Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

In Defense of Meetings

ARCHIVES
Pressmaster/Shutterstock.com

Walking down the hallway the other day, we saw a man sitting in a conference room with his head buried in his hands. Ten minutes later, we walked by again and found him leaning so far back in his chair he nearly fell over. It didn’t take a brain scientist to figure out what he was thinking. His expression and posture said it all: He was bored and wanted to be somewhere, anywhere else.

He’s not alone. Most of us hate meetings. So much so that our collective distaste for them is often the butt of jokes on TV shows like Silicon Valley and The Office, and even in viral YouTube videos like this one, which pokes fun at all the interruptions, static, and awkwardness associated with conference calls.

But just because we’ve had bad experiences with meetings doesn’t mean we need to throw them out entirely. In fact, with the influx of technology, there is a greater need for face-to-face meetings than ever before. A recent study by computer scientist Alex Pentland found that Bank of America call center employees were actually more productive when they were given face-to-face coffee breaks with colleagues (previously, they were only allowed to take coffee breaks alone).

So meetings in and of themselves are not bad. We just need to change the structure of meetings—literally and physically.

First we need to change the social structure of meetings. In our discussions with CEOs, we hear often that they have a greater need for teams than for individual heroes. It seems the problems our world faces are too complex for a single person to tackle. So if teams are the future of work, what makes a good team, and how do we engineer meetings to support them in their quest for innovation and differentiation?

The answer comes from research conducted by Thomas Malone of the Sloan School at MIT. He’s found that three factors predict the collective intelligence and performance of a group. The first is the average social perceptiveness, or emotional intelligence, of a group. The second, the degree to which the group members participated about equally in the conversation. If one or two people dominated the group discussion, then on average the group was less collectively intelligent. And finally, the percentage of women plays a role: more women correlated with more intelligent groups.

Then we need to change the physical structure of meetings. That’s where we as architects come in. For example, we’re learning from neuroscience research that the most effective meetings take place while walking. Research shows that exercise creates a protein called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor,” or BDNF, which “improves the function of neurons.” Essentially, exercise makes you smarter.

We’re also learning of the profound impact ceiling height has on meetings. For example, high ceilings should be provided for workers who need to be creative, where meetings that involve mathematical calculations should be done in rooms with lower ceiling heights. In addition, we’ve found that people perform better when they are in proximity to natural light and nature in general.

So here are our tips for making your meetings and meeting spaces more effective.

  1. Get up and move around. There is no more effective way to meet than by taking a walk around the block.
  2. There are no one-size-fits-all rooms. So include a variety of meeting spaces, some with visual privacy, others with no visual privacy; some with acoustical privacy, and others with none. The key is diversity.
  3. Make sure you fill your office with team players.
  4. Remember: the more women, the more intelligent your team.

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here. 

(Image via Pressmaster/Shutterstock.com)

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.