Get started with workshop

At Increo, we are concerned with how effective workshops are compared to traditional meetings. Do you have little experience with workshops and unsure how to get started? Then you should read on.

Gaute Bjerke-Busch
Counselling, Facilitation

What is a workshop?

A workshop is a framework for teams to work together in. A workshop ensures results, while avoiding the common traps of teamwork, such as internal politics, different knowledge and different working methods.

Isn't that the same as a regular meeting? No, there are some significant differences. We'll get to that now.

In a workshop, we work from the beginning, not until the workshop is finished.

The difference between a workshop and a meeting

If you've attended a meeting before, you've probably experienced the following situation:

  • A cross-functional team gathers in a room and starts coming up with ideas.
  • It evolves into a kind of competition to speak the loudest or have the most experience in the room. Alternatively that no one wants to make a decision without everyone agreeing.

Both of these scenarios could cause the meeting to drag out on time, and without any momentum. Frustrating, isn't it?

That's because traditional collaborative scenarios don't address the underlying issues that make meetings so tedious in the first place.

We need to strike a balance between listening and speaking, so that all voices are heard, and decisions can be made in an effective and inclusive way. By creating an environment where participants feel confident enough to contribute, regardless of seniority or age, we can achieve better outcomes. Then we promote creativity, innovation and the desire to create.

A workshop (or a work meeting if you like), is a little different, and also typically lasts a little longer than a regular meeting.

The magic of the workshop is that we get the participants out of their chairs and into activity. It's a more practical and inclusive approach to the topic than a traditional meeting of three people talking and five sitting quietly. And so it is in the nature of a workshop that we work together from the very beginning, not until the workshop is finished.

Group work is a fundamental challenge for us humans, and without the right tools and routines to tackle this challenge, every single meeting is doomed to failure.

Workshops are the solution to this. They are changing the way collaboration takes place. How? By replacing unstructured, directionless discussions with exercises and activities that minimize groupthink and bias and foster structured discussions and continuous idea development.

This is precisely why both established companies and start-ups are resorting to workshops; to help their teams carry out meaningful work faster and more efficiently.

In addition to building on these skills, as a facilitator of your own workshops, you can gain important leadership experience for your next career jump. In practice, you can then deal with difficult challenges, different personalities and work styles, and lead the group towards its common goal.

When is it appropriate to have a workshop?

A workshop is most obvious when the purpose is to:

  • Kickstart something new
  • Generate ideas
  • Defining something
  • Investigate something
  • Designing something
  • Anchoring a concept in a group
  • Create team feeling
  • Creating Ownership and Involvement
  • Do something in a new way

Planning a workshop

First of all, you need to have a goal of what you want to achieve with the workshop, as it will be easier to plan with the goal in sight. What will you be left with after the end of the workshop? A good workshop requires good management and structure, and good planning is the key to getting good results.

Stacking a workshop on its feet is easier for someone who has done it many times before, as they like to have a toolbox of methods and activities that can be used, as well as experiences on what works well. Here it is also important to do the basics insight and analysis ahead of time so you can base yourself on real data.

If you are going to participate in the workshop yourself, it may be difficult to too be a facilitator. In some cases, it may therefore be a good idea to hire an external facilitator, or appoint another colleague to the job.

Workshop hos Talgø
The picture was taken at a workshop we facilitated last winter at Talgø MørEtre. What we do here is get an overview of the content of the website — what should be included next, what should be scrapped, how can we best categorize it.

Get with people, set by time

Find out who you need to make the workshop as good as possible. It's experientially very smart to think a little out of the box here -- are there, for example, people in other nooks and crannies of the organization who might have other perspectives, that might be useful to have with? And if relevant, is it with someone who has direct customer contact? Anyone working in sales? Someone with a decision-making mandate?

Clear your calendar for a few hours, book a spacious place to be, provide coffee, water and fruit — and, above all, have a good plan for how to make the best use of your time. Make sure that the participants are prepared and that they know what is expected of them.

