Meetings are a total joke, scourge, and waste of time at most organizations. (Watch this video on terrible meetings; it’s short and worth your entertainment value.) I’ve written about meetings a few times, notably about my confusion on several topics:
- Why don’t people define the roles/participants/”stakeholders?”
- Why do they always need to be about a specific topic?
- Why do we send around PPTs beforehand when we know no one will read them?
- Why aren’t we willing to change them when everyone knows they’re often not functional?
- Why are they so often not functional?
Again: a scourge. But some companies kind of get it. Here’s a few.
This is from a newish article on Fast Company; here’s a few key sections and thoughts:
At chat software provider LivePerson, leaders decided that meetings were a good opportunity for staff members to get to know each other better. Using a technique called “connection before content,” the leader poses a question at the start of a meeting designed to get people out of their comfort zones. For example, “What are your doubts about something you’re working on?” The exercise has been so effective that the company shared the idea with its customers.
Like this. Here’s why: first off, meetings often follow a completely-BS, rote format of “small talk” leading to “organizer pulls people together” leading to “generic discussion” leading to “someone opposes or throws out a comment just to be heard” leading to “circular discussion” leading to “OMG we’re short on time” leading to “hasty wrap-up and unclear deliverables.” That about nail it? If you open differently, you get people thinking differently, and that might lead to better outcomes. Plus, you can put a lot of questions around the context of failure, and we need to discuss failure more openly at work.
Brivo, a security management software provider, keeps meetings on point with its “No Rehash” rule. Employees signal to others that a topic has already been addressed by raising the “No Rehash” Ping-Pong paddle.
“I started noticing that we kept making many of the same decisions over and over again,” says president and CEO Steve Van Till, who instituted the rule by giving “No Rehash” paddles to everyone in the company. “It’s a visual reminder, but more importantly it empowers everyone in the company to call out counterproductive rehashing whenever and wherever they see it. The big time savings is that no one has to justify invoking the rule itself, and the meeting can proceed with earlier decisions intact.”
Like this. People oftentimes say the exact same things left, right, and center in a meeting — or say the same thing the last person said with different words, just so that the highest-ranking person in the room knows they’re there and contributing. If you rehash content, you get flagged for it — and visually! Plus, it saves time.
The staff at Tripping.com, the search engine for vacation rentals, sets a stopwatch for 30 minutes at the beginning of each meeting to maximize everyone’s time. If the meeting goes longer, the person who called the meeting must throw $5 in the team beer jar.
Like this. First off — beer jar. Group happy hours! Bonding! The power of friends at work! Second off: time is more valuable than money when you come right down to it, and most organizations make it so that your time isn’t your own. This allows you to change that, and get a few pints on Friday to boot.
True to their culture, employees at mobile game publisher Genera Games hold their meetings on the basketball court, shooting hoops and playing a quick game.
“We try to keep our meeting focused and fun,” says Daniel Entrenas, Genera’s indie labs manager. “By getting the blood flowing, we also allow ourselves to think outside the box and get more creative with our ideas.”
I always feel like people have better ideas when their brain is in a different context and their blood is flowing and they’re feeling good, as opposed to sitting on their posterior with a pen in their ear or whatever. I’ve had some of my deepest thoughts ever in my life shooting hoops by myself. (Honestly.) Obviously this wouldn’t work at every company based on the logistics of where they’re located, but … if you have a similar opportunity, chase it.