The past two weeks have found me held hostage in more poorly organized, under-managed, and enthusiasm-draining meetings than any human being should have to endure. In this day and age it is simply unacceptable to ask volunteers and our staff colleagues to share their valuable time and to then misuse it in such a manner.
If your meetings are plagued by underwhelming results and
lack the spirit needed to promote creativity and innovation, the
following five practical pointers might help.
Change the players.
Creativity is often enhanced by involving a pool of
individuals other than the usual suspects in your meetings. Bring in
“wild cards,” individuals not tied to your department or organization,
but who are known to be good thinkers. During the meeting use social media and other online channels to cast a wider net for input and feedback. Involve people who will bring
different perspectives without any of the preconceived
assumptions that the regular attendees might have. So long as you have
unity of purpose you can honor and tap into a diversity of perspectives.
Change the place.
Behavior is a function of how people interact with their
environment (Kurt Lewin), so you can elicit different behavior by changing the
environment or changing the people. Use different settings to send
messages about what a meeting is designed to accomplish. Quick stand-up
meetings in an open area suggest fast idea generation and getting back
to business. On-line meetings suggest tapping into talents of people
geographically dispersed. A meeting outside the office often suggests
an attempt to free yourself from regular work constraints.
Change the process.
Though meetings occur for different reasons, many
organizations use a “one size fits all” approach to managing the process
for all their meetings. Sessions specifically designed to elicit
creativity and innovation need to be intentionally structured to do so
using appropriate creative and collaborative thinking techniques and
facilitation styles. Similarly you should adjust your discussion
process for those agenda items that are part of a longer meeting agenda
if they are meant to foster new thinking.
Change the power.
Power ripples throughout organizations and meetings in a
variety of ways affecting who says what … to whom … and how it gets
said. A creative and innovative mindset in meetings requires a more
dispersed power structure that spreads the wealth and reduced fear of
intimidation or retribution by either personal or positional power. Pay
attention to room settings, small group participant distribution,
reporting out mechanisms, idea collection techniques, who’s
facilitating, and much more as you examine and try to adjust the power
quotient in your meetings.
Change the pace.
We can foster greater creativity and innovation in meetings
both by speeding up and slowing down the thinking process. We can speed
it up by interjecting short bursts of creative thinking techniques that
challenge us to maximize our idea generation in a compressed period of
time (i.e., 5-10 minutes). We can speed up the thinking by having
on-line discussions (or individually completed worksheets) prior to ever
coming together in person to make a decision or react to the advance
thinking. We can slow the process down by separating the idea
generation process from the decision-making process, allowing ample time
to reflect and incubate between the two.
What other shifts have you found helpful to refresh the creative conversations in your meetings?