Meetings No 01
Editorial
Mindset
This is no ordinary meeting magazine.
Cover Story
Johan Johansson
encourages us to challenge our thought patterns.
Psychological Meetings
Meeting People
Gordon slowly opens the door just a little bit.
Radar
Ecological Breakfast
A great success.
Richard Gatarski
Gatarski Questions the Myth of Total Presence
Please turn on your mobile phones!
Shari Swan
Swan on New Ways of Working
and an ever present focus on the street.
Intermission
Take a Break with Cottam
Excerpts from Mothers Pearls: 27 short autobiographical chapters of aha moments of realization.
Radar
Business Meetings Management
A five part masters programme.
Jonas Bodin
Meeting With Meaning
CSR in practice
Jan Rollof
On Creativity
and its impact on meetings.
Mind Check
The Significance of Colours
Tomas Dalström picks the brain of Karl Rydberg.
Business Intelligence
Four Years Before the London Olympics
What's on, Barbara Jamison, at visit London?
Per Hörberg
Hidden Agendas
Affecting meetings everywhere.
Review
Meeting Architecture
Dr Elling Hamso an the most significant book ever.
Spread the Message
Nature's Ten Best Tips
To suddenly become green in your meeting concept is not as easy as it sounds.
Radar
Meetings Industry Research
Lund University conducts research into the meetings industry.
Radar
Lighting
A way of communicating.
Roger Kellerman
A Buyers' and Meetings Planners' Magazine
Why Meetings International goes international.
classifieds
news
New knowledge
Brain research
shows added value live events.
Covid-19
BTM World 2020
transitions to virtual.
post-pandemic momentum
Dubai Tourism forms Business Events Stakeholders committee,
host first meeting as industry resumes activity.
hotel news
Scandic expects
occupancy of 30-35 percent for September.
Covid developer
Scandic Hotels
launches the largest network of coworking spaces in the Nordic countries.
planned for 16-17 Sep
Update on GIAF
- New dates set for 5-6 November 2020.
sustainability
Sands Expo and Convention Centre
is now a carbon neutral venue.
positive impact
The Hague webinar
celebrates partnerships and first anniversary of Ottawa MOU.
expanding network
ICCA Partners up
with Geneva International Associations Forum (GIAF).
Sponsored Content
Taiwan Ready to Reopen to the World
Over 80 events taking place in Taipei now.
Links
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On Creativity

Every meeting should be a good meeting, be it an information meeting, decision meeting or any other type of meeting. But what does a good meeting mean? The obvious answer is good results. Good meetings solve their task and deliver good results, which is the reason for assembling people in the first place. Examples of desired results include information efficiently conveyed, good decisions made, or new plans developed.

Good results are necessary but may not be sufficient, particularly in the long term. The process for producing them should also be good. Participants should feel that the meeting itself was worth the time and effort. It should be perceived as valuable, stimulating, and fun. People should leave the meeting with new energy and insight. Knowledge has been shared, participants have been seen, and ideas, initiatives and opinions listened to. Competences and skills have been put to good use. The process has been fair.

Good, fair, and energetic processes motivate people to also make the next meeting a good one in a positive and continuous spiral. Meetings differ with regard to task, participants, and context. Therefore, delivery and outputs from meetings also varies, not least over time. In contrast, the culture is long term, and will influence how valuable and effective meetings are in the long run, and as a tool in daily practice. Meeting culture is more than just a central part of organizational culture; it also contributes to the culture. If the meeting culture is characterized by a consistent focus on improvement and innovation as well as respect for creativity and personal skill; if collaboration, knowledge sharing and constructive interaction are emphasized – then this will spread to other activities outside of meetings.

Creative meetings. Creative meetings – ah, the energy, the excitement, the joy that these words convey! But what are creative meetings? Why are they important? And how do meetings become creative?

Let us discuss these basic questions one by one. But first a few words on terminology. The heading of this article is Creative Meetings. Some readers may think that terms such as effective meetings, or innovative meetings, or productive meetings may be more appealing. The designation creative can sometimes, by some people and in some contexts, be regarded as something that can be done during leisure time, or when everything that “really needs to be done” is done.

However I will not abandon the term Creative for several reasons. The first is that creative meetings are productive, innovative and effective. Second, innovation starts with creative ideas (that are then refined, tested, developed and eventually implemented) and innovation is critical for success – hence creative meetings are a very core priority, not an optional side activity. Third, meetings are critical for motivation, culture and sharing of knowledge.

What, Why and How

What. My definition is that something new is created during the meeting, something that did not exist before the meeting. It may be an idea, a new hypothesis, and a novel solution to a problem. It may also be an interpretation, procedure, or strategic decision. The second aspect is that “The new” is created, developed and materialized through interaction between people.

Creative meetings are special. In creative meetings people are willing to contribute with their unique ideas and opinions, motivated to share knowledge and listen to the views and initiatives of others, and are committed to build and develop in interaction with other people. Therefore, aiming at creative meetings, rather than “just” good meetings, reflects an enhanced ambition. Yes, such meetings are special – and are therefore valuable.

