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Innovation Meetings: This Is How to Successfully Run Them

Bring the team together for an inspiring innovation meeting with these tips for making the most of every meeting participant’s time.

By Fellow.app  •   October 21, 2022  •   7 min read

With so many different types of meetings, how do you decide which meetings make the cut and which ones you avoid? One key component is whether your meetings can bring something new to the table – something even an informative email can’t accomplish. (Yes, sometimes the answer to the age-old question “should this meeting be an email” is no.) 

Namely, you should look at the objective of the meeting: What do you hope will come from it? For example, maybe you need a collaborative take on a project or a “two heads are better than one” approach to problem-solving. In that case, it’s time for an innovation meeting, otherwise known as a brainstorming meeting. Below, you’ll learn how to hold meetings that make the most of your innovation process. 

What is an innovation meeting?

An innovation meeting is a meeting meant to spark new ideas. They’re when you gather team members to innovate – as in, come up with new solutions or strategies for any of your challenges. They should be productive meetings with a clear end goal but a freeform path to get there – leave convention and judgment at the door. At the same time, there’s an oft-used innovative meeting format that can steer you in the right direction. 

Run productive innovation meetings

Increase meeting engagement and productivity with a collaborative agenda that the whole team can contribute to. Try using a tool like Fellow!

The goals of an innovation meeting

You can hold an innovation meeting any time you need to do one of the below.

Think in new ways 

Ideally, an innovation meeting should push everyone to new heights of thinking. Your goal here is to inspire collective creativity and harness all the great things that come from collaboration. If nothing else, an innovation meeting can help your team think outside the box together. 

Rethink a current project strategy

Good meetings often lead to clear decisions and next steps, and at innovation meetings, that can mean dipping your toes into a reinvented project strategy. That starts with a clear focus that you set at the start of your meeting. And that starts with a meeting agenda you send everyone beforehand. Think of it as your roadmap to how you’ll work together to change up your project strategy or overcome a roadblock. 

Set up a new approach 

Another key goal of an innovation meeting is for the team to walk away with a new approach to a project or product. If your team has experienced roadblocks or setbacks, your new approach could help them more easily do their work in the future. And since you and your team came up with it together, you should have no trouble getting team buy-in.

How to run innovation meetings

Here’s how to run innovation meetings that work for small groups and large groups alike. 

1Build an exciting environment

To really get everyone’s creative juices flowing, you need a key ingredient: inspiration. Unfortunately, inspiration can’t be bottled and sold – it’s a bit more elusive than that – but you can till the soil to encourage its growth. 

A great way to host exciting meetings is to get everyone talking with icebreakers or team-building questions. You can also split a larger group into smaller groups to make things more dynamic. Each of these groups can brainstorm on their own before coming together to share ideas. 

2Make it a judgment-free zone

Let’s face it – judgment is public enemy number one when it comes to full creativity. That’s why, to start your brainstorming session, you should clearly state that all ideas are welcome. This is a time for far-fetched thoughts that team members can build on. The idea is to ground any ideas that initially seem impossible. 

3Get the conversation in motion

With a clear focus already in mind, it’s easy to get the conversation started and keep up the momentum. You can start with a relevant question that gets the group eager to share ideas. Or you can go around the room and ask everyone to share their current challenges with the project in process. Think of it like a stand-up meeting for problem-solving instead of just updates. 

4Think of ideas, not just actions

Ideas are a hot commodity at an innovation meeting. There’s no limit to the number of ideas you can put on the table – more ideas mean more possibilities. And the more possibilities, the more potential solutions you can find for your problem-solving predicaments. The innovation process works best when everyone layers their ideas and builds off each other’s thoughts. 

5Consider all the possibilities 

Encourage your team to come up with as many ideas as possible and then whittle it all down. You can look over all the possibilities and decide together which solutions might actually work. Don’t be afraid to listen to – and write down – that one idea that sounds nonsensical. It just might lead to the perfect solution. 

6Keep stakeholders aligned 

Clients, customers, senior team members – stakeholders in a project want to feel included as much as possible. And they’ll probably have ideas of their own that they want to share during brainstorming sessions, so include them in innovation meetings whenever possible. This also ensures that your stakeholders have signed off on a course of action – if they’ve helped create it, they’ve approved it. 

Key considerations when structuring innovation meetings

Now, you know what an innovation meeting is and how to host one. That means you’re ready to look at their structure and how that can truly set you up for success. 

Define your primary goal 

First, ask yourself: What are you hoping to get out of your big brainstorm? Maybe you’re looking to pivot a project strategy after another roadblock. Maybe you’re looking to get ideas from the creative team on the product packaging for an upcoming launch. Regardless, you should start your meeting agenda with a well-defined goal. 

Be mindful of who you invite (and their roles)

As with any meeting, it’s possible to have too many cooks in the kitchen when you’re innovating. Just because you want ideas doesn’t mean that everyone from your organization should hop into the conference room. Keep the guest list relevant and have a good reason for having invited anyone on your list. You should also assign meeting-specific roles such as notetaker and meeting facilitator

Consider the ideal environment 

Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and as people return to the office, it’s no surprise that in-person meetings are making a well-deserved comeback. They’re also, for the most part, better for innovation meetings. 

That’s because an inspiring, electric environment is easier to spark in real life. When everyone’s in the same room, people can better read each other’s body language and pick up on the creativity in the air. For more casual brainstorming sessions without any looming deadlines, try a brown bag meeting to create a laid-back vibe that can loosen up the crowd. 

Pick the right tools

With the right tools, you can prioritize tasks and keep your innovation meetings chock-full of potential. For example, when you incorporate meeting tools such as Fellow, you can build better meeting habits before, during, and after every brainstorming session. From working with a brainstorming meeting agenda template to using Streams (notepads) to organize ideas, Fellow can get your team chatting, collaborating, and thinking big.

Deb Lee, Digital Productivity Consultant, has this to say about using tools in the workplace: “Productivity for me means regularly working on the right things at the right time. Sometimes we need to do that with a little help from apps and other tech tools. And coffee.”

Choose relevant activities 

To make your innovation meetings more engaging, fill it with activities that keep everyone engaged. A great example is to break everyone into smaller groups that answer certain questions. You’ll then go around the room for answers. You can choose other activities, of course – just make sure they’re inspiring and relevant. This might not be the time for team-bonding games – they can help people get in the zone, but they might not lead to new ideas. 

Who could benefit from innovation meetings?

Long story short, everyone could benefit from innovation meetings. That’s because all teams face roadblocks and can come together to find a way through.

The beauty of an organization is that people work in teams, and successful organizations know the power of hashing out problems as a group. Successful organizations welcome all ideas because they know that new ideas can come from anyone – and two heads are always better than one. 

Free brainstorming meeting agenda template

Bring people together to find solutions

Innovation meetings are a must, even if their subject and goals change slightly each time. One thing that will always stay the same, though, is how to hold a great innovation meeting. If you ever need a refresher or some inspiration, you can always return to this piece.

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