Every day millions of people convene in conferences, meetings, strategy sessions, or workshops. Over time their formats and agendas become stale and need upgrading to deliver a better return.
Whether your gathering(s) need a total overhaul or a quick refresh, here are 15 timeless design prompts to provoke new thinking and ideas:
How might we make the …
- Community more connected?
- Conversation more compelling?
- Intention more worthy of investment?
- Process/pace more productive?
- Environment more inviting?
- Presentations more powerful?
- Connections more concrete?
- Experience more engaging?
- Usefulness more immediate?
- Presenters/panelists more provocative?
- Visuals more valuable?
- Meaning more memorable?
- Output more shareable?
- Truth more transparent?
- Learning more actionable?
When time is limited, it is best to select a few prompts related to the most important desired improvements. The design session conveners can do this, or each session participant can allocate five votes among the prompts they want used. Select those receiving the most votes. When more time is available, consider using all 15 prompts to generate the most ideas.
Structuring the Discussion
Regardless of how many prompts are used, allow every participant the chance to respond and contribute ideas:
- Write each prompt on a large envelope. Tape it to the wall with the flap side facing out.
- Invite individuals to write down ideas on notecards for any or all of the prompts, placing their completed cards in the corresponding envelope. This approach interrupts the extroverted bias of traditional brainstorming (i.e., shout out your ideas).
Now invite people to self-select the group/prompt for which they have the most expertise or interest. These groups review all the ideas submitted for their prompt, add others that surface during their review, and then select a limited number to recommend for action. Consider offering some criteria or decision-making rules to facilitate this selection.
Verbal reporting is fine for a few prompts, but if you use six or more it probably is best for each group to record its top ideas on a flipchart page. Post all pages, invite participants to do a galley walk to review all of the ideas, and then reconvene for any facilitated discussion.
Whether you use prompts more formally as outlined here, or personally drop them ad hoc into a group discussion, they are an easy catalyst for fresh thinking and new ideas.