Innovation day.

We organize and facilitate innovation days and strategy events for corporations, with audiences of 25 to 250 managers.

About

If it's not mind-blowing, it's wasted time.

Take just one day to inspire peopledevelop relevant business concepts for the company, and learn new innovation tools along the way.

Your reason for setting up a large-scale workshop could be very different depending on your company and context. We will align with your goals by focusing on training with new tools or on the quality of the final business concepts.

All information on this page is designed with large groups in mind (100+ participants). However, most of these exercises can also be applied to small teams with a modified format. We’ve added as many tips as possible so you can use all the material at your own event.

“Over the past 20 years in my professional life I’ve set up and joined many innovation sessions… but yours was definitely top 1 in quality. Strong!”
Jan Borré, Project Manager, Telenet

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Results

Inspiring your employees. Co-creating innovative business concepts. All in 1 day.

HR and Talent Development in the lead

Goal: A selection of high-potentials will work together for 1 day to develop new entrepreneurial skills. Everyone learns new creativity and innovation tools by working on real strategy challenges for the organization.

Context: Such an innovation day is often initiated by the in-house academy or training department. We need to coordinate the content with other development programs.

Strategy and New Business development in the lead

Goal: Bring skilled managers together to develop an array of innovative business concepts.

Context: Often this type of brainstorm day fits into a larger innovation process. The products of this session can be transferred to the next stage of this program.

INNOVATION day agenda

An intensive 1-day dive into innovation and strategy.

Take one day to inspire people, channel that inspiration into relevant new business concepts for the company, and learn new innovation tools along the way. The overall focus for the day could shift to any of these 3 activities depending on your goals for the day. Take the following schedule as an example of what’s possible.

Total time needed: 7 hours, without catering, breaks, and network moments.
Kick-off at 8:30 AM and closing at 6:00 PM.

  • Never ever let an external person do the intro for you. We let a C-level person or innovation leader within the organization take the stage and thank everyone for investing their time in this one-day event.
  • Potential topics to talk about: strategic challenges (such as corporations vs. startups, new competitors, the speed of change), disruption and how to re-invent your business, innovation culture, or how the company supports innovation today and tomorrow.

Participants often fly in from different locations. Many of them don’t know each other, so it’s crucial to start with an energizer to get everyone talking. Combined with the introduction, this part should set the tone for the rest of the day. We use different exercises depending on the location and context. Check our warm-up examples below for some inspiration. 

 
  • Time is limited, but you can realistically have 3 rounds to generate 100+ sticky notes per table.
  • A combination of templates and tools will help people step out of their comfort zone.
  • To get the most valuable output we often ask participants to prepare themselves before they arrive at this session. Sometimes people bring 1 or more ideas on a given template. In other situations, we ask people to read several inspiring articles and case studies. This is not mandatory, but it helps speed things up during the day.
  • As facilitators of creativity brainstorms, we bring tons of inspiration:
    • Emerging trends (B2B or B2C)
    • Societal evolution and changes in geopolitics
    • Next-gen technology
    • Upcoming business models and experiments
    • Startups to learn from
    • Analogy thinking
    • And more
  • Check our brainstorming tools and examples we use below for some inspiration.
  • We don’t like having a creativity day that’s all fun but doesn’t create a tangible output. A summary of the most innovative ideas will be captured on a structured template.
  • To get to this step we expect participants to make the first selection from all the ideas on the walls and tables.
  • The exact format of this concept card template depends on the goal for the innovation day. Topics often include:
    • A problem to solve
    • Who would be the user and client (often not the same)
    • What would be the solution to this problem (product/service)
    • How to create and capture value (business model)
    • Rating: how innovative or disruptive is this concept?
  • The second list of topics helps align the business concept with the bigger goal of the company’s innovation strategy. This list is always tailored to the session. For example:
    • What partnership model would be needed
    • How to enhance the customer experience (customer-centricity)
    • Possible pricing or go-to-market strategies
    • Expected range (high-level) of investment needed
    • Why will this concept win or fail?
  • Check our business concept design templates below for some inspiration. 
  • Interaction with other participants is crucial. Depending on the size of the total group, different pitching formats are possible.
  • Live pitching on stage. In an ideal setup there are only 5 teams that present for 3 min, followed by 2 minutes of Q&A. Longer pitches (or more teams) could make the end of the day exhausting.
  • When there are more than 10 teams there are some alternative formats:
    • Cluster teams together: Each team “visits” 3 other teams to share their insights.
    • Informal pitching: open questions to the crowd so some teams volunteer to present a summary of their idea.
    • facilitator explains the most relevant highlights from different teams. He or she can prompt teams to give more detail when relevant.
  • The main message at the end of the day is, “This is what will happen next…”
  • We invite someone from the company’s innovation team to explain how all the outputs will be captured.
  • A clear and short-term follow-up.
  • In the end, we encourage everyone to link the output of the day to other innovation efforts in the organization and to indicate how people can engage in these initiatives. 

