Exploring Innovation in Community Development Finance may seem like a dry topic but the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank’s recent conference was anything but. From planned spontaneous conversations and plenary dialogue processes, to the rule of two feet and building collective priorities for action, there are several lessons that we can draw from the design of this conference…
In a webinar earlier this year sponsored by NewWOW (New Ways of Working), David Coleman posed a provocative question: “In the world of enterprise social collaboration, has the social construct of “meetings” become anachronistic? In other words, are meetings obsolete?”
I’ve had a few weeks to ruminate his question. My initial reply: Of course! To have a real conversation, people really have to be talking together, at the same time, in pretty much the same way. Otherwise, we’re just pushing out (or pulling in) a bunch of potentially disconnected thoughts that often cross paths somewhere in the clouds. That’s not the stuff authentic conversations are made of, IMHO.
You’re asked to participate in a chaotic exercise billed as a brainstorming session. The moderator instructs you to “think outside the box”, tells you that the activity is penalty free (“no idea is a bad idea”) and then waits expectantly. But without design or instruction, some participants sit there apathetically, others contribute sporadically, and a few loudly dominate the session with their pet ideas.
In 7 Steps to Better Brainstorming, the authors propose a modified brainstorming technique they call “brainsteering”. But does it lead creative thinkers down too narrow a path?
Says Reid Hastie: “I USED to be the disengaged participant — one who had good ideas about how to solve a problem or conduct a meeting, but didn’t contribute. I now take a more active role, aiming to make meetings more effective.”
To at least some degree, we own our experience in meetings and we play a role in making them either a waste or a good use of our time. That leads me to think about four things that we can and should take ownership of to improve our own meeting experience.
Up until a few years ago, those of us who are professional facilitators were considered to be a breed apart. People turned to us for special ways of extracting the best ideas from a group, weaving together a stimulating conversation (even when people had wildly different perspectives), or helping people reach consensus on difficult decisions. Fortunately for us, our clients still value our ability to plan and guide productive conversations when the outcomes matter most.
And yet—I see more and more employees and managers recognizing the need to act as facilitators themselves, especially among geographically dispersed groups. Why?
Are your teams connected for productivity or wired for distraction?
This free webinar takes a slightly different twist in the ongoing exploration of how to design highly interactive webinars and virtual meetings that keep people engaged. One of the biggest challenges facilitators and trainers face is the effect of participants multi-tasking on the productivity and creativity of the group. The first reaction is to think about how to STOP participants from multi-tasking so that they will focus on OUR agenda. But in this age of 24/7 information access and communication, wouldn’t it make more sense to design in productive multi-tasking, for example contributing ideas or responding to questions at the same time as we listen to a presentation? We call this Multi-tasking On Task. Register now for Friday December 17, our last webinar of the year.
Remember that old piece of advice: Don’t put the cart before the horse? The Number One Challenge that facilitators and trainers have with virtual meetings and webinars is: How to keep participants engaged? I suggest that this is directly related to the Number One Trap that we fall into when moving from face-to-face to virtual events: starting with a piece of technology and then trying to make engagement happen. While technology can accelerate great communication, meeting effectiveness and virtual teamwork, it cannot create it. Rather we need to 1) start with our meeting or learning objectives, 2) understand the different types of interaction we are seeking to create during different parts of our agenda or process and then 3) select technology to support the desired interaction.
In our workshops and webinars about leading virtual teams and getting great results from virtual meetings, we use the following schematic to discuss how to select virtual meeting technology to match the type of interaction we need.
A recent post on a site called iPad CTO caught my eye because its title : Increase Productivity with iPad-driven Business Meetings. Yes indeed! I thought – having just returned from an engagement where we used iPads to create a sense of intimate conversation amongst 400 people. The author of this post went on to posit: “The legacy of business meetings – boring, counter-productive, and a constant interruption of real work – shows that little progress has been made over the last century ……There’s a chance iPad’s involvement and deep integration into the way meetings are organized and implemented can move the needle just enough to improve your meetings in significant ways.”
One way to know that you’ve arrived at the very essence of an issue or solution is when you can articulate it completely and accurately in very few words. That’s why good mission statements are short, some even crafted in a single phrase. One description I like is “short enough to remember, and strong enough to inspire”. And that’s why it sometimes takes a while to get it right.