There are a couple of astonishing facts on why brainstorming meetings are not as effective as letting your team to think and work individually.
In IT business, usually there are a lot of very talented, brilliant guys that are introverts. They are exceptionally good at what they are doing (designing system architectures, database models, coding, problem solving, debugging etc.), but rarely, due to their introvert nature, they will be active talkers on meetings.
This may lead to very poor brainstorming sessions, where you do not take advantage of your team’s strengths.
What’s interesting is that it’s not only the case with introverts, but in general people tend to be less productive on meetings than when working on their own (there are a couple of studies performed that prove it, which you can dig into – see “Further reading” at the end of the post).
So why brainstorming doesn’t work? Why meetings fail to produce good results?
- Social loafing. Some people tend to put less effort in work while working in the group. For example they become inactive, start staring at their smartphones or ceiling. They become not involved unless asked specific questions.
- Productivity blocking. Only one person can be spitting out/articulating ideas at the time. Others need to wait for their turn, which in case of introverts or less engaged members of your team in the discussed topic may not come at all.
- Social inhibition. It is a fear of making a fool of yourself in the group. Given person may have a very good idea, but due to feeling less confident, decides not to share it with the group, because of fear of being criticised.
Of course, it does not deny meetings aren’t necessary or you should not organise them at all. It’s more about the purpose of them and how your team comes prepared to it.
How to make your meetings effective?
- Keep them short. There is nothing worse than long meetings, where everybody gets bored. Try to keep them within 30 minutes.
- Keep focused on the subject. Making too many off-topic discussions not only make the meeting long, but also puts you away from what you wanted decide/achieve.
- Prepare to the meeting. Let everyone work on their own to prepare to the discussion, come up with their ideas etc. Make sure that the meeting is only to join the results together.
- Keep all members involved. There is no point in inviting someone to the meeting who will be just hearing and not adding any value – it’s a waste of time. If you need to keep someone informed, you can brief such person after the meeting about findings or decisions.
- Take notes. Always decide who will be taking notes and brief all parties involved after the meeting is over (and everyone else who should know about it, but did not attend the meeting).
- Article: GROUPTHINK: The brainstorming myth by Jonah Lehrer
- Book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain