Unlocking Creativity and Better Decision Making in Meetings

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We’ve all been there—sitting in a meeting that feels like it’s dragging on for hours, repeatedly going over the same points.  Or, perhaps even worse, being too afraid to speak up for fear of being judged or ignored.  You’ve tried the usual techniques; you have added agendas, you have canceled unneeded meetings, and you’ve diligently written down and tracked action items.  What next?  Collaboration is supposed to be about unlocking creativity and better decision-making, but bad meetings suck all the fun out.  Thankfully, with the tech-enabled tools available to us now and some creative facilitation techniques, we can ensure these dreaded meetings are a thing of the past. 


Leveling the Playing Field in Hybrid Meetings

When it comes to effective meetings, it’s crucial to ensure everyone is included in the discussion.  Unfortunately, when some people are meeting face-to-face, and others are joining remotely, this can create an imbalance of power — with remote meeting participants feeling left out or unable to participate.  To ensure everyone feels heard and empowered, our team established a strict ‘raise hand’ feature policy for all meetings.  We also started using ‘Companion Mode’ in Google Meet, a tool that gives remote participants access to the same tools as that meeting face-to-face.  This way, everyone has equal access to features like screen sharing, raise hand, emojis, and annotation tools while taking notes — no one needs to be left out of the conversation due to technical limitations. 


Including everyone in meetings isn’t just nice; it’s essential for productivity and collaboration.  Using companion mode leveled the playing field between our face-to-face and remote participants.  Additionally, by having all participants join through companion mode — both physically present and remotely — there’s now less confusion about who has what capabilities during the meeting. 


Driving aligned decision-making with multiple stakeholders

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone spends hours discussing a subject, and no accurate decisions are made?  If so, it can feel like your time is completely wasted.  It’s incredibly frustrating when you have multiple people that need to agree on something, like when you get two departments to align on a budget proposal.  Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to this problem–structure the discussion in mini-topics with natural breaking points and use the polling function!  After reviewing each topic on a slide or section in a document, you can use the polling function to ask if everyone is aligned.  This has several benefits – first of all, it helps you resolve complex topics one by one instead of having everyone argue about everything at once.  It also clarifies who the dissenting voices are so you can have open, honest conversations.  Finally, it ensures that everyone leaves the meeting with a decision firmly established.   


We recently implemented this new presentation structure in our approval meetings and found it worked well for us.  Instead of spending hours arguing over every detail and never getting anywhere, using the polling feature helped us move quickly through each point and reach an agreement more easily.  The result was more efficient meetings with clear outcomes and decisions made much faster.  Using this presentation structure made our meetings shorter, and we could finish more in less time.  We also found that our team members felt more engaged since they could see their opinion was valued and heard during discussions instead of just sitting back while one person made all the decisions without input from others. 


Using Advanced Feedback Collection Techniques

Gathering feedback for any project can be a challenge.  Understanding the input’s nature, especially during product reviews or design critiques, is essential.  Some feedback is a directive that needs to be followed immediately, while others may be a suggestion that could be considered further down the line.  To help make this process easier, advanced feedback collection techniques can provide clarity when giving feedback on projects so everyone involved can understand precisely what needs to be done. 


One advanced technique that my coworker suggested we try for design critiques and other meetings is having three columns labeled “Do,” “Try,” and “Consider” on sheets where feedback is collected.  This way, everyone knows which changes need to happen immediately versus which are just suggestions that can be revisited later.  For example, suppose time or budget restrictions are an issue.  In that case, the suggested changes within the “Consider” column should not necessarily be ignored but saved for another time when those factors are no longer an issue. 


It’s important to note that even though this method provides structure, it should still not limit creativity or critical thinking when discussing ideas related to the project at hand.  The three-column system provides a template for collecting information and prioritizing tasks; it should not take away from anyone’s ability to think outside the box and bring something unique or innovative to the table!  It also doesn’t hurt to assign someone with experience with this type of system as the leader of these discussions to ensure everyone stays on task and focuses on delivering valuable feedback within each meeting.  


Unleashing creativity and making better meeting decisions doesn’t have to be complicated.  Tech solutions and meeting structures can help make meetings more inclusive, decisive, and productive—so that everyone feels like they have a seat at the table.  With these three techniques, you can take your meetings to the next level.  Not only will they run more smoothly, but you’ll see an increase in creativity and better decision-making.  Lastly, don’t forget to have some fun!  Now go out there and try these tips yourself – I promise you won’t be disappointed with the results.

About the Author

Aastha Gaur is a team leader for over 120 Customer Engagement (CE) colleagues.  Her team encompasses Design, Qualitative and Quantitative Research, UX Engineering, Content Strategy, and Conversation Design.  Gaur oversees three UX Directors across the US and India.

She is recognized and known for establishing Customer-centricity to achieve business outcomes and building effective and efficient high-functioning teams.

Aastha blogs at aasthagaur.com. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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