Similar to the timekeeper, using a “Parking Lot” is an excellent strategy for helping teams stay focused and on track during an ITK session.
The Parking Lot is a blank space where you can capture “good, but off-topic” inputs that can be returned to later in time so that the team can stay focused on the main topic or goal.
In a collaborative session, it’s common that some input may be brought up too early and needs to be returned to after the current session. Or, adjacent topics may arise which also warrant discussion but doing so immediately would be distracting to the current session’s objective.
There are many reasons why a parking lot can be useful:
- Helps teams stay focused on the main topic at hand
- Recording input makes it easier to remember and revisit in the future as needed
- Allows recording of all input, even if off-topic, which enables teammates to feel heard
Interested in trying it out? Try these steps below!
- Before your session, create a Parking lot
- For in-person sessions: Set up a blank easel and label it “Parking Lot”
- For virtual sessions: Create a designed blank space in your virtual whiteboard and label it “Parking Lot”
- At the beginning of the session, announce what the Parking Lot is and state that anyone can contribute to it
- Throughout the session, collect and record input to the Parking Lot
- As time allows, return to the Parking Lot to review and address remaining issues or ideas not already discussed in the remaining time
- Assign an owner to relevant issues or ideas who will be responsible to bring it to resolution
Photo Credit: Angele Kamp
Today’s blog post is by Allison Khaw
Let me tell you about the Time Blossom!
This innovation tool can be used to help you better manage your time on a project. On a larger scale, the Time Blossom is one of several existing “X-Blossoms,” which are specially-themed variations of the Lotus Blossom. Inspired by the diversity of X-Blossoms created before me, I chose time management as the underlying theme for the Time Blossom because of how pivotal a role it plays in our busy world today.
First, a refresher—to use the Lotus Blossom, start by labeling its center box with a problem or topic of your choice. From there, leverage the tool’s grid structure to brainstorm ideas and propagate them outward to the surrounding blossoms. These ideas may be characteristics, categories, or solutions related to your central topic, but the key is that you’ll generate many of them in a rapid manner.
The Time Blossom has the same structure as its parent tool, but it is pre-populated with eight open-ended questions that revolve around time management and prioritization. Thus, to use the tool, select a project or subject area to focus on, and then fill in the outer blossoms with your answers in the context of your project.
It’s as simple as that.
In particular, consider the top row of questions in the Time Blossom. Think of these as the “Goldilocks” questions, but in units of time: they ask you to identify tasks that are running “too hot,” “too cold,” or “just right.” In fact, the question, “What are we spending the right amount of time on?” was not included in an older version of the Time Blossom; only after early testing did I discover its importance. Recognizing what we’re doing right is just as valuable as recognizing what we can do better, after all!
Let’s take a look at a Time Blossom example. Imagine a fictional scenario where you and your team—Alisha, Gabe, Kai, Liz, Pat, Rob, and Stacy—are holding a brainstorming session on the development of your product. (This realistic premise stems from our very own choose-your-own-adventure-style book called The Toolbox of Innovation!) If you populated the Time Blossom as shown, what might you conclude about how effectively you are managing your time?
Perhaps your team would conclude that your product development is going well but could still be improved by the reprioritization of certain tasks. For instance, you might plan to spend more time with users or set up a meeting to uncover any hidden assumptions about your product. The boxes with thumbs-up symbols indicate the ideas that especially resonated with the team. Down the line, you might even hold Lotus Blossom sessions for some of the more complex ideas that should be further explored.
To me, improving your time management skills is as much about increasing your self-awareness as it is about working efficiently. Knowing which tasks you’re prioritizing, and why, can give you a sense of clarity that is hard to find otherwise. Tools are just one way to help with that. The Time Blossom is by no means the first—nor will it be the last—time management tool, but if it prompts you to reflect on these topics, it is time well spent.
Download an editable Time Blossom template