A young women takes part in a Active Eights activity at her desk, where there are also post-it notes and a timer.

Eight Ideas in Eight Minutes. The Power of Active Eights.

| Sam Hutchings

Sixty Second Summary

With Active Eights, everyone in your workshop is expected to come up with, sketch and annotate eight ideas for the question at hand in just eight minutes. With only sixty seconds per sketch, the focus lies on the number of ideas, rather than their fidelity, with workshop members encouraged to go for “out-there” ideas wherever possible.

Full Article - 4 Minute Read

The Structure of an Active Eights Workshop

With it being possible to do the whole activity in less than 10 minutes, the structure of an Active Eights workshop has to be and is simple. The core workshop can be done in just four steps, with an extra fifth step used when taking ideas forward.

An Active Eights workshop can work with any number of participants, but I recommend keeping it to eight or fewer, so that you don’t take forever with people presenting their sketches.

Aside: If you’re using this just as a warm up technique, with no presentation, then you can run this with as many people as you want, as the ideas won’t all be presented.

Step 1: Decide on the Question

As with any workshop, you’ll first want to decide on the problem or challenge you’re looking to address during Active Eights. This will be the prompt to which everybody draws.

You may find that reframing the problem as a “How Might We… ?” question will help members of your group come up with answers more easily.

Step 2: Warming Up

A warm-up is important if you want to get the most ot of the following sketch step. People can often feel inhibited because they believe their rubbish ideas will show them up in from of the group, or that they have zero drawing skills. We like to demonstrate that anything counts as a valid sketch, including writing a few words. Quanity trumps quality at this stage, all ideas are equally valid, none are evaluated or discounted.

Likewise, people often have preconceived ideas of what the solution to the question should be, often based on habitual thinking patterns. A few minutes of free-form doodling helps people do a brain-dump, clearing out rigid and stale thinking. It makes mental space and invites original ideas.

Step 3: Eight Sketches in Eight Minutes

Give each person a piece of A3 paper and ask them to fold it in half, then in half again, then in half yet again. They should now have, when it’s unfolded, a piece of A3 paper with eight equal-sized rectangles folded into it.

Now that everyone has a worksheet, start a timer for eight minutes. Once it starts, everyone should start sketching and annotating down their ideas, aiming to get one down per minute. I’ve found that marking each minute with an announcement keeps people in the cadence and flow of the activity, so they’re not rushing so much at the end.

Once the timer finishes, that’s it, everyone should put down their pens and stop sketching. Whilst the goal is to do eight sketches, you may find that most people do 5-7, especially if it’s their first time. Don’t worry if this is the case, as you’ve still got a lot more ideas than you had to begin with.

What is a Sketch?

In this activity, a sketch is anything that gets the idea across. In most cases, this will be a crude illustration with annotations to help explain certain areas. For some ideas or people, it may be just the annotations or a short piece of writing to explore their idea.

At this point, the key is to not be precious about the sketch or how it is presented, as it’s all about the ideas.

Folded Paper, Really?

If you’re looking for something more professional, you can download and print your own Active Eights sheets using our free template available from Sprinty Toolkits.

Is There an App for That?

If you don’t have access to a timer, there are a variety of ‘round timer’ apps available on the App Store and Play Store which will do the same job. You can set them up to do eight rounds of one minute with no rest time between rounds.

Step 4: Present Your Sketches

Once everyone has completed their sketches, it’s time to present them. Going around the room, each person in turn should present their eight ideas to the rest of the group, trying to keep the description as short as possible.

The presentation of ideas will take longer, once you go around everyone, than the actual ideation did in Step 2, but this is all productive time as the ideas are shared and connections and potential synergies are formed.

Step 5: Vote! (Optional)

Once everyone has presented their ideas, it’s time for the (optional) vote, so you can see which ideas to take forward and flesh out.

Depending on how many ideas you want to take forward, give everyone in the workshop an appropriate number of voting dots - physical or digital. A good starting point is to give them one for each idea you want to take forward, plus one or two extras.

Now, give everyone a couple of minutes to work around the space and place their votes. Encourage people to vote for ideas on their merit, not on how many other people have voted for it, or who they’ve seen vote. We want this to be about the quality of the idea, not about office politics or hurting people’s feelings.

Download and Print Your Own Active Eights Worksheet

Our friends at Sprinty have made their Active Eights Worksheet free to download and print for everyone. Just add it to your cart and you’re ready to go.

The Results of an Active Eights Workshop

A good Active Eights workshop will result in a bunch of ideas for people to showcase, discuss and then vote on. Some of the ideas will be the same across workshop members, but the hope is that you’ll also have some truly unique ideas.

As I mentioned earlier, the focus with Active Eights is on the number of ideas, rather than their fidelity, because we want a number of ideas we can vote on as potential solutions. Once we’ve narrowed down the field to just a couple of ideas, we can then put in the work as a team to flesh out the ideas.

Active Eights is often used to start off another workshop, or as part of another workshop, such as a Remote Design Sprint, where the top-voted ideas will be taken forward to further activities to develop, prototype and test them.

A sheet of results from an Active Eights session to help people drink more water.
A sheet of results from an Active Eights session to help people drink more water.

When to Start an Active Eights Workshop

An Active Eights Workshop is best done when you have a decision to make quickly. So it is a great component for a larger meeting or project, or perhaps even to help kick off a Design Sprint. It’s time-limited nature means that you’ll always know how long an Active Eights Workshop will take, which makes it incredibly easy to schedule and budget time for.

How to Start an Active Eights Workshop

Now you understand what’s involved with an Active Eights Workshop, the next step is to email [email protected] or call +44(0)1227 206 206 to talk to Martin or Sam about booking in your first (or next) Active Eights Workshop with The Familiar. You can also book public course places online at Sprinty.xyz

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