximately three different exercises scattered throughout the workshop.

Benefits of an innovation workshop

Aside from the fact that students have a great time during workshops, innovation workshops come with benefits. The beauty of workshops is that what the students take out of the workshop is personal to them. Though I tend to facilitate groups in the same field such as engineering, what each student gets out of the workshop is unique. However, because we introduce concepts that go against the grain, some students are rather skeptical at first. They don’t want to fully believe that what we are saying works or is true for that matter. And that’s great. I always anticipate and let them know that it is perfectly fine to be skeptical when someone is giving you new information, but when the students starting working through the exercises and applying the material they learned, they begin to get inspired.

For example, a mechanical engineering student told me after one of the workshops that these methods inspired him, since he was hoping to have a career in product design, working with startups and his own ideas. That’s awesome, yet what is even more awesome is that another mechanical engineering student can have very different goals, yet find a way to add these innovations tools to his or her toolkit.

Have a workshop today

If you are part of a classroom or students organization in a K-12 or university setting and are curious to learn more about having an innovation workshop for your organization, feel free to reach out to Plinnovate here!

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