Why Hire a Facilitator?




A facilitator can make or break a planning session. By using an experienced facilitator in the right situations, you will almost certainly accomplish more in your meetings, delve deeper into critical issues and resolve them. Equally important, participants will leave with positive feelings, stronger cohesiveness, a sense of accomplishment and a renewed belief in the team. Leaders who are charged with creating and executing a strategic vision have found the presence of a well-qualified facilitator essential to keeping participants objective, open, creative and, above all, on track.

Why hire a facilitator?

Planning discussions can be painful and difficult. They involve personal values and goals, deeply held beliefs about the nature of an organization and where it’s going, and maybe different perspectives on the marketplace and industry. With this type of discussion, people may have values or goals that conflict with those of others participating in the planning process.

Having a well-designed process to guide the group can reduce the barriers that prevent a team’s ability to take the objective, long-term overview that strategy requires.

By using a facilitator:

  • Strategic discussions are richer and focused on strategy
  • Conversations are focused, not on the past but rather forward and on the vision of the organization
  • Discussion stays focused on the “big picture” rather than wallowing too deeply in the weeds
  • Thinking is open and creative without barriers
  • Specific priorities and actions are detailed

Selecting a facilitator

Select a facilitator with the ability to:

  • Articulate key strategic concepts
  • Provide strategic direction
  • Willingness and expertise to tackle “sacred cows”
  • Focus on strategic issues and not be overwhelmed with the tactics
  • Keep the energy level high and momentum moving for a successful meeting

Contact Cindy Diamond at IGNiTE to discuss whether it makes sense for us to facilitate your next important meeting!


Explore the Fuzzy Front End of Innovation


The IGNiTE process is all about exploring the fuzzy front end of innovation.  This article, referencing a study from Booz & Company, confirms that successful innovators engage in the front end of innovation by engaging directly with consumers. We’ve known for a long time that this works — but it’s nice to see research confirming our approach! 

Happy Innovating!

Cindy Diamond, IGNiTE

Booz & Company’s annual global study of R&D spending reveals that successful innovators bring clarity to the early stage of innovation. It’s when companies generate ideas and decide which ones to develop.

Just 43 percent of participants said they were highly effective in generating new ideas. And only 36 percent felt the same way about converting ideas to development projects. Altogether,only a quarter of all companies indicated they were highly effective at the front end of innovation. Which is a shocking conclusion.

There are three fundamental innovation strategies. You can categorize companies as Need Seekers, Market Readers, or Technology Drivers. Booz & Company describes them as follows:

1. Need Seekers, such as Apple and Procter & Gamble, make a point of engaging customers directly to generate new ideas. They develop new products and services based on superior end-user understanding.

2. Market Readers, such as Hyundai and Caterpillar, use a variety of means to generate ideas by closely monitoring their markets, customers, and competitors, focusing largely on creating value through incremental innovations.

3. Technology Drivers, such as Google and Bosch, depend heavily on their internal technological capabilities to develop new products and services.

The 2011 study confirms that following a Need Seekers strategy offers the greatest potential for superior performance in the long term. Fifty percent of respondents who defined their companies as Need Seekers said their companies were effective at both the ideation and conversion stages of innovation compared with just 12 percent of Market Readers and 20 percent of Technology Drivers. These are the same companies, by and large, that consistently outperform financially.

So need seeking is essential, because a good innovation is a simple solution to a relevant customer need.

But what does a need look like? I like to inspire you with 10 relevant needs and innovative new products or services solving them.

Need and problem New solution
Business developer: I need new customers. How do I expand my business network in an efficient way? LinkedIn
Music lovers: I love to listen to music (for free) but I hate to be a pirate downloading it illegally. Spotify
Consumer cleaning: I am sick and tired of a bad performing vacuum cleaners Dyson cyclone vacuum cleaner
Consumer: Is this bed clean and free of bugs I can hardly see? The Bed Bug Detective
Snow boarder: I like to go down hill fast but I am afraid for nasty accidents. The Katal Landing Pad
Consumer painting: If there is one thing that really annoys me, it’s cleaning used brushers and rollers. Dulux PaintPod
Green consumer: I hate spilling water and money flushing a toilet. Brondell Perfect Flush
People in disaster areas: due to flooding we lack clean drinking water. Filtrix Filterpen
Full time mother: Now the kids are getting bigger, I like to re-enter the workforce, but who is waiting for me out there? Work4Women
Green consumer: I love to celebrate Christmas with a real tree, but don’t like destroying nature. Lease a living Christmas tree

As a good customer understanding is essential, how do you discover relevant unmet needs? And how do you incorporate need seeking in your idea generation process?


Best Time for Meetings? It depends on the work to be done!


