Innovator’s Toolbox: Rules of the Road

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A facilitator should set guidelines before any kind of ideation session. The guidelines, and also the task statement, can be hung up in the room so that they are visible to the group. That way if someone is breaking the rules or derailing the process by getting off task, the facilitator can use these visuals to get the group back on track.


Innovation Focus explains the Rules of the Road before facilitating any session. We also allow the project champion to review the task and give background information or a pep talk before we begin. This always sets up the group to make the most effective use of the time and have the most fun and success during the session.


The Innovation Focus Rules of the Road are a tried and true approach to helping our experienced facilitators keep any session on track.


1. Aggressively manage the meeting in your mind.

Your mind is constantly working, even when you are not consciously problem-solving. Oftentimes a comment, question or build will pop into your head when someone else is speaking. But as quickly as a thought can pop into your head, it can vanish. We encourage everyone to use a notepad to write down what you are thinking, so when it is time for you to share, the facilitators can capture all of the important things you had to add.


2. Headline your comments, starting with “I wish”, “How to”, “What if”, “We could….”

This not only forces people to speak positively (“We can’t”, “We won’t”…etc. are not allowed), but it also encourages people to give a concise synopsis of their point up front so that the facilitator can be recording it while they explain it in more detail.


3. Value what you don’t know.

Sometimes others will offer ideas that you may think are absurd, impossible or out of scope. But in order to push the group into really new territory, we encourage you to ask questions beginning with “How to…” so that your concerns are recorded, but are not worded in such a way that they discourage others from sharing their “crazy” ideas.


4. Build on other’s ideas.

We always encourage you to build on ideas already recorded and make them even better. Sometimes it is helpful to preface your idea by saying, “This is a build on…”


5. Suspend judgment, keep an open mind, and stay loose until rigor counts.

Don’t worry about the feasibility of an idea when someone is sharing it during this early stage. You want to be accepting of all ideas in case there is a valuable build or a truly innovative approach that may not be fully fleshed out.


6. Be ruthless and courageous in decision making.

When it is time to decide which ideas rise to the top and which are to be stored away, be ruthless! You have to decide based on your agreed-upon criteria, which ideas will be the ones that move forward in the development process or which you would place bets on. Be courageous and become a champion for the ideas that you think are the game-changers.


7. Direct your comments to the facilitator.

Don’t make side comments or have side conversations while you are in the large group session. All comments are important and should be shared with the group and recorded.


8. Do what you need to do to stay present.

Because your mind is so active, it wanders and gets distracted easily. Research has shown that doodling or keeping your hands busy can actually help you stay more focused and keep creative juices flowing. Innovation Focus is known for bringing fun little toys and pipe cleaners to any session and encouraging people to play while they are inventing the future.

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