It’s easy for annual conferences to feel cliché. Finding a new angle that gives you an edge and really inspires your people is a huge challenge. Even when you look at ways to mix it up, you find yourself deciding between a similar set of themes, looking at the same venues, using the same bank of trends to find a hook. But those issues are just cosmetic. The real problem with your conferences? You spend huge amounts of time and money getting your people to together to talk, rather than do.
What if conferences were a place where strategies got started rather than just talked about?
Bringing brains together to create change
Your annual event brings your people together to establish culture, showcase your company vision and set out the priorities for next year. The risk is dedicating all that time and money to simply telling people what to do, and expecting them to be inspired enough to go away and do something different come Monday morning. The problem is that well-intentioned ivory tower strategies rarely make space for the realities or priorities of day-to-day pressures at the coalface. What if we could supercharge those strategies by unleashing the insights and ideas from the very people who live and breathe the business? Just think of all the brains from all around your business you have at your disposal. What if we used them to create real change today?
Reimaging your annual conference as an Innovation Lab
You have the best people from across your company in one room. Not only do you have the opportunity to offer them a really unique, energetic and inspiring conference experience, but you have the chance to make real progress on real issues. Rather than talking about the future, you have the opportunity to come up ideas and take important steps to implementing, right there and then.
This is the essence of a live innovation lab. Using a Design Sprint format, it takes something nebulous like a strategy and helps people think about the nuts and bolts of how to make it practical. It gets everyone to input into how to approach problems, come up with solutions and then test them with real customers.
Design Sprints: creating momentum, buy-in and impact, fast.
Traditionally, conferences involve a lot of sitting back and listening to others talk. A Design Sprint gets you doing quite the opposite: discussing and doing. And here’s how…
How a Two-Day Design Sprint works
High value business challenge: e.g. improving customer satisfaction.
Design Sprint team challenge: deliver a solution to test on real customers within 6 hours.
Team: people from across the business – customer service, HR, operations, sales, finance, anywhere you like – with a specific challenge assigned to each team.
The Decider: each team has a ‘Decider’. They are a stakeholder, in this example, from the customer service team, who would ultimately have accountability and responsibility to ensure the challenge is addressed and the solution is delivered. Their role is to prioritise the ideas the team comes up with to keep focus and momentum.
What happens: The team will really get under the skin of the challenge through gleaning the different perspectives of each team member, identifying the different barriers people face, then prioritising the most important problems to solve.
Solutions can come in the form of strategies, tactics, campaigns or changes to process. Teams think through how it would work and create a ‘prototype’ to bring their idea to life. This could be a poster, a process diagram, or a document explaining how the new initiative would work in practice.
Next we break the script by bringing real customers in to critique the ideas – teams interview them about the ideas and get quick feedback about what works, what doesn’t and what needs to change to create real impact.
Suddenly your company conference has gone from being a place to set strategy, to being somewhere that the rubber meets the road. In one day you’ve taken a team from a strategy to a problem statement, through to a solution which real customers have critiqued, ending with a clear idea about which ideas to progress, which to kill and what to do next.
The whole company leaves with something practical and concrete, rather than abstract words and sentiments. Decisions get made, plans get created and time gets saved (think how many meetings you’ve just made unnecessary). Teams have come together across silos to solve real problems and have built solutions with the people they’re designed for, your customers. Everyone comes away having experienced a faster and more agile way of working, feeling energised and excited to make change happen. Why? Because you’ve just empowered them to do exactly that.
And that’s how you do an annual conference differently. And how you turn talking into action.
Interested in connecting with a Design Sprint expert to discuss an upcoming event? Get in touch now. Contact us at [email protected].