Last week I delivered the first round of workshops for the BBC Academy on Collaborative Innovation. The full title was (and this was not my call) “Driving innovation through open collaboration and partnership – hell of a mouthful, but apparently hit enough buttons for all but the last session of the day to be booked solid within a week or so of being announced. I wanted to simplify and get to the nub of the matter, so as soon as attendees arrived, they were shown my title – “Inventing the Future with Friends“.

How to Invent the Future with Friends

An improved title I think

The event was the BBC’s internal Playlister training day – about 150 senior managers from across the BBC doing an intense day of training sessions on a varied syllabus. Mostly future facing, and digital, and mostly full of practical advice, skills and knowledge. My session was one of 6 workshops (and one master class) running at any given time – we had four one hour sessions through the day. The Venue was well chosen to support this structure – the wallacespace in Clerkenwell has loads of rooms in different sizes and shapes, and manages to avoid being too cramped and rabbit warren like. It’s friendly, comfortable, and very energising.

Of course, if I’m going to do a workshop about collaboration, I need to collaborate, and the collaborators I have for this effort are awesome:

Paul Wakely

Paul Wakely

Paul Wakely is the operational lead for the BBC’s own Connected Studio programme. He’s got the worlds best developed bullshit filter, and the patience of a saint made of granite, so when it comes to actually getting the practical framework in place to deliver collaborative innovation, he’s the right guy in the right role.  I think his insights are actually applicable far beyond the BBC, but within this context, talking to people of his own tribe (ok work tribe, they’re not dragster racers) his input is absolutely vital.

Mike Saunby

Mike Saunby

Mike Saunby is the Open Innovation Manager at the Met Office and the motive force behind their new Innovation Lab. Mike has been a collaborator of mine on a number of slightly hare brained schemes, and his story of the impact of Open Innovation at the Met Office provided a great reflection of the BBC course attendees own experiences – hopefully an inspirational one.

The workshop itself unpacked the concept of Open Innovation – a surprisingly little known idea across the general BBC, but one that gives a great jumping off point for exploring lots of business innovation concepts. It’s been core to BBC R&D strategy for almost a decade, but has still to permeate wider. We then looked at the issues faced by the participants, addressed as many of those as we sensibly can with the Connected Studio framework, and then deployed the ‘Practical Empathy’ approach to help the managers there look at how they can build really strong collaborations amongst the uncertainties of innovation.

I was delighted to see the attendees really jump into the exercises so enthusiastically. They needed some feedback, and interestingly this was consistent across all but the last session (which was a smaller group, and structured slightly differently).

We’re running the sessions again next month, with a new group of trainees, but I’m already looking forward to it. There’s nothing quite like seeing a room full of people all going ‘aha!’ when you tell them stuff. Love it! I’d be really interested in taking a more generalised (or differently focussed) session to other groups too, so comment or drop me a line if you’d like to discuss.




Written by meeware