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How to increase the value of your internal workshops

Posted 12th December 2016 | Category: Innovation

Could an outsider increase the value of your internal workshops?

Workshops are a key way organisations ensure collaboration and consensus on decision making and implementation. Sometimes these activities can only be entrusted to key internal stakeholders but it's worth considering the value and support that well qualified external facilitators can bring.

Focus participants on the content not the process. Ideally, all key internal stakeholders should participate unencumbered in the workshop discussions. If they are involved in the facilitation of the workshop they will not be in the best position to listen, process or participate effectively. If a moderator takes care of this process, participants from the organisation can focus on actively adding value to the content. A skilled moderator is adept at sifting responses during the discussion itself, fitting them into the organisational context and pulling these out from the discussion in real time.

Specialist expertise in digging under the surface for nuggets of insight. Facilitation, mediation and workshop moderation are skills that are honed through experience. These skills are different to the traditional skills of most organisational leaders such as leading, communicating ideas or influencing; they allow for ideas to be raised or questions asked in an impartial and a non-threatening way, which helps to uncover underlying challenges and opportunities that are not obvious. Through a better understanding of the nature and complexity of issues, it is possible to clarify options and build consensus on how to move forward.

Get past the poker face and obtain unfiltered feedback. In many cases when organisations want input from external participants, such as customers, key accounts or suppliers, they receive a clearer view of the truth if they work with an independent moderator. Participants find it easier to be frank with an outsider than with internal stakeholders, even when all parties are in the room together. The 3rd party status of a moderator makes it easier to probe deeply and for participants to explain issues back to fundamentals, rather than the organisation rely on false assumptions, such as thinking others already know how they work with and feel about partners.

Reduce biased thinking. An independent 3rd party is better placed to facilitate critical thinking more effectively, to consider alternative options in a new light. This helps stakeholders to avoid confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of existing beliefs and perspectives.

Gain a fresh perspective. While it is important to understand the specific challenges an organisation faces within their sector, it is also increasingly valuable for brands to reframe their challenges in a broader context. Cross-industry expertise can prove valuable in provoking innovation and new approaches.

When the principles of fast food operations were applied to cataract surgery in India, this led to an enormous improvement in throughput, productivity and cost reduction. An external perspective that has a broader perspective of how relevant challenges have been addressed by other organisations, often in other sectors, can help to reframe challenges and opportunities in ways that can lead to a paradigm shift in thinking.

Save money through better internal resource allocation. An external party can be more cost effective too. While ownership of the process can be important and useful, there are often false economies in having internal resources tied up in managing the planning, facilitation and delivery of outcomes and outputs from the workshop.

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