What Is a Workshop and Why Do You Need One?

What on earth is even a workshop? And why would I need one? Well, buckle in, because that’s exactly what we’ll be covering in this article.

Here at AJ&Smart we harp on and on about the transformative power of workshops and what they can do for your career. But if you’re not familiar with the workshopping way of working just yet, you might be thinking… What on earth is even a workshop? And why would I need one?

Well, buckle in, because that’s exactly what we’ll be covering in this article.

So, what is a workshop exactly? 

A workshop is a structured, organized way for teams to collaborate, that ensures solid outcomes, all the while avoiding the usual pitfalls of teamwork, such as team politics, asymmetrical knowledge, and differences in working styles.

Isn’t that the same as a normal meeting? Well, not really. 

The difference between a workshop and a meeting

Chances are, if you’ve ever been in a meeting, you know the following scenario all too well:

A cross-functional team gets together in a room, and members just start throwing out ideas. Often it turns into a war of who can speak the loudest, or who is the most senior in the room. Or it goes to the other extreme, where no one wants to make a decision without the entire group being on board. The juniors in the room don’t feel comfortable sharing their ideas, the loudest (or most senior) person in the room dominates the conversation, and by the end of the meeting, everyone understands the job to be done differently.  

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Not only are meetings like that frustrating to be in, they are also nearly impossible to fix!

That’s because conventional collaboration scenarios don’t address the underlying issues that make meetings such a drag in the first place. 

Group collaboration is an inherently challenging thing for people to do, and without the right set of tools or practices in place to address that every meeting inevitably devolves into a frustrating mess. 

Workshops are an antidote to that. They fundamentally change the way collaborative work happens by replacing an unstructured open-discussions with exercises and activities that minimize groupthink and bias, and foster structured discussion and uninterrupted ideation. 

That’s exactly why established companies and startups alike use the power of workshops to help their teams do meaningful work faster and more effectively.

As well as building on these skills, hosting your own workshops enables you to gain the crucial leadership experience you need to secure your next top role or job promotion. On a practical level, you’ll be negotiating difficult challenges, not to mention different personalities and working styles, and guiding complex discussions to ensure the group reaches its common goal. In terms of boosting our careers and cementing knowledge in our area, it’s fair to say there are few things that beat it. 

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Why you should start running workshops of your own

We are BIG advocates of using workshops to boost and enhance your career, regardless of your role or industry. But why are we so sure workshops will help you get ahead?

There are a few reasons...

You will have a fool-proof tool for prioritizing good ideas over bad ones (and quickly!)

Demonstrating a clear head and having the ability to prioritize good ideas over bad ones is something every employer seeks in members of his or her team. Plus, let’s face it, it’s just a great life skill in general.

If you’re hoping to step up into more of a leadership role, knowing how to prioritize ideas and making headway on projects fast is going to differentiate you from the crowd and make you the MVP of any team!  

Imagine being tasked with launching your top-selling product in a brand-new market. Everyone has competing opinions on how you should sell it, what it should be like, and when you should start. If you’re the person who’s able to guide the team to a solid decision in record times and without endless discussions, guess who will be wanted for every project and every challenge?

But don’t just take our word for it, try running an easy decision-making workshop and see the results for yourself.

You will save your team A LOT of time (and money)

Imagine investing thousands of dollars and good six months into a new project that ends up getting no traction… (you can practically hear the company’s bank account draining, right?) 

That’s where the workshops come into play to save the day. For example, Design Sprint, an intense 4-day workshop to test ideas and generate solutions quickly, was invented at Google Ventures with the sole purpose of giving startups a safe way to test ideas before pouring time and investment into a project that might be a flop. 

Sounds cool, right?

So if the company you work at is currently faced with a bigger than life challenge or decision, you might want to give Design Sprint a try! While Design Sprint is not the only workshop you can use to validate ideas, it’s the one that’s been tried and tested by hundreds of companies worldwide, so you can be sure it will bring solid outcomes. And guess who’s very likely to get promoted if they can save the company tons of money!

Say ‘bye-bye’ to wasting time and money on ideas that would’ve failed and ‘hello’ to stellar growth.

You’ll become more productive (without burning out!)

Contrary to what the modern hustle culture might have you believe, career progression does NOT have to equal burnout. Especially if you’ve got a few workshops in your toolbox.

Workshops let you cut out all those hidden inefficiencies that drag you down on a daily basis: excruciatingly ineffective meetings, long launch phases and busywork. They prioritize progress over perfection, so you invest your time where it matters. 

Workshops allow you to cut out the unnecessary busywork and focus on the things that matter, leaving you more productive and efficient, without burning you out. 

Try running a Lightning Decision Jam the next time you need to generate solutions with your team, and you’ll see exactly what we mean.

You’ll be seen as a strategic partner (rather than the executor)

By learning to facilitate workshops, you get an in-demand skill you can leverage in any role, and you level up from being an executor to a valuable strategic partner for your team, boss, or clients.

Mastering  facilitation techniques will help you in any collaborative work setting. Corporate training programs, branding sessions, team-building workshops, content strategy planning… you name it! 

By positioning yourself as the guide for the group, you automatically level yourself up from an executor role and become a strategic consultant to your own team. 

You will enjoy your work more

So what if you can build better products, make informed decisions and move the team faster? If you get Sunday-night dread just at the thought of going back to work on Monday, none of this stuff really matters.

Good news is–jumping on the workshop bandwagon not only makes you more effective but also makes you enjoy your work more! 

We recently surveyed our Design Sprint Masterclass alumni to understand whether the Design Sprint has tangible benefits outside the productivity and focus domain and ohhh boy we were excited to see the results….

  • 92% of the alumni enjoy their work MORE after learning the Sprint
  • 94% are confident it will further their career

Enjoying the work you do every day is truly transformational. It makes you a million times more motivated, driven and resilient. 

Career and financial success come as a nice side-benefits to being fully invested in the job you do. A pretty sweet deal if you ask us. 

And there you have it, we hope this article gave you a deeper insight into what workshops are, and why they’re the ultimate tool you need to get ahead in your career.  If we sparked a light if interest in you, definitely check out other useful content we release about workshops, how to get started with facilitation, and become a true Workshopper!

AJ&Smart Team

A team of pro workshop facilitators with 9+ years of experience.