Why. Studies have shown that innovation is consistently included as one of the top priorities of companies throughout the world. Creativity has a direct relationship to innovation, not only for generating original ideas, but also for developing and materializing novel solutions and initiatives to concrete innovation. Creative meetings are a central and core aspect in organizational life; they are not something odd, extra, or fun that may happen when “everything else” is done. A good meeting culture is also important for image and brand. To be known and respected as an organization for good, creative and effective meetings is not a trivial aspect; on the contrary, it is of huge importance for:

  • attracting and developing new talent and competences
  • relationships with customers, contractors, and owners
  • partners

Considering the emergence and use of new concepts of innovation and development, such as open innovation, and the role of business-to-business-transactions, meeting culture and quality will be increasingly important.

Good and creative meetings are also important for motivating and energizing people in an organization. Further, good meetings show, in concrete practice, the value of good leadership.

How. Inviting the right people. Having the “right” participants is of paramount importance. It is the ideas, energy, and competence of people that make a meeting exceptional. Without the right people, the task will not be solved in a good way and the meeting will not deliver expected results. But which people should be invited? If possible, representation of specific functions or organizational units should not be the only criteria, and perhaps not even the main criteria. It may be necessary to secure representation to some extent, but important aspects to consider are:

  • who likes to contribute, discuss, interact, build and improve?
  • which people have the creative and interactive mind set?
  • who is good at challenging ideas, statements and assumptions, without focus on personal issues?

The number of participants. There should be enough people. Two or three people may work efficiently but not necessarily effectively. There needs to be enough people so that objections and alternative views can be expressed. Also, with too few people at hand, the diversity in terms of attitude, personality, talent, and experience may not be sufficient. In my experience, somewhere around seven to eleven people tend to be a good group size. A larger number of people may translate to even more ideas, solutions and attitudes at hand — a broad and hopefully diverse palette — but larger groups often require more structure and effort. For example, by breaking up in smaller workgroups, which then reassemble and discuss in the larger group.

Interaction and collaboration. Interaction is the purpose of a meeting, the very reason for calling people to a venue. Therefore interaction should be encouraged, facilitated and supported – and factors that hinder interaction should be reduced. One example is limiting one-way communication. It may be necessary to communicate facts, give an overview of an opportunity or a problem, or provide context to a task – but such presentations should not occupy all or most of the time. There must be time for discussion and true interaction.

Understanding dynamics and processes. Creative processes usually encompass divergent phases where ideas spin out in every possible and impossible direction but also convergent processes, where ideas are sorted, compared, and ranked. The divergent processes are often fun and energetic but convergent phases are just as important in selecting a short list for further evaluation, refinement, and testing. Also, creative meetings should include, and actively build, a clear link to action. In the long term, having only feel-good meetings, without concrete action and results, is not sufficient.

Use of creative techniques. In my experience, creative techniques are not used as much as they ought to be. Such techniques are fun to use, they lead to results, and make the task easier, both for the meeting leader and the participants – a true win-win situation. It is advisable to learn a few techniques really well, and gain experience from them. In particular, it is valuable to find out which techniques that work well for different tasks, groups, and contexts.

Discussing a “working contract”. Many meetings are part of long-term work, for project groups, functional units, or collaborative undertakings. For such reoccurring meetings it may be beneficial to discuss a “contract” for how to work. It should preferably be done early. The goal is to define and agree on working principles that will make the participants want to contribute and collaborate, and feel stimulated to produce good results, while feeling at ease and enjoying the processes. To describe behaviours that are not acceptable may be tough but also very valuable. Later on, it may be easier to refer to the agreements made in a less personal and more neutral way. Discussing working principles may be valuable also for one-off meetings and could well improve the chances of the meeting leading to something more; a good first-time meeting may be the start of a long-term collaboration.

Meeting dynamics. A meeting represents a potential, in terms of the creativity, skill, and experience of the participants. That potential should be realized as fully as possible. In order to do so, people must be motivated to contribute, and feel free to debate. Hence, meeting dynamics have a crucial role. One central principle is that the inherent value and quality of ideas and opinion is what counts, not the position or rank of those who deliver them. The communication in creative meetings should be horizontally oriented rather than vertically when ideas and opinions are expressed, received, and discussed. Hierarchy or inappropriate use of power must not hinder interaction and collaborative initiatives. A climate of trust and good leadership are key factors in this context.

Meeting facilitation. As discussed above, good results obtained through good processes are the hallmarks of good meetings. To achieve these goals, understanding of group dynamics and professional use of creative techniques are of special value. An experienced facilitator can assure structure and focus on tasks, while securing space for creative latitude and flexibility. That is not only a recipe for good results but also to make meetings fun and energetic and enhancing their value as learning experiences and a vital part of skills enhancement. The role of meeting facilitation is increasingly recognized.

The culture-bearing role of meetings. Last but not least, I would like to again emphasize the culture-bearing role of creative meetings, because of the value in long term perspective, for image and brand, and for energizing and motivating people. Also, because the right culture is conducive to good, original and innovative results.

 

I would like to thank Michael Sefcik for his kind help and valuable comments.