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While many good ideas may be generated during brainstorming meetings, often one is chosen as the winner and the others discarded.

Michael Roberto’s technique avoids moving too quickly from possibilities, but still helps to narrow and focus attention on the best. The Bryant University management professor proposes three questions that everyone in the meeting must answer:

  • What two best ideas are easy and fast to implement? He calls them green ideas because they can get the green light to move ahead fairly quickly.
  • What are your two best ideas that will delight customers? He calls them yellow ideas as they bring a smile to the customer’s face. Usually these aren’t as feasible, financially or otherwise, as those green proposals.
  • What are the two best ideas that represent a “moon shot,” pushing the limits of what’s possible? They’re called blue ideas. “We find it important to keep some blue ideas alive moving into the prototyping stage so as to avoid becoming trapped into only considering incremental solutions,” he writes on the Leading with Questions blog.

After everyone casts their two votes for each category, the best ideas move ahead. This avoids a key decision-making trap of becoming fixated too quickly on one solution. By advising people at the outset of the three categories, it also ensures a range of solutions are proposed, some incremental, some very customer-focused, and some bold leaps into an uncertain future. So consider the green-yellow-blue brainstorming method for your next session.

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In the new book Brave New Work, organizational design consultant Aaron Dignan offers a host of other ideas for improving your meetings, including:

  • Appoint a facilitator and scribe, to keep the meeting moving smoothly and record any actions or output. The facilitator would have the power to cut off conversational tangents.
  • Hold retrospective meetings, where the team stops, notices and learns. This echoes the military’s after-action reviews: Following a big push of work, or ideally at regular intervals, the team gathers and shares their perspective on what happened, what was momentous and what can be better next time. He argues this is the most-valuable but least-practised type of meeting.
  • Even if it seems like wasting time, start each meeting with a check-in round, asking a question that everyone must answer, so you can connect on a human level. Samples: What’s on your mind? What are you looking forward to? What’s the biggest risk you have taken?
  • Keep that approach going by having everyone participate in rounds rather than helter-skelter, which ensures inclusion. Everyone can provide an update, or ask questions or offer feedback while others listen respectfully.
  • Build an agenda on the fly: Instead of preparing an agenda in advance, choose and prioritize topics when you get into the room. “If we don’t get to it, we don’t save it. Someone will bring it up next time if it’s still important,” he says.
  • And, if you’re thinking that’s fine, but the big problem is we have too many meetings in my workplace, try a meeting moratorium. “Sometimes the only way to see things clearly is to stop the madness,” he says. Cancel all recurring meetings for two weeks. Then ask: What did we miss? What do we need that we’re not getting for informal interactions? Rebuild, slowly, one meeting at a time.

Quick Hits

  • When distracted, mindfulness teacher Rafael Puebla on the Thrive Global blog suggests taking three breaths. On the first, pay attention to the air; on the second, relax the body; and on the third, ask “What is most important now?"
  • You don’t bounce back from failure, says trainer Dan Rockwell. You grind back.
  • When tackling a tough project, start by tackling its hardest and most urgent challenge, since if that can’t be dealt with you want to know it up front, says Astro Teller, who oversees “moon shots” at Google X. Usually we tackle the easy part to show our boss how much progress we are making.
  • While rehearsing a speech or presentation is helpful in early preparations, the day of the speech you will be preoccupied, coach Nick Morgan says, and it won’t do much good. Instead, go over the speech structure several times.
  • Journalist AnnaMarie Houlis suggests for women the best outfit for an interview is black. Research in 2017 found 70 per cent of the 180 hired candidates surveyed wore mostly black outfits to interviews, while just 33 per cent of the rejected candidates wore black. Avoid orange or red.

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