Blog > Better meetings?

November 2, 2010

I found this the other day on Twitter (sorry I don’t know the source but a HT to @nomeatballs for the link). It was described as ‘the best infographic ever’. I like the simplicity of it, and while it relates to happiness, it got me thinking about meetings.


In London, Johnnie Moore, Trish Stevenson, Stephen Wrentmore and Oli Barrett have been hosting a series of meetings about meetings called We Can’t Go On Meeting Like This. The premise is, if your meetings are not working, then try something else – change something. They try out different ways of meeting. I guess for some people, the fact that there are even different ways of meeting is a revelation.

It’s not such a big linguistic step from revelation to revolution – and I think that’s what’s needed for meetings.

I wrote about my own frustration with meetings here. And Johnnie Moore wrote about the tired Q & A format here.

I believe a lot of us want meetings to be better, it’s just that we’re trapped into a format and it feels too risky to break out. I remember choosing colours to paint the interior of our house. We wanted some bold colours but weren’t very confident in choosing them so we asked a colour consultant to help. We worked with her and made some pretty bold choices, except for one which she described as a ‘maybe next time’ colour. As a facilitator, I hear a lot of ‘maybe next time’ comments about possible different ways of meeting.

We can see that things aren’t working, we want something different, but we also want to stay safe, so we take ‘baby steps’ instead of bold steps.

I’m reading Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together by William Isaacs. I’m only part way into it but am already excited about the potential of relearning dialogue, which is about exploring the nature of choice. Isaacs describes dialogue as “a conversation in which people think together in relationship”. Any conversation can turn on our choices. If we choose to suspend and listen without resistance we are on the road to dialogue; if we choose to defend our ideas, we are on the road to either skillful conversation or controlled discussion. Skillful conversation relies on analysis and reasoning, controlled discussion on advocacy and abstractions.

More often than not, I see polite conversation – saying nothing to offend, playing by the rules – wrapped in a cloak of passive-aggressive dissatisfaction. I’ll have more to say on this soon.

To echo my London friends: WE CAN”T GO ON MEETING LIKE THIS!

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