from Innovative Leader
Volume 6, Number 9
and Productive Meetings
Butler is a senior consultant with Gemini Consulting (London, UK),
specializing in organizational development and meeting strategy. She is author of Team
Think: 72 Ways to Make Good, Quick, Smart Decisions in Any Meeting
(McGraw Hill, New York, 1996). Phone 44-171-351-4413; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
your meetings provide a climate and structure that is consistently
conducive to maximum creativity, innovation and productivity? Iíll outline a few of the many processes your groups can
use to improve the quality of
their meetings. Youíll
want to employ some of these techniques in all your meetings, some
might be used in conjunction with other techniques, and some will
only be applied in special situations.
taking control of your meetings, youíll immediately improve
results, as well as
contribute significantly to the success and evolution of your
organization. Your meetings are that
important; or at least they should be.
weíll consider the general meeting framework, and then how to
stimulate those creative
give meetings structure, and should always be created and agreed
upon before the meeting begins.
Everyone who participates in the meeting should know its
purpose beforehand and give input into the agendaís creation.
This participation is vital, ensuring that everyone owns,
and is committed to, both the process and the expected results.
Once the meeting begins, this level of structure and
preparation allows participants to focus on the content of their
discussions, not the processes that will guide them.
meetings need strong facilitation.
Today, this leadership can come from anywhere within, or
even outside, your organization.
Itís not the facilitatorís job to prescribe the
content or outcomes of the meetings they lead.
Facilitators, instead, implement the structure, processes
and techniques required so that the meeting participants can
effectively accomplish the goals of their agendas.
are essential to all meetings.
They require clearly defined goals, and they need to be thorough and realistic.
is a technique that will stimulate the members of your group
to clear their minds and focus on the meeting.
provides a transition from what they just left behind to the
meeting itself. CLEARING
significantly decreases the time it takes participants to settle
themselves at the beginning of the meeting, providing earlier
focus and greater effectiveness.
technique asks participants to share what was on their minds as
they entered the meeting room.
Once a person has voiced whatís on his or her mind,
itís easier for them to put those thoughts aside.
You may have noticed this in your own life.
For example, after sharing your frustration about a current
project with a colleague, you find that the frustration diminishes
and you are better able to focus on your work.
Left unacknowledged, your frustration mounts, further
impeding your effectiveness.
also allows participants to let the other members know, in a
constructive way, if anything is getting in the way of one hundred
percent participation. The
goal of CLEARING is not to solve problems or address the concerns
that arise, but rather to allow people to simply state their
is a technique for establishing and maintaining acceptable
standards of meeting behavior.
Using this technique will virtually eliminate behavior
problems before they begin.
few examples of groundrules include:
Listen to, and honor, all opinions; one conversation at a
time; focus on the task at hand; work toward honest consensus; fun
is allowed; help us stay on track and on schedule; avoid detail
overload; offer solutions, not complaints; avoid personal agendas;
no lectures; no phone or pager interruptions.
Negotiate a list of groundrules and keep them posted.
certain to discuss, and agree upon, all
ground rules before
the meeting begins. It
is also important for the group to determine what measures it
should take if the groundrules are not followed.
Once the meeting begins, anyone, at any time, can remind
the group that the groundrules arenít being respected.
support meeting productivity, creativity and participation, and
help keep the meeting on track.
now that you have defined the agenda, agreed on the rules, and
gotten yourselves in the proper frame of mind, itís time to do
some work. Iíll
introduce three creativity-enhancing techniques that Iíve
observed to be especially effective.
helps meeting participants think and express themselves
people articulate their thoughts in atypical ways they tend to
produce a wider spectrum of information.
And sometimes the most unlikely methods of expression
produce the most revealing information.
This is because people are encouraged to use a part of
their brain which taps and stimulates their perception
is a four-step process: 1)
Define the goal of the exercise; 2) ask the participants,
individually, or in small groups, to draw or visually depict
their ideas on paper; 3) have each person, or small group,
present and explain their work; 4) ask participants to summarize
what they learned from the exercise, and then use the information
using ART when people need to visualize the future, a change, a
decision, or when you want to clarify a point that is difficult to
articulate. This type
of artistic expression will increase the effectiveness of your
meetings by providing new insights, increasing creativity, energy,
GLASSES is a technique to help meeting participants look at the
meeting agenda's topics through "new eyes." This helps them leave their biases and old perspectives
GLASSES involves literally putting on a pair of silly glasses when
old-style or habitual thinking patterns are expressed.
The apparent absurdity of this technique allows people to
step outside themselves and look at the world anew.
simple. Buy each
participant a pair of silly glasses.
Hand them out as gifts at the appropriate time during the
meeting. Tell your
participants that the glasses are specially designed to help them
look at the world with ďnew eyes.Ē
Explain that if, at any time during the meeting, the
participants feel they are falling into old ways of looking at the
world, they should put on their
glasses. Or, if they
think that any other person is falling into old habits and
perspectives, they may ask that person to wear their own glasses.
be afraid to try this technique.
Everyone will have fun with it; best of all, it works.
organization is expected to provide creative solutions.
In order to find
the most effective idea, one must first introduce as many ideas as
possible. And that means brainstorming.
The first ideas generated through brainstorming are typically the most obvious.
The best ideas usually come after a rhythm has been
brainstormers are fearful of scrutiny and judgment, ideas stop
flowing before the best ideas come forward. Thatís why deferring
the judgment improves the volume of participant input and,
consequently, the value of the exercise.
done verbally or in writing, the guidelines for brainstorming
techniques are generally the same:
All ideas and information are acceptable; no criticism or
analysis of ideas or information is permitted; build on the ideas
of others; all ideas are charted.
is a technique for gathering ideas and information quickly and
efficiently, while increasing individual participation.
Many people prefer to think before they speak.
Others need time to formulate their ideas.
Allowing a short time for quiet contemplation, combined
with asking participants to write their ideas down on paper,
increases individual input and the number and variety of ideas.
requires four steps:
Introduce the subject to be brainstormed with a specific open-ended question;
review the groundrules for brainstorming; ask the participants to
write down their ideas on sticky notes or cards; collect all of
these ideas and use them as the basis for your discussion.
are several process variations of this final step:
Review each idea one by one, or as a team; ask participants
to read them individually before group discussion; explore the
ideas in small groups, after
clustering similar ideas and creating a heading for each
order to maximize your creative and innovative potential, your
meetings need to provide the structure and tools that best support
your efforts. Clear
agendas, coupled with a number of specific facilitation techniques
will immediately move your meetings in the right direction.
Getting the most from your meetings, and the creative ideas that
result, may be the edge that separates your organization from its