I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.
I was on LinkedIn recently, and I read a very funny post about meetings. It goes like this:
“Are you lonely?
Tired of working on your own?
Do you hate making decisions?
HOLD A MEETING!
You can –
- See people
- Show charts
- Feel important
- Point with a stick
- Eat donuts
- Impress your colleagues
All on company time!
THE PRACTICAL ALTERNATIVE TO WORK”
After laughing hysterically to the post, I began thinking about all the useless meetings I have attended. Perhaps the most useless of all – the brainstorm session. At one of my jobs, my boss was notorious for calling brainstorm sessions with ten minutes notice. Can you come up with great ideas in 10 minutes? Me neither.
Oftentimes the purpose of a brainstorm session is to generate great ideas during the meeting. There will be a whiteboard and someone will be the designated writer. That person will write on the whiteboard all the ideas the meeting attendees spit out. At these type of meetings, I rarely had any ideas. I’m an introvert. I’m very deliberate in what I say. I hate to think out loud. I’m obviously not built for brainstorm sessions – at least not with this format.
An issue that can arise from these type of meetings is groupthink. One person, usually an extrovert who likes to talk (is there an extrovert who doesn’t enjoy talking?), expounds on an idea and the others fall in line. There’s no real debate. The meeting attendees adopt a line of thinking and never consider alternatives. I don’t think this is helpful.
The opposite happens, too. There’s constant debate. One person proposes an idea, and it is challenged immediately. Sometimes, it’s challenged so quickly that the person challenging it couldn’t have possibly given it enough thought. That person is simply a cynic who doesn’t think that any idea he didn’t come up with will work. This isn’t helpful, either.
I have a solution. Hopefully my old boss is reading this.
My best ideas always show up when I’m by myself. Eating a bowl of cereal, taking a shower, driving somewhere, then BOOM – an idea arises. I come up with most of my blog posts when I’m just staring into space. When I’m among others in brainstorm meetings, those ideas don’t come. I spend so much time listening to what others are saying, I have no energy left to come up with ideas.
A better way to come up with ideas is to give people the problem to solve and ask them to think up solutions on their own. I can generate ideas and then consult with a few people to flesh the ideas out. Then I can come to the brainstorm meeting with more substantive ideas to share. Wouldn’t this be a better use of time? If you adopt this approach, you’d impress your colleagues even more at the meeting. And you’d still get donuts!