The workshop itself does not necessarily have to be longer than 2-3 hours, but it can also be more content rich and also spread over several days. We at Increo have very good experience in carrying out design sprints for our customers, among other things. In just 4 days we find a solution and develop a prototype that we test on the target audience. Read more about design sprint here.

Make a plan that makes good use of time

Our best advice is to make sure you use the time you have available well. If you plan it yourself, or get help from professionals, we recommend focusing on the following:

  • What are we going to do?
  • Who's going to do it?
  • How should it be carried out?
  • Why do we do that? And what should be the result?

Then choose methods and activities that give the best answers to what you are wondering.

The activities or tasks in the workshop can take place both individually and in groups. Examples include participants writing down ideas and thoughts on post-its, creating simple sketches with felt-tip pens, filling in various models, charting customer journeys, or in other ways contributing their knowledge and insights on the topic.

Choose activities wisely

You can have a lot of fun in a workshop. It's easy to get hung up on colors on post-its, different ways of taking time and counting down, ball throwing and maybe even some fun hats. It is by all means important to have fun, but also remember that the time everyone has set aside for this must feel useful too. There's nothing worse than feeling like you're wasting time with meetings that don't providing something.

This should be with

Here is a list of equipment and materials that may be useful to have ready for a workshop:

  1. Whiteboard or flip chart: A large writing surface for writing down ideas, tasks and notes that can be shared with participants.
  2. Markers and chalk: Be sure to have a selection of markers in different colors and any chalk available to write on the whiteboard or flip chart.
  3. Post-it notes: These small, sticky notes are useful for organizing ideas, tasks or important points in an easy and removable way.
  4. Paper and pens: Give participants access to notepaper and pens so they can take individual notes or write down their contributions.
  5. Process map or agenda: Have a visual overview of the structure and activities of the workshop, either in the form of a process map or a detailed agenda.
  6. Activity materials: Depending on the theme or purpose of the workshop, specific materials such as stickers, colored pencils, building blocks, or other interactive tools may be needed.
  7. Process documentation: Have documentation of past meetings or workshops that may be relevant to participants. This may include reports, analyses or other reference documents.
  8. Technical equipment: Make sure there is adequate technical equipment available, such as a projector or monitor to display presentations or digital assets.
  9. Timer or Clock: Use a visible timer or clock to keep track of time and ensure the workshop stays within the time frames.
  10. Any specific materials: If there are special tasks or activities that require specific materials or tools, be sure to have these ready in advance.

The list above may vary slightly, based on the theme of the workshop, goals and the needs of the participants.

Conducting the workshop

As I said, a workshop is a bit longer than a traditional meeting. At the same time, a workshop is an intensive form of work and should therefore be shorter than a regular working day.

10am is a nice start time. This provides both time in advance for the individual for the necessary follow-up outside the workshop, while at the same time it is early enough to finish within normal working hours. Take 10-15 minutes break every watch hour - remember that this is intensive. Lunch at 12.00-12.45. Then you have time to eat, as well as individual follow-ups. End the day at 4:30 p.m.

We can simply divide the implementation of the workshop into four different stages - start-up, mapping, structure and analysis:

Start-up stage

At the start of the workshop, the facilitator should present some basic “driving rules”. Here's a suggestion, then you can add or subtract. The main thing here is that the rules should make it easier to get to the finish line with what is set up:

  1. Respect: Show respect for each other's opinions, experiences and perspectives. Listen actively and avoid interrupting when someone is talking.
  2. Involvement: Encourage active participation from all. All participants should have the opportunity to contribute and be heard.
  3. Constructive communication: Be constructive and positive in communication. Avoid patronizing comments or criticism. Focus on solutions and collaboration.
  4. Time management: Stick to the schedule and respect the allotted time frames for each activity. Avoid taking too much time away from other participants.
  5. Active Listening: Practice active listening by giving sincere attention to the person who is speaking. Ask questions to gain further understanding and clarification.
  6. Build on each other's ideas: Encourage to build on the ideas and thoughts of others. Create an environment where everyone feels safe and encouraged to contribute.
  7. Mobile Free Zone: Limit the use of mobile phones and tablets to maintain focus and engagement. Encourage to use breaks to check messages or necessary needs.

