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Possible innovations around the traditional format of Global Innovation Jams

Alok Innovation Jam Pune 201I have just completed mentoring the Pune Innovation Jam 2015. This was a global event held simultaneously across 100 cities in the world. Details of this format can be seen here. Deep involvement with this made me think – is this the best way? Is this the only way? Can we get the best out of it and create our own formats? Here are my thoughts.

Why must we wait for the global event? Frankly, we at Pune worked entirely on our own and there were no dependencies on the global coordinator (in Germany, I think). Everything was our own so why get tied down to the central dates? Why don’t companies organise their own event on dates convenient to them? The event has tremendous potential to kick-start a push towards creativity and innovation. The fair like atmosphere is just ideal for that. Once the ice is broken one, it would become that much easier to maintain the momentum.

Was it about creativity or innovation? Well, this Pune group happened to be predominantly students. I found that the younger ones were not able to move between abstractions and specifics. They enjoyed being creative but did not find it easy to see patterns. For example, the observation/interview phase ( insights collection) relies on getting specific information from individuals. However it is not these specifics that are important but the underlying patterns. This was not easy for the younger lot.

This makes me think that we should not mix people of different intellectual levels. I do agree that diversity is the core of creative insights. So, getting inputs fromyoung and old alike is good but is so for the person collecting the insights. But if this diverse group is the one collecting insights themselves i.e. are learners themselves, it is not much of a good idea. In this case, one is not able to select or design a format that suite all sub-groups alike. We should have separate groups – young and old. The young ones must fed the creativity fare, while the older one can gorge on fill time innovation.

What is the preferred outcome of this event? Was it about getting them to find a solution, or learn the techniques of innovation mostly be themselves or learn them using structured guided facilitation by mentor?Well, it depends on the aim and existing skill-sets of the participants. If they are skilled in the basic techniques, the jam session is used only as a platform and opportunity to leverage them for great solutions. If they are not so skilled and the aim is more to get them to open up to creativity, it would be best to allow them more leeway and less facilitation. If, however, the aim is mostly to teach them innovation skills for future use, it would be best to alternate between teach-n-do session. Better still, let it be teach-do-learn session, as in any experiential learning format.

As you must have seen, there are many ways to do a jam. The methodology can be selected based on the the level of jammers and the final aim. The core advantage of the jam session format is the easy-going atmosphere and the gaiety that helps release latent energies. Around that, you should design your own format.

I see several good formats, each of use to different clients – commercial organisations, schools, colleges, technical institutes, MBA institutes, NGOs and social organisations e.g. Lions & Rotary clubs. A technical institute in Mexico has already contacted me to help them design and conduct one for them. I also use a web workshop to allow learners to learn some basic creativity techniques from my self paced tool, so they may learn at their own pace before they start.

How are you planning to use this terrific weapon. Can I help?

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