A Workshop in Torino

Caitlin Sullivan

If there’s one thing to remember when running a workshop, it’s to stay flexible. In Torino, Italy, we were asked by the Fondazione CRT to run a three-day workshop for entrepreneurs developing business ideas and services, as one part of the Creative Companies in the Alpine Space Programme. The workshop was different from most that we run at Fjord, in that it was for many businesses rather than just one.

When developing our structure, we started with our Fjord Rumble workshop format and ended up with our ‘Sort of Rumble’ framework, adding activities here and there to cater to this group’s specific needs. We built momentum from introductions of Fjord, development of stakeholder maps and personas on day one, to user journeys and focused customer interviews on day two. Finally, participants fed new insights and angles from the previous days into concept development and pitch presentations of their streamlined concepts on day three.

So not a Rumble, but sort of.

We also kept extra templates on hand for other activities we might weave in based on day one’s results, and highlighted the activities we could remove if time was tight.

We ended up with a few general takeaways:

  • Better clarification of activity objectives and always provide examples

Sounds obvious, but guess what: not everyone knows what stakeholders are. Avoid jargon and use layman-term examples when working with a group relatively new to this.

  • Use a dynamic workshop framework

Don’t get stuck on exactly the activities you’ve set out to do (and design presentations with flexibility in mind). Having back-up activities and knowing where we could reorder them ensured that we were constantly delivering on participants’ needs, not on a framework.

  • Consider re-labeling templates for precise and universal understanding

Check all templates again. Can we rename the concept poster sections to be even clearer? This is especially valid when holding workshops in other countries than home, with other native languages.

  • Re-evaluate when and why participants will work in teams

Participants in this case seemed to consistently work on their own at first, even when they broke out into groups. But when working in teams of services similar to their own, participants also often found a way through an activity together that suited their particular communal need.

  • Speak slowly and ask if the group is still with you.

We’re spoiled here in Sweden where the level of English is very high. When handling workshops in many other countries, slowing down and checking in will avoid backtracking and re-explaining everything later.

  •  Have a conversation!

Our workshop participants often had revelations in conversations about their businesses while chatting with us. Talk to participants about their passions, both in the workshop and during coffee breaks, and they might actually stumble upon the answers they looked so hard for.

It was a welcome surprise that our group of over 20 people gave themselves wholeheartedly to the workshop from the start, even sketching ideas immediately. Each participant had grand plans for development in the Alpine region particularly, and hopes for Italy as a service design capital in addition to its focus on more fashion design.

This was an experiment for us and Fjord, so we naturally learned a lot. But a theme throughout was that our flexibility, running the workshop with a more modular format, resulted in success. We succeeded in testing a new adaptable flow to work with in the future, and the participants are much closer to making their stronger concepts a reality, and helping Torino continue its development as a center of innovation.

Caitlin Sullivan

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