Ever wonder why, no matter how hard you try, your meeting just doesn't go anywhere? Why, instead of exploring new ideas, people just get more entrenched in fighting for what they've already determined is the right way to go? If so, check out this post from Seth Godin:
Ironically, the setting and tone of a conference room work to create precisely the opposite effect. Business meetings (and sales calls) are custom-made for failure. People walk in and are reminded (in an overwhelmingly Proustian way) that this is the place to stand your ground, this is the place where good arguments carry the day and build careers, and weak-kneed flip-floppers hurt their careers. When was the last time you changed your mind in a conference room?
Thereâ€™s no point whatsoever in having a meeting designed to elicit change if the attendees are insulated against changing their minds. Assuming you are surrounded by co-workers who are willing to try, itâ€™s essential you go through exercises designed to loosen up the flip muscle.
You have to get them out of that mindset and open to change, which isn't easy. Seth suggests getting them to change something insignificant, just to set the mood. Some other ideas I have might be to turn the topic upside down somehow: Instead of the usual sales meeting blather—what are our challenges? How do we overcome them?ask, "what are our customers' challenges? How can we help them overcome their problems?" They probably aren't coming prepared with pre-stocked answers for that one, and might be more open to discussing new ideas they hadn't thought of before. OK, that's not a great example, but it's 93 degrees in here and my brain's fried again.
Or maybe start off with an out-there example of some kind, something nobody has heard of before that will get them off their prepared stances and ready to actually discuss, rather than pontificate on their preconceived points of view? I don't know.
How do you get people to exercise what Seth calls their "flip" muscle?
Update: I just read this idea from JigZaw, and kind of like it:
However, what I list as Agenda item 0 (yes Zero) before even introductions, is â€go over agendaâ€.
So, to start a meeting I try to have us read over the agenda, agree to it, but more importantly, at that point I ask for â€are there anything else that should be on the agenda? Anything which we should move up?â€
In most cases it is also useful and important that the agenda spell out the time for the meeting whether typed onto the page or merely described as I read it. i.e. â€Weâ€™ve agreed to meet for 45 minutes, hereâ€™s what is on the agenda, is there anything which we need to add? Anything we should move forward or remove?â€
This does not always work perfectly, but by getting people into a mood of making changes, as well as getting implicit buy-in to the agenda, meetings tend to move more quickly and effectively.
Whenever I hold a meeting I insist on a formal agenda - one which I print out ahead of time and present to everyone attending the meeting.