This research tells us to schedule more cognitive work and structured analysis style meetings in the morning and more  creative work and ideation sessions in the afternoon. The key is to work with the body’s natural rhythms. Not always easy in a 8-5 business setting. Very interesting implications for social media too.

The Peak Time for Everything (WSJ, 9/26/12)

Pack More in a Day By Matching Tasks To the Body’s Energy; Lung Power at 5 p.m.

Could you pack more into each day if you did everything at the optimal time?

A growing body of research suggests that paying attention to the body clock, and its effects on energy and alertness, can help pinpoint the different times of day when most of us perform our best at specific tasks, from resolving conflicts to thinking creatively.

Many people are squeezing so much into their days that old-fashioned time management doesn’t work, productivity researchers say. Sue Shellenbarger on Lunch Break explains how productivity research is yielding new clues on more ways to be energy-efficient. Photo: Getty Images.

Most people organize their time around everything but the body’s natural rhythms. Workday demands, commuting, social events and kids’ schedules frequently dominate—inevitably clashing with the body’s circadian rhythms of waking and sleeping.

As difficult as it may be to align schedules with the body clock, it may be worth it to try, because of significant potential health benefits. Disruption of circadian rhythms has been linked to such problems as diabetes, depression, dementia and obesity, says Steve Kay, a professor of molecular and computational biology at the University of Southern California. When the body’s master clock can synchronize functioning of all its metabolic, cardiovascular and behavioral rhythms in response to light and other natural stimuli, it “gives us an edge in daily life,” Dr. Kay says.

When it comes to doing cognitive work, for example, most adults perform best in the late morning, says Dr. Kay. As body temperature starts to rise just before awakening in the morning and continues to increase through midday, working memory, alertness and concentration gradually improve. Taking a warm morning shower can jump-start the process.

Peak Times

Getty Images (7)

The ability to focus and concentrate typically starts to slide soon thereafter. Most people are more easily distracted from noon to 4 p.m., according to recent research led by Robert Matchock, an associate professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University.

Alertness tends to slump after eating a meal, Dr. Matchock found. Sleepiness also tends to peak around 2 p.m., making that a good time for a nap, says Martin Moore-Ede, chairman and chief executive of Circadian, a Stoneham, Mass., training and consulting firm.

Surprisingly, fatigue may boost creative powers. For most adults, problems that require open-ended thinking are often best tackled in the evening when they are tired, according to a 2011 study in the journal Thinking & Reasoning. When 428 students were asked to solve a series of two types of problems, requiring either analytical or novel thinking, their performance on the second type was best at non-peak times of day when they were tired, according to the study led by Mareike Wieth, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Albion College in Michigan. (Their performance on analytical problems didn’t change over the course of the day.) Fatigue, Dr. Wieth says, may allow the mind to wander more freely to explore alternative solutions.

Of course, everyone’s body clock isn’t the same, making it even harder to synchronize natural rhythms with daily plans. A significant minority of people operate on either of two distinctive chronotypes, research shows: Morning people tend to wake up and go to sleep earlier and to be most productive early in the day. Evening people tend to wake up later, start more slowly and peak in the evening.

Communicating with friends and colleagues online has its own optimal cycles, research shows. Sending emails early in the day helps beat the inbox rush; 6 a.m. messages are most likely to be read, says Dan Zarrella, social-media scientist for HubSpot, a Cambridge, Mass., Web marketing firm, based on a study of billions of emails. “Email is kind of like the newspaper. You check it at the beginning of the day,” he says.

iStockphotoBoost your mood with online socializing: Posts made to Facebook at 8 p.m. tend to draw the most ‘Likes,’ a Hubspot study shows.

Reading Twitter at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. can start your day on a cheery note. That’s when users are most likely to tweet upbeat, enthusiastic messages, and least likely to send downbeat tweets steeped in fear, distress, anger or guilt, according to a study of 509 million tweets sent over two years by 2.4 million Twitter users, published last year in Science. One likely factor? “Sleep is refreshing” and leaves people alert and enthusiastic, says Michael Walton Macy, a sociology professor at Cornell University and co-author of the study. The cheeriness peaks about 1-1/2 hours later on weekends—perhaps because people are sleeping in, Dr. Macy says.

Other social networking is better done later in the day. If you want your tweets to be re-tweeted, post them between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when many people lack energy to share their own tweets and turn to relaying others’ instead, Mr. Zarrella says. And posts toFacebook FB +1.68% at about 8 p.m. tend to get the most “likes,” after people get home from work or finish dinner. At that time of day, they’re likely to turn to Facebook feeling less stressed. “You have less stuff to do and more time to give,” says Mr. Zarrella.


Best time for kickboxing? Research says it’s late afternoon.

Late-night drama can be found on Twitter, where emotions heat up just before bedtime, between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., says Scott Andrew Golder, a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University and co-author of the Twitter study. At that time, people tended to send more emotion-laden tweets, both positive and negative. Tired out by the workday, but also freed from its stresses and demands, people become “more alert and engaged, but also more agitated,” Dr. Macy says.

