Share your opinion, not your ideas!

Are you suffering from unproductive meetings? Here are two simple solutions to quickly turn around a potentially worthless meeting. Imagine yourself sitting in a meeting with eight others. It doesn’t really matter what the subject of the meeting was but I think you can relate to the pattern described below. The meeting has finally begun after people arrived late, unclarity of the purpose of the meeting etc. You can state that the people in this meeting suffer from MAS

So having stated this, we are halfway through the meeting and here is a brief transcript of the meeting…(yes, I was that bored that I started writing down what other people were saying).

“I like your idea! Very creative, but we could also organise this event twice a month” said the person across from me.

“Or,” said the person next to him. “we could limit it to once a quarter to create an exclusive image for the event.”

“Wouldn’t it be great if we host the event online, like a webinar?”

[Silence]

Within 30 seconds the group has created four ideas. On top of that each contributor strongly believes their idea is the best, but they all recognize some value in the other ideas.

Now the initiator of the meeting wanting to receive feedback on her idea is in trouble. Instead of improving one idea, the group has created four ideas. Now they feel obligated to choose between these ideas which was not the goal of the meeting. The initiator or any of the participants were ready for this and despite all good intentions this meeting would have ended up leading nowhere.

More companies are attempting to transform their employees from ‘mindless task performers’ to real professionals that fully use their creativity to maximize their added value. The danger in letting this creativity flow freely is that meetings all end up in brainstorming and never any decisions are being made. It’s like letting a group of children go free in a rollercoaster park. They cannot decide which ride to ride first. Too many choices.

The solution for this is extremely easy either if you are the chairperson of the meeting or a participant. If you are the chair of the meeting you hold the key in making this meeting meet the desired goal and that means preparing the meeting and especially stating what your goal is for this meeting.

Not too long ago Ron Eringa and I had the idea to launch the ‘Agile Expert Program’, we wanted to have feedback on the idea and especially the curriculum we created a few weeks earlier in an airplane from Chicago to Dusseldorf. We knew that when we did not state our goal for the meeting at the start we would be lost having a room of 15 creative minds in there. So we said, the Agile Expert Program is going to happen, we are going to start anyway but we would like to hear from you which topics we should add. There was no discussion on the idea of the program but merely contributions to the curriculum.

If you are not hosting the meeting and the direction it is heading towards what I described at the beginning of this post, then the solution is very easy as well. Like I said, I was part of the meeting and I was so fed up with everybody in ‘contribution mode’ that I decided to take a stance.

I said: “I want this event to be held once a month like the original idea stated.”

Again silence.

Everybody stared at me, I don’t know why but it seemed like they were shocked by my firm statement. However, instead of contributing to the never-ending stream of possibilities, I just said how I think it should be. Not playing any hierarchical cards or anything but  simply sharing my opinion about the idea. After 20 seconds the first person said; “I agree with Stephan” and soon many others followed. This was the end of the meeting!

So instead of sharing an idea, share your opinion! That’s why you were invited in the first place.

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