Making light of never-ending corporate meetings has become the stuff of legends. We all know companies where holding meetings takes up far more time than task completion activities. That kind of grueling grind beats enthusiasm to a pulp and turns time that could be spent using creativity to solve problems into a war of attrition waged against employee morale. Part of the blame for this is a corporate culture that requires certain types of reporting type meetings that involve slide after slide of tables of meaningless data.
But the other thing that makes meetings less effective are the sterile rooms where gatherings are held. Creative, dynamic teams flourish in energetic, interesting spaces. If you don’t believe me, make time to visit a small to medium sized advertising agency. These places buzz with energy, conversation, collaboration, and constructive conflict. Perhaps there is something to learn here.
There are proven methods for increasing engagement and a team’s sense of urgency. Breaking out of the confines of a claustrophobic conference room helps. Standing meetings encourage communication with a purpose in place of endless droning. Off-sight meetings invite camaraderie and frank discussions mixed with laughter and story-telling. Invisible barriers built up in office hallways come down after a change of scenery.
How many of you have parks near the office? If you are getting ready for an idea generation session, why would you stuff everyone into a box that they see day after day? Get people outside and invite your people to say stupid things, impossible things. We don’t want to know how it’s been done before. Sure, we can’t break accounting but how about innovation? The change in perspective, the very fact that you can see things that are farther away than twenty feet, tells people that this is not the same as droning. Within limits, distraction is good.
Let’s say you invite a team of engineers to your office. They are from a company that has technology or design or whatever that, if combined with your company’s products, could make you both into world-beaters. Nobody knows anybody. Your first priority is to create an environment where folks can let their guard down and find out how they fit together. You need to fuel some excitement and have enough space where every single thing people say doesn’t feel like it’s being scrutinized.
Or, find a quality music venue. Afterwards, retire to a local restaurant that has a separate group area. Now you have people energized from the music and relaxing with a light fresh meal.
Theme retreats away from the office can be powerful tools for kickoff events as long as they don’t get too gimmicky. I believe that most people get a lot more out of sessions that focus on something concrete that deals with the immediate needs of the group. I have my doubts that falling backwards into your colleague’s arms or doing firewalks helps much. The power is in the location of the retreat, the belief that people got something useful and that any concerns they had were addressed.
The point here is to change attendee’s mental state, their outlook when they come to the meeting. Your meetings should inform, encourage and set things in motion. If you vary aspects of meetings like location, you might provide a spark that can be difficult to find sitting around a 24 foot table.
There is nothing inherently wrong with board room meetings, but you can change things up. It’s not just about going somewhere different or changing the format of meetings for change’s sake. All of these tactics should be used appropriately, at the right time and with an eye towards increasing the effectiveness of communication, motivation and sense of urgency.