A workshop is characterized by a group of individuals who have come together with more or less a common goal i.e. to acquire new knowledge, problem solve, brainstorm or innovate. Depending on the size of the group, a workshop is facilitated by a single or multiple facilitators. A workshop removes participants for their everyday contexts and places them in a context that provokes reflection and innovation.

Quick details: Workshop

Structure: Semi-structured with upto 20 participants per facilitator

Preparation: Space, Logistics, Participant recruitment, Preparation, Topics

Deliverables: Recordings, Documentations

More about Workshop

In the 80’s whenever someone used the word workshop, they meant a place where things were made or repaired. Today, workshops imply a group format where people learn, perform collective problem-solving, brainstorm, or innovate.

Workshops are also an effective tool to evoke learning & development of the employees of an organization. It is also a helpful tool to introduce organizational change when implementing an ERP. Additionally, workshops as a form of research can be used to gather primary as well as secondary data from the participants. 

Primary data is what emerges in real-time from the interactions between the researcher and the participants whereas secondary data emerges in retrospect when referring to notes, recording or the workshop or other documents pertaining to the research. Again, depending on whether the analysis is performed by someone who was present at the workshop versus someone who wasn’t can sometimes influence the quality of the findings. At the same time, it can be beneficial as the person performing the analysis can do so with objectivity. Research oriented workshops, therefore, involve participants through activity as a part of research design. The researcher or facilitators, plays the role of somewhat an ethnographer in the context of workshops.

 

Types of Workshops

There are four types of workshop methods: Contractual, Consultative, collaborative, and collegiate. The methods, their purpose, advantages and disadvantages are listed below

MethodPurposeAdvantagesDisadvantages
ContractualTo conduct research on the workshop participants in inquiries and experiments.Research participants devote set time for the workshop as participation is paid.In cases where participants are paid to participate, a thorough background check is required to ensure authenticity.
ConsultativeTo consult workshop participants on domain specific issues and regarding their opinions before interventions are made.Valuable and meaningful insights can be gained through this approach.In case, experts are consulted during the workshop, the expert opinion i.e. the participant fee could be very high.
CollaborativeTo problem solve, brainstorm or innovate. The researchers and participants work together, but with the researcher is in control.Can lead to developing greater empathy as well as a great rapport between the researcher and participant.
  • May affect the natural journey of the participant.
  • Can lead to research subject and researcher bias.
CollegiateThe workshop researchers and participants contribute in a mutual process controlled by the participants.Can lead to developing greater empathy as well as a great rapport between the researcher and participant.
  • May affect the natural journey of the participant.
  • Can lead to research subject and researcher bias.

Advantages of Workshops

1. Thought diversity

One can get a large number of diverse ideas from different participants.

2. Group Think

With more individuals involved in the activity, many ideas can be generated quickly. Again, groups can prove to be much more effective in problem solving by combining each other’s experiences.

3. Creative Problem Solving

 Stimulates creative problem solving within the group.

 

Disadvantages of Workshops

1. Time & Cost consuming

Can be more time and cost consuming in case of contractual or consultative workshops. If synthesis is not satisfactorily achieved then the session could be pointless and therefore could take up a lot of time with the objective to synthesize.

2. Experienced facilitator

An experienced facilitator or moderator will be able to ensure that the participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and that everyone contributes to the workshop in some way.

3. Too many cooks in the kitchen

May not result in great and innovative ideas from a single session. Again, too many participants may not prove to be beneficial in new idea generation.

4. Fear of judgment & inauthenticity

Participants afraid of getting judged for their ideas, may not be honest or open during the session.

Think Design's recommendation

Workshop as a problem solving method is one of the newest and most innovation-inspiring methods today… but when done right. As explained above, do not conduct workshop when a group setting is counter productive…. Choose in-depth interviews instead in this context.

Workshop as a data collection/ research method does have some overlaps with focus groups whereas the difference here is that a participant in such a workshop is representative of a set of users. This comes with the assumption that this participant is unbiased and is an honest representative of the persona. This is one of the biggest pitfalls of this method: That the opinions can be colored by its participants.

Yet, workshop is a very popular research and problem solving technique and the reasons are very obvious:

  • Research insights collected from workshop obviates the need to conduct primary research thereby optimizing a lot of time, effort and spend.
  • Solutions developed through a workshop are created by collaborative problem solving which means that there are multiple perspectives embedded within them. This ensures that the solutions have factored in many scenarios and that they are likely to get superior adoption among stakeholders.
  • Outcome of a well executed 8-hour workshop is richer, more productive and much more economical than working with each individual, gathering individualized insights and consolidating them leading to a probable solution.

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