How do you position yourself as a leader in a scenario planning process? How do you and your team come up with a shared vision of the future or strategy? If you apply these 10 tips from TomorrowLab, you will breeze through all strategic conversations and workshops successfully.
Dorothy Mingneau, Senior Innovation Designer at TomorrowLab, has already coached a large number of workshops and brainstorms. An important area of activity is strategic conversations about scenario planning and innovation in the broadest sense. As a hands-on expert, she is the right person to give tips.
1 Change location
"We always arrange our workshops and brainstorming sessions for companies here at TomorrowLab. It helps to take people out of their everyday context. Another benefit is that the people can't walk away or get ambushed by colleagues."
2 Take your time
"We will never be able to develop a vision and strategy for an organisation in a four-hour workshop. Taking sufficient time is very important. We work in three important phases: one is to gain understanding, two is to generate options and three is to take decisions. The time between the successive sessions is very useful to allow thoughts and ideas to mature in the minds of all attendees."
3 Make sure there is diversity
"We try to involve people from different departments and business units in the process. This creates cross-fertilisation between the different views. That leads to more successful innovations than if you stick to one business unit. Of course, we also bear in mind the presence of various generations and the gender balance."
4 Speak the same language
"If people from different departments or business units take part, sometimes it happens that they don't understand each other's language or objectives. We use various tools, such as the business model canvas and the scenario planning methodology. So they manage to talk to each other in a very structured way about the company's objectives, or the areas where innovation needs to happen. Everyone has a different picture of the future. By devising four scenarios of the future, a shared reference framework is created."
05 Listen to the outside world "Lots of companies or organisations start out from their own strengths and opportunities. We turn it the other way around. We always work from the outside-in, so that participants understand that there are also other viewpoints. What do outside experts or stakeholders say about particular themes? What do important people outside the organisation say about your company or institution? How should you respond? This often changes the way that you look at your business, problem or challenge. That is very rewarding."
6 Allow scope to others
"We ask beforehand what the main threats are to the success of the project. What often comes up is freedom of speech. Staff are often frightened of offending the CEO. But this kind of process affects everyone. So everyone must be able to say what he or she thinks. If leaders come across as too dominant in a workshop, that can hinder the process. Of course, we ensure that there is scope for the leader's vision, but we add other visions too. CEOs often like to be challenged. We organise strategic conversations that take them out of their comfort zone. Sometimes emotions build up because they also have to overcome a certain past history. We also bring them into contact in a different way with experts, customers and other CEOs.
7 Ensure neutrality
"We ensure as a neutral facilitator that the process runs successfully. All the people present must be able to be themselves. My role, among other things, is to create a balance between the dominant and/or eloquent voices and the others whose presence is rather less pronounced. In order to achieve that, sometimes we deliberately don't do brainstorming. We opt instead for brainwriting, a written exercise. When doing that, people first write down their ideas individually on a Post-it and only then are they presented to the group. Or we make sub-groups on particular themes."
8 Don't judge, but think
"For scenario planning, we operate with a core team and a mirror team. The core team contains the people who get down to work very actively with the exercises. The mirror team acts as a sounding board. The leader belongs to the mirror team, because it important for the core team to have the greatest possible freedom. We bring the two groups together at regular intervals to report. It's not the mirror team's role to approve or reject the task, it is only allowed to reflect. Was the exercise wide-ranging enough in terms of insights; do we want to raise other factors? This not only creates sufficient detachment to reflect, but it also brings about an interesting dynamic between the two groups."
9 Invest in embedding the project
"Sometimes there are still frustrations from the past. Employees don't want to contribute, because nothing happens with the results. We state clearly that certainty is required, for example the concrete conversion into strategy and vision. We also keep the project on the agenda of the management. For processes that take three to five years, we draw up a project charter, where we state in advance what we want to achieve and what the key factors are to make it a success."
10 Communicate widely
"You start with a group of 15 people, but ultimately the whole organisation has to buy into it. We try to put everything in concrete terms with a vision, a strategy and a roadmap. You need that to communicate the new narrative. Leaders who can communicate will immediately get down to work on the storytelling aspect of scenarios, because they are ideally suited for creating a sense of urgency or a call to action. Make all those involved in the project into ambassadors."