When choosing a time of day to exercise, paying attention to your body clock can also improve results. Physical performance is usually best, and the risk of injury least, from about 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., says Michael Smolensky, an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, and lead author with Lynne Lamberg of “The Body Clock Guide to Better Health.”

Muscle strength tends to peak between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at levels as much as 6% above the day’s lows, improving your ability to grip a club or racquet. Another boost for physical strength comes from the lungs, which function 17.6% more efficiently at 5 p.m. than at midday, according to a study of 4,756 patients led by Boris Medarov, an assistant professor of medicine at Albany Medical College in New York.

Eye-hand coordination is best in late afternoon, making that a good time for racquetball or Frisbee. And joints and muscles are as much as 20% more flexible in the evening, lowering the risk of injury, Dr. Smolensky says.

These body rhythms hold true regardless of how much you’ve slept or how recently you’ve eaten. In a 2007 study at the University of South Carolina at Columbia, 25 experienced swimmers did six timed trials while sticking to an artificial schedule that controlled for variables like sleep, diet and other factors. The swimmers’ performance still varied by time of day, peaking in the evening and hitting bottom at around 5 a.m.

Is there a best time to eat? To keep from packing on pounds, experts say, limit food consumption to your hours of peak activity. A study in Cell Metabolism last May linked disruptions of the body clock to weight gain. Researchers put two groups of mice on the same high-calorie diet. One group was allowed to eat anytime; the other group was restricted to eating only during an eight-hour period when they were normally awake and active. The mice that ate only while active were 40% leaner and had lower cholesterol and blood sugar.

While more research is needed on humans, Dr. Kay says, the research suggests that “we are not only what we eat, we are when we eat.”

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at sue.shellenbarger@wsj.com

40 Reasons Why People Struggle with Innovation


As facilitators, we know that getting people to embrace innovation can be difficult. There are many obstacles that must work to clear.  This list identifies MANY of those obstacles.  You might use this list to identify the roadblocks that might come up with a team you are facilitating and develop specific processes that work through it.

 The following list of forty reasons why people struggle with innovation in their companies in daily practice was compiled by Gijs Van Wulfen based on responses to questions he posted to LinkedIn groups.
Are there others that you would add? Let’s continue the conversation!

A. Culture

  • We are uncertain if we can be creative and come up with ideas.
  • How do we change our existing habits?
  • There are too little ideas because people don’t dare to think innovative any more.
  • A lot of people are lazy, just copying others work.
  • There is a substantial lack of curiosity among people in our company.
  • How to get key people in our organization aware of the need for innovation?
  • People don’t really believe that innovation is truly going to happen.
  • We lack the ability to invoke change, the ability to change the mindset of we’ve always done it that way.
  • We do not have the guts (mind power) to bring an idea.
  • Our past innovations were not successful and have cost a lot of money. This blocks new initiatives.
  • Our short-term mindset overrules the long-term mindset and vision to innovate.
  • There is no vision where we want to go in the future as a company.

B. Uncertainty

  • Ideas are too ambitious therefore we can’t imagine how they ever will be feasible.
  • It’s very hard to imagine the future.
  • We fear failure.
  • Those in our company that don’t understand the idea or new product will attack and ridicules the newness of it.
  • The critical thing at the front end in our company is the demonstration of the positive bottom-line impact of the new service or product.

C. Support

  • The hardest part of beginning an innovation is trying to get the support for the idea of innovation.
  • How do I share my ideas with others in the company efficient?
  • How to create sponsorship for innovation at the top?
  • How to communicate ideas to the right people?
  • How do you convince each internal stakeholder they benefit from innovation?
  • Negativity – “we tried it x numbers of ago, it does not work in our environment” – is the biggest stumbling block in our company.
  • How do we get consensus on a solution from majority of the stakeholders?

D. Market Insights

  • Often customers don’t even know themselves what they would want or benefit from.
  • We struggle to get inside the head of the purchaser of the product or service.
  • How to uncover the true customer need?

E. Process & Tools

  • Our innovation process is not well organized.
  • There are too many ideas from which it is hard to choose.
  • We do not stick to the original idea. Instead we take often the easier way.
  • How do we decide what is a good idea?
  • How do you filter ideas and at what point in the process do you throw out ideas?
  • Everyone is talking about innovation, but few know what to start doing differently to make it happen.
  • How do we select of the right technology/platform?
  • It is difficult to translate the results of user studies into the language of technology development.

G. Team

  • How do we guide the new product development team so that their ideas are in line with the company’s strategy?
  • We do not have the right people in the room for the opportunity.
  • Ideas are stopped because we do not have resources related to the needed talent.
  • It is challenging for us to get internal teams to think beyond what made our company successful thus far.

