We have collaborated with over 100 organizations for a variety of in-person and virtual innovation, design thinking, and leadership workshops and events. One of our favorite topic focus areas is helping people lead and facilitate design thinking for a culture (and mindset) of innovation. Most of the times our events are private within a single organization. On occasion we do a public event where leaders from various organizations can come together to learn from us and learn from each other to become better leaders for innovation and design thinking. The CultureCon pre-conference session is such an event. If you’d like to attend this year’s conference, here is the link (with discount code) to learn more. We suggest registering for the “Full Conference Experience Pass” so you can join our special Pre-Conference day in addition to the main conference. 

Here is a short case study about this kind of program including what participants wanted to focus on and what they learned and gained. Hear from participants from a few of our most recent sessions below.

Leading Innovation – In-Person Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop

We recently led a 4-hour long design thinking leadership workshop at an organizational culture conference held in Madison, Wisconsin. Participants of the event explored some of the common topics and themes we work with daily, including design thinking, storytelling, and creating ideas to impact culture.

At the beginning of the event, participants were asked to explain what they were hoping to learn or focus on. When it came to why participants were there for a design thinking workshop, many of their answers were similar in nature and revolved around a few core themes, including:

  • How to connect with others and facilitate that same connection back at my own organization
    • Networking and learning from others
    • Connecting and engaging with the audience
    • Growing with others
    • Connecting with employees at a large organization
  • Develop and apply your personal capabilities to inspire with impact
    • Lead change
    • Be relatable
    • Be impactful
    • Generate new ideas
  • How to be a storyteller and facilitative leader of design thinking
    • Becoming a better storyteller
    • Facilitating workshops
    • Design thinking in action
    • Building better teams
    • Being a better leader
    • Inspiring action
  • How to grow a culture of innovation from a stagnant place/mindset
    • Reinvigorate innovation in a stuck in their ways culture
    • How to continue to keep up in the office
    • How to build a “culture positive” workplace
    • Use what the experts are doing
    • Get employees more engaged

These desired learning outcomes were addressed during the four-hour workshop where culture change, strategy and methods of brainstorming and communicating, and other topics were focused in with action.

Since a focus on growing a culture of innovation was the top learning need or desired focus area for the leaders, we created participant teams and they defined the key elements of an organizational culture of innovation. They converged on theses organizational elements:

1. Growth
2. Vulnerability and Risk Tolerance
3. Adapting and Evolving
4. Connecting
5. Creating

Facilitating Culture of Innovation Workshop
At the end of the workshop, we asked the leaders to reflect and share what the key takeaways are that they will use in their own work and life. Here’s what they had to say:

  • I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard I cried with people I’ve only known for four hours. What I think I took away the most from this is the idea of just getting away from words and sometimes going to pictures. It can be a really interesting way of telling a story and getting to know people. Storytelling is something we struggle with as an organization, and we don’t really focus on it as much as we should. I really want to change that moving forward.
  • I learned so much today. This is a very exciting, dynamic environment. I appreciated all of the people here today. I had tried doing things like this previously and it just fell completely flat, and we ended up going back to our usual ways of doing things with a whiteboard. So, to see this in practice in a way that worked was beautiful and inspiring.
  • For me, I was so excited to participate and take part in this experience because I have tried a lot of things that we talked about before at work. It was useful to realize I am on the right track, and during this workshop, I picked up a lot of little tips and hints that can be used throughout the day that will help me translate the theory into the practice and changes that need to happen on the ground in the work we are trying to do. So, for me, this workshop was all about affirmation and confidence for a more powerful way going forward.
  • Well, first off, it’s been a lot of good information, but I really like the activities that we did and the way that we brainstormed different things. It’s not typical to how most people are usually brainstorming and having meetings in an office. I think that this is a way to brainstorm to be creative, be a little silly, but also generate good, positive ideas.
  • I can definitely see us taking back the team building exercises to our company and trying to implement them in different departments. A lot of the situations from the workshop were also things we’re not seeing all the time, and so I learned how to be adaptable and open to learning new things. Also, the communication and feedback. You may take something from someone else to help you or, you never know, something you say may help them. Looking forward to continuing on with relationships that are built here, so that we can continue to grow.
  • One takeaway I like is that we weren’t always working in the same groups, so we weren’t getting too comfortable too quickly. And, with some of the activities, I learned how to be more open and comfortable hearing other people’s viewpoints and opinions.
  • The abstract nature of some of the activities really helped and will be brought back to our company to brainstorm and build relationships.
  • What stood out to me is that it’s a “muscle”. You have to work and keep working to generate ideas. I want to practice it more to get better at it.

