Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Defending Meetings: They are not all bad after all!

Creativity expert David Burkus has a published a great blog post in which he defends the dreaded meeting.  He argues that meetings can actually make us more creative.  Really?  Well, he's talking about a particular type of meeting.  He cites some interesting research to make his point.  Here's an excerpt:

Psychologist Kevin Dunbar studied the workings of four prominent microbiology laboratories for insights into the creative work of experimentation. The findings from these field studies defied the conventional image of the lone scientist staring into a microscope to reveal a great discovery. Instead, Dunbar found that the most creative insights and greatest discoveries actually occurred during regularly scheduled lab meetings, where individual researchers revealed their latest findings and shared their most difficult setbacks. The creative discoveries produced by these labs occurred only after these individuals conspired together to find a solution or draw connections between previously unconnected insights.

 What's the key insight here?  At these meetings, people share their ideas, describe the work that they are doing, and they ask others to help them address the obstacles that they have encountered.  People have an opportunity to see the links between different streams of work, and they can provide each other valuable assistance.  To make this type of meeting helpful, you have to be willing to share your work process, not just your outputs.  You have to admit what you do not know, and you have to be willing to ask for help.  In other words, you have to have a very safe climate in which all attendees are comfortable sharing these types of issues with others, and in which they are willing to make themselves a bit vulnerable.  Unfortunately, that's often not the case in many meetings. 


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