Of course this is not a scientific proven list. I see it more as ‘a cry for help’ from innovation practitioners in their daily work.

Happy Holidays!


The Importance of Focus, Time Constrained Tasks and Energy Breaks


A good reminder by  HBR contributor Tony Schwartz about the importance of staying focused on one task at a time, allocating time within which to complete a task, and taking energy breaks.  As all facilitators know, longer days do not equal more productive sessions. Better planning is the only way to accomplish more in less time.

Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By

11:17 AM Tuesday November 1, 2011

Myth #1: Multitasking is critical in a world of infinite demand.

This myth is based on the assumption that human beings are capable of doing two cognitive tasks at the same time. We’re not. Instead, we learn to move rapidly between tasks. When we’re doing one, we’re actually not even aware of the other.

If you’re on a conference call, for example, and you turn your attention to an incoming email, you’re missing what’s happening on the call as long as you’re checking your email. Equally important, you’re incurring something called “switching time.” That’s the time it takes to shift from one cognitive activity to another.

On average, according to researcher David Meyer, switching time increases the amount of time it takes to finish the primary task you were working on by an average of 25 percent. In short, juggling activities is incredibly inefficient.

Difficult as it is to focus in the face of the endless distractions we all now face, it’s far and away the most effective way to get work done. The worst thing you can do as a boss is to insist that your people constantly check their email.

Myth #2: A little bit of anxiety helps us perform better.

Think for a moment about how you feel when you’re performing at your best. What adjectives come to mind? Almost invariably they’re positive ones. Anxiety may be a source of energy, and even motivation, but it comes with significant costs.

The more anxious we feel, the less clearly and imaginatively we think, and the more reactive and impulsive we become. That’s not good for you, and it also has huge implications if you’re in a supervisory role.

As a boss, your energy has a disproportionate impact on those you lead, by virtue of your authority. Put bluntly, any time your behavior increases someone’s anxiety — or prompts any negative emotions, for that matter — they’re less likely to perform effectively.

The more positive your energy is, the more positive their energy is likely to be, and the better the likely outcome.

Myth #3: Creativity is genetically inherited, and it’s impossible to teach.

In a global economy characterized by unprecedented competitiveness and constant change, nearly every CEO hungers for ways to drive more innovation. Unfortunately, most CEOs don’t think of themselves as creative, and they share with the rest of us a deeply ingrained belief that creativity is mostly inborn and magical.

Ironically, researchers have developed a surprising degree of consensus about the stages of creativity and how to approach them. Our educational system and most company cultures favor reward the rational, analytic, deductive left hemisphere thinking. We pay scant attention to intentionally cultivating the more visual, intuitive, big picture capacities of the right hemisphere.

As it turns out, the creative process moves back and forth between left and right hemisphere dominance. Creativity is actually about using the whole brain more flexibly. This process unfolds in a far more systematic — and teachable — way than we ordinarily imagine. People can quickly learn to access the hemisphere of the brain that serves them best at each stage of the creative process — and to generate truly original ideas.

Myth #4: The best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.

No single myth is more destructive to employers and employees than this one. The reason is that we’re not designed to operate like computers — at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time.

Instead, human beings are designed to pulse intermittently between spending and renewing energy. Great performers — and enlightened leaders — recognize that it’s not the number of hours people work that determines the value they create, but rather the energy they bring to whatever hours they work.

Rather than systematically burning down our reservoir of energy as the day wears on, as most of us do, intermittent renewal makes it possible to keep our energy steady all day long. Strategically alternating periods of intense focus with intermittent renewal, at least every 90 minutes, makes it possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably.

Want to test the assumption? Choose the most challenging task on your agenda before you go to sleep each night over the next week. Set aside 60 to 90 minutes at the start of the following day to focus on the activity you’ve chosen.

Choose a designated start and stop time, and do your best to allow no interruptions. (It helps to turn off your email.) Succeed and it will almost surely be your most productive period of the day. When you’re done, reward yourself by taking a true renewal break.

Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything. Become a fan of The Energy Project on Facebook and connect with Tony at Twitter.com/TonySchwartz and Twitter.com/Energy_Project.


Brainstorming: Finding the Next Big Idea


Finding the Next Big Idea — IGNiTE Presentation

Feel free to download the attached presentation (pdf format) for essential facilitator tools and techniques.

The key to successful facilitation is providing structure and process tools to help groups think through issues, brainstorm solutions and evaluate  alternatives. I’ve attached a presentation I created called “Brainstorming: Finding the Next Big Idea.”  I hope you will find a useful tool or technique in here that you can apply to your work as a formal or informal facilitator.

Cindy Diamond,  Principal, Strategist & Facilitator

IGNiTE – Fueling Creativity and Innovation