Friday, February 23, 2007

Meetings Make Us Dumber

One of the greatest things about working in higher education is lunch. Really… lunch is great at the University; you can count on great conversations. It is a real privilege to work with so many smart people.

Today I brought up the story I saw posted yesterday on MSNBC titled Meetings Make Us Dumber, Study Shows. It turns out that the headline was more interesting than the article. The basic gist of the article was that “people have a harder time coming up with alternative solutions to a problem when they are part of a group.” Sorry MSNBC, this is not big news.

Our lunch bunch agreed. Group think is rarely good at coming up with good solutions. So, we asked, should we ditch all the meetings we attend? No… but why? I think we correctly identified that meetings are great for two vital tasks:
  • Identifying problems and opportunities, and
  • Making good solutions better

That gave us a model that we’ve all seen work:

  1. Use groups and teams to identify problems and opportunities. Meetings are great for identifying problems that need attention, or noticing opportunities that might be seized.
  2. Look to individuals or small teams to formulate, and document, a solution or a few solutions.
  3. Use groups and teams to counterpunch with the proposal. Again, meetings are great for taking good solutions and making great solutions.

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