Meetings get a bad rap. At best, they often feel pointless; at worst, they’re soul-sucking.
A book, “ The Surprising Science of Meetings,” aims to revamp meetings’ reputation, with strategies for maximizing their efficiency and eliminating the pain that comes with them. The author is Steven G. Rogelberg, a professor of management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who consults for companies including IBM and Procter & Gamble.
One of Rogelberg’s most compelling ideas is the no-talking meeting (or at least, no-talking portions of meetings). Apparently, talking, and specifically group brainstorming out loud, is where things go awry. Some people are too embarrassed to share their ideas, while others babble for so long that everyone else forgets their ideas.
To that end, Rogelberg proposes “brainwriting.” Instead of people talking through ideas together, meeting participants write down their ideas anonymously on paper. The group leader has the option to pass around the papers (or place them throughout the room) so everyone can read them and add their thoughts.
Research suggests that silent brainstorming yields better and higher-quality ideas than talking out loud.
Another option is to open every meeting with a period of silent reading, a strategy to ensure everyone does the assigned reading instead of just pretending. Only then does a spoken discussion take place.
Amazon has been known to hold meetings this way. In an interviewat the George Bush Presidential Center in April 2018, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said: “For every meeting, someone from the meeting has prepared a six-page, narratively structured memo that has real sentences and topic sentences and verbs. It’s not just bullet points. It’s supposed to create the context for the discussion we’re about to have.”
Rogelberg sums it up: “If attendees don’t share key information and insights relevant to the meetings goals, especially information they hold uniquely, the meeting is destined for mediocrity, at best.”