Meetings bring a group together to quickly discover answers and ideas that no one person can find by themselves.
Whether we’re working to negotiate the details of a new project, finding a way to tackle a challenging problem, or seeking to define our strategic vision, the pattern is the same; someone poses a question, and the group starts brainstorming answers.
Effective brainstorming is essential to nearly every type of business meeting.
Unfortunately, not all questions are created equally.
Sometimes the questions asked in a meeting don’t invite meaningful answers. Asking “Everyone good with that?” after dictating a decision isn’t an effective way to surface real concerns or get real commitments.
Some questions are too vague, making it unclear what kind of answer to give. Questions like “Do you have any feedback?” result in either polite non-replies (e.g., “Nope, I’m good.”) or long-winded side discussions that don’t necessarily get to the answers the group needs.
Getting great ideas from a group during a meeting can be hard, and for many participants, traditional brainstorming can feel like a painful waste of time.
First, despite the popularity of brainstorming sessions, we have some evidence that meetings aren’t always the best place to birth new ideas. Ideal or not, however, sometimes a meeting is the only real opportunity we have to explore ideas as a group, so we’d better make it work.
Second, our brains all work differently.
Not every group welcomes new ideas, creating a social imperative to keep any answers within a comfortable range of safe topics.
Some people don’t seem to understand the difference between a group meeting and a personal consultation, taking it upon themselves to dominate the meeting by answering all the questions first, loudly, and in great detail.