Einstein Workshop Method Explained


For few years know, all of our Action Learning programs and other workshops, too, have started with an Einstein Workshop. The Einstein Workshop is inspired by Design Thinking processes and a quote from Einstein:

“If I had one hour to save the world, I would use 55 mins to find the right question, and 5 mins to solve it.”

The idea is, that it is better for us to think first carefully what are the questions we need to answer rather than answering quickly wrong questions. And how can we know which are the good, right questions? As in all brainstorming, the quantity leads to quality. So first, we need to come up with a lot of questions, and then pick the most important ones. Einstein Workshop is a method for coming up with a lot of questions and prioritising them.

What you need?

To run the Einstein Method successfully, you need few things:

  • A lot of post it -notes
  • Markers for everyone
  • About 5 flip chart papers to every small team working on the question.
  • People. Minimum 2–3, but amount of participants can go up to 20 easily, even more. It is useful to work in groups with 3–5 persons, so everyone will have a chance to participate, and there is a smaller chance to hang around at the back side without participating.
  • A big starting question derived from strategy to start with.
  • About two hours of un-disturbed time.
  • Coffee, Tea, Nuts, Fruits and Other re-freshments available for the participants to pick up as they wish.


Before people arrive:
1.Get your markers, flip charts and post it’s ready for all the groups.
2.Prepare slides or write our your flip charts with instructions.
3.Breathe in deeply for few times. Put up some groovy music. Get ready to rock.

When everyone arrives:
Offer people coffee or tea, and make people feel welcome. You might want to start with a check-in circle, where everybody check’s in by answering a simple question such as “What’s up?”. The idea is meet and greet everyone, and let go of other worries for two hours and be ready for the coming up workshop.

Examples of Starting Questions:

In Einstein Workshop, we start with a questions such as “What are all the questions we need to answer to in order to _________________ ?

  1. About a Project: What are all the questions we need to answer in order to make this project an unbelievable success?
  2. About a Strategy: What are all the questions we need to answer in order to make sure our strategy comes alive?
  3. About a Culture: What are all the questions we need to answer in order to make our work culture best in our country?
  4. About a Culture v2: What are all the questions we need to answer in order to make sure we all thrive and enjoy working here?

First Round

On the first round that can take e.g. 20–40 mins, you first write down all the questions that come in your mind. You can use post it’s and markers, or also the IFTTT Do Note -App connected to Trello via Evernote. See separate post about it here. The mistake one can do on this round, is not to write everything down. The trap is to start judging yourself or others “Nh. This is not worth writing down.” Don’t worry about the quality of questions at this moment, just write everything down! They will be useful for you and your team later on. If you don’t write all the questions down, you won’t be able to proceed to the following stages of the Einstein Workshop. In an ideal situation, you fill up the whole flip chart with post it notes, and require another to fill it in as well. So build on each others ideas and write all the questions you can imagine on to those post it’s.

Only “How might we…” questions!

A good way to work is to write down only “How might we…” (HMW) questions. This method is used for example by the designers of Google Venture Sprints. Very effective way to focus on possibilities of future, rather than restrictions. You can twist a problem into a HMW-question, or you can twist and idea into HMW-question. For example, if your problem is the commitment of leadership into your change initiative, you can write down a HMW-question: “How might we increase and ensure better commitment of leadership team in our initiative?”. Or if you have an idea: Let’s start Friday After Work beers, you can write it down into a question: “How might we organise the first Friday after work beers?”

Second Round

After the first round, when you have filled your flip chart with post it’s, your job is first to group, then name the groups you have created, and finally to prioritise the questions in those groups. This may take another 20 minutes. So e.g. you may find out that bunch of the questions are related to communication, put them all into a group, and name the group: “Communication”. Then, within that group prioritise the questions, and you can also start to assign them to some people. You can also still add more questions to those groups if you come up with some. (Now this step is very handy if you are already in Trello.)

Third Round

On third round, you pick or formulate the three most important questions. This might take 10–15 minutes. Only at this moment you share your results with entire group of participants.

The idea is that, after the third round you would be able to start brainstorming experiments, tests and prototypes, which is the fourth round in the Einstein Workshop. If your top question is too wide to get started you might need to break in to smaller pieces, i.e. go back to step one, and use that as a starting question.

Fourth Round

On the fourth round, the idea is to come up with tests, prototypes and experiments that you could do already this or next week. It is typically useful to do this round two times, in order to get practical enough. So maybe after 15–20 minutes of ideation, come back together for everyone to share their next actions. If they are too abstract, challenge people to be more practical.

If we want new kind of culture, we need to start doing things in a new way. Thinking is not enough because actions create the culture.

Feel free to use and tweak this method as you wish. Just give it a go, you will learn by doing it. If you require help and have something to add or ask, I would become very happy if I heard from you. Have a great day!

Ville Keränen, Creativity Lead, Monkey Business
ville@banana.fi, 358 40 731 2084, @villemonkey

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