The Meeting Professional. Published by Meeting Professionals International


How Meetings Can Inspire a Return on Innovation

By Gerald “Solutionman” Haman & Kevin Olsen


 “To know and not do is not to know.” - Lao Tzu



hy do organizations have meetings and conferences?  Answers fall into two categories: (1) get ideas and/or (2) give ideas. Typically, speakers GIVE and the audiences GET. Now the challenge is for organizations to allocate the time necessary for people to understand what to DO with those ideas.


The reality is that most agendas host too many “talking heads” who give volumes of information to audiences that don’t have time to be “thinking heads”, and therefore; do not reap the full value of the meeting.  Audiences yearn for time to digest the ideas, while executives demand they quickly act on the ideas to realize organizational goals.


The challenge is to design meetings that better integrate giving and getting.  This means helping the audience capture ideas, distill them down to the very best and then take action, resulting in innovation.


The New ROI

It’s now time for ROI to evolve to the next level.  The New ROI is “Return On Innovation” - the total value of ideas generated in a meeting, compared to the total investment required to produce the meeting. The ultimate goal remains the same: invest dollars in areas that will bring measurable value to the organization.  But now the emphasis of ROI expands to include the application of creativity for innovation purposes.


Creativity is “developing new or interesting ideas”. The definition of innovation is “implementing creative ideas into valuable or profitable solutions”.  In other words, innovation happens when organizations make money or gain value from creativity. 


Therefore, meetings should be designed to make it easy for speakers and audiences to “exchange” creative ideas and inspire everyone to “implement” the best solutions. By building a meeting around a proven process that fosters creativity and innovation, participants attain organizational goals and turn ideas and information into profitable results.  This New ROI, implemented throughout a company, will help organizations stay ahead of the competition and will yield tremendous results.


Diamond Solution Process

It’s time to move beyond the traditional agenda. The most innovative meetings have followed the Diamond Solution Process. This simple process facilitates breakthrough thinking and consists of four steps: (1) Investigate Needs, (2) Create Ideas, (3) Evaluate Solutions and, (4) Activate Plans.






Investigate Needs

If you want a breakthrough idea, you need to generate lots of ideas. If you want lots of ideas, you need to ask lots of questions relating to the organization and its customers and/or members. The best way to thoroughly “Investigate Needs” is to build a Question Bank that addresses the meeting’s challenges, goals or problems. Assemble the Question Bank in advance and use it during the meeting to stimulate thinking. Questions make people think around all sides of an issue, stretching thinking and reducing the chance that key points will be overlooked. The quantity of questions in a Bank may range from as little as four to several hundred questions, depending on the meeting goals.



Create Ideas

Having a few simple innovation tools at your disposal can lead to impressive results. Abraham Maslow said, “If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” How many tools do you have in your innovation toolbox? To create impact, move beyond traditional flip chart brainstorming and breakout sessions. Dozens of books and resources exist to expand your tool kit.


One particular tool, the KnowBrainer® has been proven to increase the volume of ideas generated by over 500% compared to regular flip chart brainstorming. Even more simply, Idea Exchange™ worksheets imprinted with several light bulb images help facilitate collaborative idea generation as participants record ideas and then exchange sheets to build on other people’s ideas.  









At the WEC Chapter Management Forum in

Toronto, an Idea Exchange™ conducted for 300 people, yielded over 11,000 ideas in less than 60 minutes without using a single flip chart!  And that Idea Exchange™ was based on the world-record-setting Thinkathon brainstorm at the Singapore indoor stadium that generated 454,000 ideas with 8,000 people in 60 minutes.


Evaluate Solutions and Activate Plans

Meetings with a high ROI allocate a block of time for evaluating and action planning. A good example is the WEC Chapter Management Forum. During the final 30 minutes of the forum, an action planning workshop called KnowAction™, helped participants “reflect” on what they learned and select their BEST ideas. Finally, they shared action plans and next steps with other people to build commitment for results.


Effective action planning is a great way to leave a lasting impression on the audience. It is a golden opportunity to wrap-up a meeting while designing a follow-through strategy. It also clarifies the key concepts and process stages discussed over the course of the meeting. Most importantly, people leave with a vision for realizing a Return On Innovation! It’s empowering!


Measuring the Results

The New ROI can be measured by tracking the number and value of ideas that are implemented during and after the meeting.  Systems and tools have been developed to quickly measure the volume of ideas generated, as well as estimate their respective outcomes right on the meeting site.  And then, it is crucial to track progress on implementing the best solutions and calculate their ultimate value. 


A major financial services firm recently measured the results of a two-day meeting and found that they generated over $270 million worth of ideas.  ROI calculations were determined using formulas and criteria derived by combining the Diamond Solution Process with internal measures. 


The Diamond Solution Process has been used by over 150 Fortune 500 firms in 19 countries to generate nearly 2 million ideas valued at approximately two billion dollars.

Imagine the impact the Diamond Solution Process could have on your next meeting!




Train Your Brains to Get More Gains!



hat do Capital One, Dow Chemical, and the Singapore Service Quality Centre have in common? They hold meetings around the world, continually training their employees to be more innovative.


According to recent survey results from TRAINING magazine, 55% of American organizations are offering their employees creativity and innovation training.  Since 1989, SolutionPeople has offered creativity and innovation training to help participants apply the Diamond Solution Process and the award-winning KnowBrainer tool to address real goals, challenges or problems.



Several MPI members have experienced SolutionPeople’s Accelerated Innovation® training and applied it to planning meetings and conferences. Exercises from the training are scalable to large audiences. For example, the interactive Know Your Brain Game™ was used for an opening session ice breaker at a FAST Company magazine conference and the Idea Exchange was used with large audiences for the bio-tech firm Amgen.


Significant ROI occurs when teams of people experience SolutionPeople’s IlluminAction® facilitated planning sessions. Associations and companies such as Motorola and General Electric have used IlluminActions to plan complex meetings and large conferences.


In other cases, companies including Valvoline, KFC, and General Mills have used IlluminActions to develop breakthrough new products.

Innovation training and facilitations are held at client sites, interesting off-site locations such as English castles and cruise ships, or SolutionPeople’s Thinkubator, recognized as Chicago’s most inspirational meeting space.



To attend a public seminar at the Thinkubator in Chicago, or to bring innovation training to your organization or meeting, contact Gerald Haman at or phone (312) 829-2852. 


For details on the training visit and select the “training” option in the menu.