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28/6/2019
Axis POV

Using workshops to create sustainable competitive advantage

Winning in the digital economy

In a digital economy, success and sustainability are driven by the ability to out-innovate and change faster than the competition. This is underpinned by multi-disciplinary teams, agile ways of working and an organisation that is porous to the voice of the customer and the power of the ecosystem.

Clearly, this is easier said than done. It requires people to think and work differently. The way in which an organisation gets its people to collaborate, co-create and execute, within teams, across departments and with third parties is critical. Currently the format of choice is meetings, executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in meetings.

Meetings don’t work

Unfortunately, most meetings are unproductive and ineffectual, which creates a drag on organisational performance. Leaders are acutely aware of the limitations of traditional meetings. Making people stand and restricting pizza supply can help and are being bolstered by a big push around agile and design thinking with the associated rituals and techniques. The growth in the use of workshops – structured and facilitated meetings that apply methods of collaboration – is a key part of this.

This is evident in the popularity of theatrical set-piece workshops, which are characterised by custom-built spaces, specialist facilitators and immersive activities. They take leadership teams on a journey designed to break through organisational and political shackles, create new insights and establish a set of shared commitments that will catalyse transformational change.

These sessions can have an enormous impact. But their high cost and dependency upon co-location and scarce facilitation talent means that they are not scalable. They can establish clarity of vision and top-down innovation, but momentum and dynamism are lost as the outcomes trickle through the organisation and are buried under the weight of unproductive meetings.

How can we break through these constraints and make it possible for anyone to facilitate a brilliant workshop at a fundamentally lower cost?

The answer is digital workshops where teams participate through their devices. This transforms collaboration across three dimensions:

  1. Democratised. Avoids travel, cuts planning and write-up cost by 80% and eliminates the need for a specialist facilitator. At up to one-thousandth of the cost, a digital workshop becomes economically viable to address a much wider set of business needs.
  2. Human. Easy to anonymously surface the truth, generate unconventional ideas, draw upon the wisdom of crowds, get everyone involved irrespective of personality or standing and generate a depth and specificity of content that is unconstrained by the physical limitations of a sticky note. Research into the dynamics of teams e.g.the damaging effect of groupthink is a strong illustration of the power of digital workshops.
  3. Simple. Templated workshop methods make it simple to drive adoption of design thinking and agile at scale and at pace. As with the rituals of agile – retrospectives, stand-ups – best practice methods and a consistent approach and structure allow digital workshops to disseminate and new ways of working

Digital workshops unlock human innovation and collaboration throughout the enterprise, powering both top-down and bottom-up transformation. The adoption of digital workshops is a source a significant competitive advantage. In a world where businesses compete on talent, innovation and pace and agility of execution the workshop is the engine room of the digital economy.

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