Brainstorm exercises examples

Look beyond industry borders.

Analogy thinking: smart copying

Try to start your innovation day with an easy brainstorming exercise. Ask participants to look beyond their industry borders. Often, we prepare an inspiration deck with clever business ideas and startups in other domains. These cases are presented on physical cards or via tablet on the tables.

Each table (or team) gets 2 to 3 different cases. On sticky notes they write down all the different elements that they think are inspiring or innovative (e.g., “startup X has a smart pricing strategy”). In the next step, they look for ways to translate these insights into a new product or service idea.

We almost always receive feedback that people want more time with this specific exercise. Participants really love this format and would do this for hours if possible.

We have dozens of analogy cards and we prepare new examples for every new client or domain. Feel free to download 50+ cases (PDF) to use in your own session.

If you see a remarkable case somewhere, make sure to send us a tip at hello@boardofinnovation.com.

Where can you find new business ideas for inspiration?

Producthunt.com
Reddit/r/startups
FutureFeeder
Over 100 extra sources

To make sure we don’t lose any ideas, we use big paper templates to capture all the notes. At the end of the day every team has a collection of large sheets that can be used to create a structured output document. 

Extra tip: Add small info-boxes on every template to explain how to use this document. Although a facilitator will always explain how to start the brainstorm, you just know that 20% of participants will miss a part the introduction. They can always fall back on the mini-tutorial on the template.

Brainstorm exercises

Customer journey: Start with a discussion (1 per table) to describe what a day or a month looks like for a specific client. Use this story of the client’s life to detect new needs. Depending on the format, you can explore alternative solutions in the market or brainstorm to find new solutions.

Value proposition abstraction: Start this brainstorm from the existing solution (e.g., we sell pens). Ask your participants to explore different levels of abstraction (e.g., help users express themselves). This is an easy framework to discover new product ideas.

Technology triggers: Show your participants that we’re living in the future. Video demos with prototypes and lab tests can really inspire people, but be careful to select tech that is applicable to the domain you’re working in.

We have templates and demo slides for each of the brainstorm formats above, and many more! If you need more info, just reach out to us.

Brainstorm: Trends versus Markets

Trends can be a great source of inspiration for new opportunities. Every industry is challenged by disruptions. To kick-off another brainstorming round, we start with a short presentation of eye-opening cases (relevant to the industry we’re focusing on) showing how the world is changing.

The goal of this exercise is to link a small selection of trends (take 5) with specific market segments for the company. How does a trend (such as the rise of data protection and privacy) impact a specific market (such as students and their parents)? Each cross-section between a trend and a market will generate new business ideas or new problems to solve.

DOWNLOAD OUR free tool (PDF)

Tech & trends matrix

A tool to generate hundreds of focussed ideas, with the inspiration of the latest trends.

Business concept development

A clear path to success.

IDEA SELECTION PROCESS

After every brainstorming round, we ask people to highlight the most interesting sticky notes. Sometimes they use small sticky dots to mark particularly smart ideas. Another format could be a mini-booklet that participants use to keep track of clever ideas.

Extra: We encourage people to make an individual selection first before going into a group discussion. Everyone gets an “idea shopping cart” template to collect the most radical ideas that stand out to them. This works better than a selection by committee where the loudest voice has the most influence.