Virtual Leadership & Facilitation Online Workshop

Last year, we held a virtual design thinking leadership retreat centered around facilitation and digital transformation in leading. The outcome of the workshop was to help leaders understand how to design more engaging and interactive workshops, events, and breakout sessions of their own. At the end of the event, we asked participants to reflect and share what they learned and thought about the process. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Watching Darin and learning from Darin just emphasized again that all of life is an experiment. You might do it and it might fail, and that’s okay. And the other takeaway is the importance of practice. My mantra is to never be in “performance mode” but admitting that I’m always just practicing and learning.
  • One thing that I’m taking away is to just start and do it, experiment. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I need to do for the presentation, and I think it’s about just getting started and putting things together is a good way to move forward.
  • For me, this workshop reinforced the concept of letting go of perfection. The impact of being messy – and positive outcomes that come from play and chaos!
  • My takeaway was to continue to challenge the status quo. You can take almost any meeting and workshop and apply the things we learned to make it more fun, more engaging, and probably better results as well.
  • In my breakouts, a lot of my discussions were about being creative and not blocking the creative experience with so many thoughts that exist. So, breaking down those barriers and trying a new way.
  • One of the things that stuck with me is the rhythm of how we pace things. It’s almost like music, the way you mix short activities with longer ones and breaks. And even the way you group and regroup people. It feels like there is a pulse to it. You have to let go of control to allow this to work, which is hard when you are leading something and want it to work well. I really like how you showed us what your plan was and then showed us what the actual experience was like. You can’t blow off the planning, but you need to be flexible and nimble with how people are working.

We keep offering this program in-person each year. Here’s a message I’ve appreciated receiving from a recent “innovating your culture” in-person workshop participant:

“I know I upleveled last week as a result of attending the conference – especially the pre-conference.  Darin, the gifts through your teaching and facilitation you gave us last week and below (Holy Smokes GENEROSITY in ACTION) are priceless.  Learning from you and the others was an invaluable experience and I have already begun spreading the word about your approach and the pre-conference with more to come. Fantastic to connect with you all in a well-crafted space. I look forward to continued connection and send you all the best as you head out to further build communities that enable humans to thrive.

Here are some other comments from participants on LinkedIn after we ran this workshop as the CultureCon pre-conference experience:

First day at CultureCon was phenomenal!!! Learning alongside like-minded, compassionate and inspiring leaders fills my soul so I can come back to my team and lead, empower and inspire them, so they can best serve other organizations and communities. PLUS, I’m getting and generating some powerfully impactful ideas.

This was so much fun to experience in person! Thanks for sharing your passion and expertise with us, Darin! I can’t wait to apply the learnings.

Thank you, Darin! So grateful for this meaningful experience with you and everyone who participated.

Your PreCon helped set the tone for the CultureCon. Thank you for leading us through all of your creative strategies. What a memorable experience! 👏🏽

Thank you for a great pre-conference experience, Darin Eich, Ph.D. ! It was a privilege to work with you and the team.

Interested in experiencing a program like this yourself or to bring it to your group? Please contact us to learn more about our innovation workshops, design thinking training or innovative facilitator program.