Creating innovative solutions – the hothouse experience

Last week I spent two very intense days at BT’s Adastral Park with around 20 colleagues from Thirteen Group, Ian Wright and Phil Brunkard. We were there to work on some key business challenges using Design Thinking techniques in a fast-paced, high intensity environment called the hothouse.

We split into two teams (red and black) and worked through several activities aimed at enhancing creativity and helping colleagues look at problems from different perspectives to arrive at better solutions. I was blown away by the enthusiasm and energy in the room. Since Thirteen staff came from all areas of the business there was a wide range of views and opinions which enriched the discussions leading to better ideas and solutions. It was great to see how colleagues worked together to improve the service to their customers in an environment where creativity and innovation are the key building blocks.

The process we follow in the hothouse is competitive: both teams work separately on their problem and there are judges who decide on the winner based on the solution presented by each team at the end of the two days. To evolve from a business problem to a creative solution we take the teams through user centred design activities which help them think differently by focusing on a wide variety of stakeholders, breaking down the problem into component parts and preventing them from jumping into solutions too early. To keep the energy through long days of intense work, we break up the solution development activities with regular briefings and checkpoints which help the teams ensure they are on track. We also include a series of creative exercises where participants can reset and start again with a new perspective or insight.


After the two days in the hothouse both teams came up with great solutions which will be developed further and piloted at Thirteen. In addition to this, everyone who took part will have learned how to use several tools and techniques to tackle business problems in innovative and creative ways. I am very excited to see how they take their ideas further.


This was my second time at the hothouse; the last time was as part of HouseMark’s Digital Transformation Programme where we work with leaders from across the sector to develop an innovative digital strategy supported by disruptive technology and the knowledge from out of sector experts willing to share their lessons and experience. I am already looking forward to this year’s Digital Transformation Programme which will include fantastic learning opportunities building up to another two days at the hothouse where we leave old ways of thinking outside the door and embrace a different way of solving problems.

The programme starts in October 2019. Places are limited so secure yours now by emailing Tina Reid at or see more information here.

By Arturo Dell

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