The hippo goes last

How to get the most out of idea workshops.

My favourite acronym at the moment is HiPPO – Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.

I was running an online workshop on innovation and creativity last week and there was a great question about getting the most out of idea workshops. HiPPO’s came up.

There is a lot to consider when designing a workshop if you’re going to get the most out of the session. Here’s my quick list.

  • You need to be absolutely clear on the core purpose of the workshop.  Write down the answer to the questions; ‘What does success look like?’ and ‘Why is that important?’
  • Then consider who needs to be there – have you got a range of people with different skills and experience to provide diverse thinking?
  • Where you hold the workshop is important – right now they might need to be online, but if you’re in a physical room get away from your ‘normal’ office space, ensure there is enough space for people to move around as well as plenty of natural light.
  • How the room is laid out can help set the tone for the workshop, people in informal groups work better than a boardroom table for a creative ideas workshop.
  • Consider the time of day – when is the best time for people who are attending? Do they need to travel? Sometimes first thing before the day starts is best before people get distracted with dealing with urgent and important things, but in terms of creative thinking in the afternoon when most people are less alert can actually be better.
  • Snacks are important – if stomachs are rumbling or people are thirsty you don’t get the best from them.
  • Design the structure of the session and activities to get people out of the ‘how we do things here’ headspace to the ‘open to possibilities’ headspace. (This is why you can sometimes be subject to an excruciating ice breaker – a good facilitator will match the activities to the needs of the room to open up thinking without making people feel uncomfortable)
  • Consider different personalities and learning styles – some of the most creative people don’t do their best in a workshop with lots of people. It can help to build in reflection time or time to work alone before having to speak in front of a whole group.
  • Plan for the follow up – we’ve all been to the workshop that was really exciting and then nothing changed. These sort of sessions can do more harm than good.

And finally one quick tip is if you’re running an ideas workshop, or even just a meeting where you’re looking for ideas and opinions from the group – is that HiPPO’s go last.


Because when the HiPPO speaks, whether consciously or unconsciously others tend to agree with them. It’s much harder to suggest something new or different once the HiPPO has spoken.

If you genuinely want diverse opinions, new thinking, creative ideas and different discussions you’ll be more successful if the HiPPO speaks last.

Of course, what I recommend is that you employ the expertise of an external facilitator to manage the design and delivery of your workshop and allow everyone to participate fully. Lucky for you I do exactly this, so if you’d like some help to design and facilitate your next ideas workshop then get in touch

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