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How to change the innovation agenda

1 Oct 2023 | Change, Culture, Innovation

When developing an agenda for a government-backed think-tank event on innovation in climate risk insurance practices, we were wondering what would make for stimulating activities between heavy rounds of technical discussions. That’s what we do when we hear phrases like ‘insurance practices’ or ‘government-backed think tank’.
Breaking up proceedings with a series of two-minute ‘chat-to-your-neighbour’ conversations seemed ideal, but we had to make a careful choice of topics.
A first thought was to ask the pairs to brainstorm the ‘barriers’ – all the things that might make pursuing the solutions that were emerging from the discussion difficult to achieve.
Of course, it’s easy enough to find what will stand in your way, if that’s what you are looking for.  And we know that this is a regular topic that gets picked for discussion at project meetings. It’s the equivalent of exploring ‘weaknesses’ and ‘threats’ in a SWOT analysis, for example.
But we realised that switching metaphors to ‘Avenues of greatest promise so far’ could be much more productive. For one, it makes for more optimistic conversations, which help to sustain mood and energy into the next session. Plus it helps identify what to prioritise among a bunch of suggestions, while listing ingredients that will be needed for any ‘recipe for success’, if any of the possibilities are to be turned into practical initiatives. In that way, the difficulties get overcome without being the main focus of attention.
Add a few flip charts around the room to give everyone a break from sitting in static table groups, and we have a really fruitful energiser.
How have you shifted groups from ‘Problem Talk’ to ‘Solutions Talk’ to help achieve more when time together is so precious?