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The 5-step foolproof formula to create kick ass results with your team

Here are my top 5 recommendations on how we should design our meetings to achieve more innovative and creative results that will help address the complex challenges our world is facing!

If you need help in implementing them, get in touch:

Over the past decade, the half-life of knowledge and technology has plummeted, the world economy has turned out to be an interconnected house of cards, and people have realized that destabilizing factors – from inequality to climate change are interrelated.

There are no simple solutions to the challenges our complex world faces.

To create social change we need collaboration with many diverse people.

We need to come, think and create together.

And we mostly do this through this magic tool called “meetings”.

“Let’s schedule a meeting” is probably one of the most spoken sentences in any organization.

However research shows that while on average we are attending 62 meetings per month, half of them are considered a waste of time.

92% of meeting goers day dream and 72% admit to doing other work during the meeting if they are showing up at all.

Most of our meetings are filled with updates, presentations and unstructured discussions that don’t lead to innovative solutions as they don’t let us connect, jointly think and co-create.

Harvard Business School researchers found out that the vast majority of Senior Managers thought meetings were unproductive and inefficient, believed that they came at the expense of deep thinking and that they missed opportunities to bring the team closer together.

So how can we design our meetings to achieve more innovative and creative results that will help address the complex challenges our world is facing?

This question was one of the reasons why I became a facilitator and, having worked with many different groups of changemakers, here is my 5 step foolproof formula:

#1) Only have a meeting if you have been able to prepare

I know it should be a no brainer, but how many meetings do you attend that are badly or not prepared at all?

It often takes more time to prepare a meeting than to conduct or attend it.

Before each meeting don’t just put a quick agenda together but start off by formulating:

a) Purpose: Why are we coming together as this group? What is the need?

b) Outcomes: What should we have achieved by the end of the meeting?

c) Learnings: How will we harvest the learnings? And where will the learnings feed into?

Then build your agenda to lead to the outcomes and share it in advance of the meeting, so that the participants can prepare as well.

If you don’t do this, you’ll be preoccupied thinking about it during the meeting and cannot be present to connect with people in the room.

#2) Start with check ins and end with check outs

Being fully present is one of the essentials for any good meeting.

Presence means making space to devote a dedicated time to working with others.

If you are distracted, called out or otherwise located in many different places, you cannot be present in one.

Start your meeting by inviting people to be present.

One way of doing this is via a “check in”.

Pose a personal, open ended question related to the theme of the meeting and go around listening to people’s brief stories.

Examples of some starter questions are:

What has inspired you this week? Or What is bubbling in you?

Close a meeting by doing a similar round.

Questions could be: What has been your one takeaway? What is still bubbling in you?

This practice helps people arrive mentally and provides a container for any meeting.

It allows for time to connect with one another on a much more personal level.

People can only think and work creatively together if there is a level of personal trust. So this is really not a time waster.

An additional rule you might want to consider is to only allow mobiles or laptops for taking notes or showing presentations to avoid secret, under the table multitasking.

#3) Actively tap into the expertise you have in the room

Meetings with endless power points or long monologues are probably the reason why 91% of us day dream during a meeting.

Use the collective intelligence in the room to bring your work to the next level. If you are more than 7 people, work in smaller groups and then come back together into plenary with your results.

From there identify synergies and create alignment.

Here are some tested methods that are perfect for this and you can do them in 45min to an hour:

a) Pro-Action Café: Don’t just ask people to provide updates but let several of them present their challenges and open questions simultaneously and ask the team for input. There are 3 rounds of questions and participants provide input and help the host see things with greater clarity. Participants rotate from one table to another between the questions.

b) World Café: If you need to come up with and create alignment around new solutions, ask questions in a “World Café” with small group tables. There several rounds of questions deepening the exploration of a theme. By providing opportunities for people to move in several rounds of conversation, ideas, questions, and themes begin to link and connect.

At the end of the second or third round, all of the tables or conversation clusters in the room will be cross-pollinated with insights from prior conversations. Then you can gather insights from the group.

#4) Be creative together

“ Let’s brainstorm.” Many get a chill when they hear these words.

Just throwing the ideas you have had for some time onto some post its, will not create innovation.

To unlock new ideas, run an ideation process that helps you to get inspired, generate ideas, select the best ones and make them concrete. has some great resources to help you through this process.

Think of bringing in artefacts, pictures and spices as prompts to get the creative juices flowing.

#5) Make sure you harvest visually

Meetings need to show how you have made progress and what you take away.

This is why you need to plan any meeting with the harvest of your joint thinking in mind. Harvesting should be done visibly (and don’t let the intern take hidden and extensive notes on their laptop) and can be done together.

Here are some ideas on how to do this:

1) For each section of the meeting appoint some people to harvest the most important learnings and write them on a flip chart. Check these with the group and ask if they have additions.

2) Employ a graphic facilitator or learn how to do simple visual facilitation.

Sounds like a lot of work? Well, meetings cost an organization a huge amount of time and money.

With this little tool from Harvard Business Review you can actually calculate how much the time spent together costs.

To create change in this complex world we need to co-create and work together rather than pottering around in little silos. So maybe we should have fewer but well prepared and designed meetings.

If you need any help or want to bounce ideas, just get in touch!

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