Brainstorming Myth?

A recent meetings-bashing piece in the Guardian rams home the uselessness of meetings. They quote Applied Cognitive Psychology which finds brainstorming does not work.

Apparently “non-interacting individuals” in fact create better/more unique ideas. It struck me that there were a number of steers for salespeople to help make sure that those meetings at which you’re not in attendance, yet who’s outcome is pivotal, can be more rather than less productive to your cause.

They expand on their view using attractive terms for the anti-meeting lobby such as their “productivity deficit” and inevitable, destructive “social loafing”.

To back up the academic view with anecdotes, here’s their wonderful quote of a blogger known as the Jackal,

“A person with the power to call a meeting often does so to display that power … Generally speaking, these meetings are a complete and utter waste of time, with bad leadership, badly defined goals, no real agenda and lots of people speaking out of turn for self-validation. In my humble opinion, 90% of the time in today’s corporate world calling a meeting is an abuse of power.”

I also hope this doesn’t sound like the last meeting from your most recent sales campaign.

A tentative checklist emerges from further horror stories various meet-a-phobes recount of how to ensure a relevant and productive get-together. One facilitator quoted suggesting that businesses waste an average of 20% of their payroll on bad meetings. One day every single week, gone. Ouch.

  • ensure the meeting convener communicates why it is taking place
  • a meeting must have a clearly defined outcome in mind
  • is the decision sought already made, or information required already gathered?
  • can the message more simply be sent by email?
  • if you suspect any decision will be re-visited afterwards, how can you see this fall in your favour?
  • has the negative impact on ‘makers’ resource been considered (ie. do-ers as opposed to managers will have workload disruption)?
  • can the Chair rotate?

And finally here’s some terrific insight from the chap that was head of IT at Reuters. Imagine all the meetings that have to go on prospect-side to push your project forward. How many could suffer from the malaise he describes?

“I developed this theory that at the start of a project everybody’s playing towards collective success, and at some point they cross the line and from then on they’re playing to avoid individual blame.”

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jamie@example.com
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