Before a team can go forward they need to pick at least one more disruptive idea. Importantly, not everyone needs to agree that this is the smartest idea. Consensus-building is the worst enemy of innovation!  

EXTRA TIPS

Digitalize the outputs? If the output of this day needs to link to an in-house innovation platform, it’s wise to format this template to be compatible with this platform.

Who’s responsible? Ideas need ownership from some of the participants. Every final template needs someone’s name on it who can be reached afterward for a follow-up.

Make ideas memorable: Add a sketch on each template. If you have dozens of teams with 2 or 3 business concepts each at the end of the day, you need to be able to quickly scan every document. A drawing and catchy title helps you memorize every concept.

Warm up examples and energizers

Keep the energy high through the whole day.

Draw your neighbour

As simple as it sounds, this exercise is one of the best starters. It instantly pulls people out of their comfort zones. It’s a message to everyone they have to “create” things today and not just listen to lectures. On top of that, the picture created is a perfect conversation starter to get to know your fellow participants.

Extra: Put all sketches on the wall near the coffee during the break.

Out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens

What will we laugh at within 20 years?

Fire up your participants’ imaginations with a short discussion. Everyone needs to share 1 product or behavior that they think will soon disappear. 

Example: “That it takes years to learn a new language.” – “Fossil-fuel-powered cars with human drivers.”

It’s a great warm-up to frame innovation and how products are disrupted. There are always smart kids in the room who share clever insights. From the first moment of the day, participants are learning something new!

Extra: Follow paleofuture blog for more inspiration, or look for wrong predictions about the future to stir the discussion.

The 1-sentence intro

If you’re short on time due to a large number of participants, it’s wise to have a clear structure for how everyone can introduce themselves.

Example: “Hi, I’m …, and I help create value for company XYZ by…” 
You can add an extra inspiring element to this sentence: “The most innovative product of last year was…” or ,“Before working at this company, I worked at… If we copied one thing from my previous employer, it would be…

Extra: Check out the most innovative companies according to Forbes, Fast Company, or BCG.

Practical tips and logistics

An eye for detail: Our tips for preparing a flawless agenda.

Have the details right

There are always skeptics in the room. In order to build trust, it’s necessary to show commitment.

Some examples:

  • Special lanyards for every facilitator and team
  • Custom prints and templates for every exercise (we’ve invested in our own plotter and it was the best decision in years)
  • Every team has unique colors and materials on their table
  • A lot of props: dice, bells, special markers, fake money to vote with, tablets, welcome cards, and so on

Structure and timing

An innovation day needs to be very strict about time management. We often dry-run exercises to check if a given brainstorm trigger works for this specific company and context. 

People make plans for after your day ends. Don’t steal 15 minutes of all your participants’ time because you couldn’t manage a large crowd.

Everyone’s last impression of the organization should be: “Wow, what an amazing day! I want to be 100% on innovation from now on!”

The larger the crowd, the more detailed the schedule needs to be (exact down to 5 minutes if possible). Check where you can skip a step during an exercise or give more time to extend valuable discussions. But be strict about breaks!

Practical tips

  • Ideally, every table has 4 or 5 people with mixed backgrounds. We are strict on this. You don’t want teams of 10 people where half of the group gets lost after 1 round.
  • You need 1 facilitator per 6 tables.
  • Don’t compromise on the location. Never organize an innovation day within the company walls. People will skip a session to go to an urgent meeting, have a hard time getting into the right mindset, and so on.
  • Involve the technical crew as early as possible in the design of the day. A lousy microphone, a misplaced projector setup, a noisy room… there are dozens of small technical elements that can ruin the overall experience.
  • Relax: There is always a lot of pressure. Murphy’s Law is just around the corner but don’t let that impact the overall organization. Be flexible and positive. A creative solution fits a creativity day, right? Good luck!

Client cases

Trusted by Fortune 500 and global innovators.

Board of Innovation makes Fortune 500 corporations innovate like startups, mixing proven methods from design thinking and lean startup strategies.

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