Mapping stage

Even for workshops with a defined agenda, there is room for interpretation and opportunities for misunderstandings related to the goals of the workshop. You will therefore win back both time and energy with interest, by using the next 10-15 minutes for the participants to discuss and agree on the mandate of the workshop.

There are a number of frameworks to use here, but the key point is to move from an obscure task - “get a better website” - to a clear one - “How can we rebuild our website within a budget of 1.5 million, generating 10 percent more monthly leads than today during the current year?”


Once you have defined and defined the problem, the next step is to divide it into edible pieces.

A good tool here can be a so-called”determination tree“(from English: Decision tree). A determination tree is a tool that helps participants make decisions and consider different options, and what might happen as a result of them.

In a determination tree, one draws out a branch, where one starts with a main decision and then shows various options and consequences of those choices.

Participants use the determination tree in the following way:

  1. Identifying the decision: Participants choose a specific decision they wish to make or consider.
  2. Finding alternatives: Participants look at different possible choices or action options for the decision.
  3. Assess the consequences: For each option, participants think about what might happen as a result of the choice. There can be both positive and negative consequences, and one also considers the likelihood of their occurrence.
  4. Building the tree of determination: Participants organize the information by drawing a tree. The main decision is the root, and from there one draws branches for each option and what consequences can occur.
  5. Evaluate and analyze: Participants look at the determination tree and consider the different options and consequences. In this way, one can weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision.

The determination tree provides participants with a visual representation of the decision-making process and helps them see the connection between choices and what might happen as a result of them. It provides a framework for considering different scenarios and making well-considered decisions in the workshop. You can see some visual examples here.

Analysis stage

Once the determination tree is created in the workshop, participants use analysis in the following ways:

  1. Assessment of consequences: Participants look closely at what can happen as a result of each choice in the determination tree. They look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with each option to better understand risks and potential outcomes.
  2. Comparison of options: Participants look at and compare the different options in the determination tree. They look at the pros, cons, costs, benefits and potential outcomes for each election. This helps them make an informed decision.
  3. Identification of uncertainty: Analysis also involves identifying factors that are uncertain or not entirely clear in connection with the determination tree. These can be uncertainties related to data, lack of knowledge or external factors that can affect the results. By analyzing these factors, participants gain a better understanding of the uncertainty surrounding the decision.
  4. Use of numbers: In some cases, participants may use numbers or quantitative methods to analyze the determination tree. This may involve mathematical models, statistics, or calculations to quantify the consequences and probabilities of different outcomes.
  5. Discussion and reflection: Analysis also occurs through discussions and reflection among the participants. By sharing views, experiences and knowledge, participants can explore different aspects of the determination tree and challenge assumptions or constraints that may influence the decision.

Analysis helps participants gain a better understanding of the decision and its consequences. It provides insight, helps to consider alternatives and to make a well-informed decision.

Finishing work

After the well-blown workshop, it is important that the result is communicated to all involved and stakeholders. Clearly, action points must be set up for the way forward. Then we ensure that the results of the workshop are used as a guide in the further work, rather than ending up in a drawer.

Knowledge is power, only when you do something about it

Are you also tired of unproductive meetings, and ready to give workshops a chance?
Want to get the most out of your workshops?
Do you want to create an engaging and productive work experience for your team?

We offer you a unique opportunity to spar with us in Increo and take advantage of our expertise in workshops.

Get in touch today and we'll have a non-binding sparring session on what this might look like for you and your team.

Further deepening

Here are some links for more information:

What can we help you with?

Sebastian Krohn
Sebastian Krohn
Agency Manager, Consulting
988 00 306
Morten M Wikstrøm
Morten M Wikstrøm
CEO, Consulting
976 90 017

See also:

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