Bright people love meeting other clever people. It’s one of the main reasons university is such fun. A great dinner party, a good lunch, even a drink after work with an old friend can have the same effect. Dialogue between two or more intelligent men and women generally produces interesting ideas, exciting opportunities, and if there’s a need, answers to problems.
But did I say ‘or more’? How many more? How many clever people do we want in any one room before more becomes less, there is a fight to be heard, and the meeting becomes counter-productive?
Having studied the meeting phenomenon, and what can go wrong when there are too many people around the table, I would recommend starting with two, adding maybe one or two more, and stopping there – at least for the first session of what may turn into a series of several. Meetings are the way we have settled on working together. Meetings are not basically for talking, or listening, or even debating. The purpose of strategic and dynamic meetings is to get things done – to make a decision, to turbo-charge a project, to solve a big problem, or realise a juicy opportunity.
What is the key dynamic in a dynamic meeting? Working together – yes. But even more important, thinking together. I believe it is by thinking together that we maximise mutual brainpower. When we talk enthusiastically about two heads being better than one, thinking together is what we are talking about. Encouraging children to think together is one of the pillars of the education system, and yet we easily forget how powerful this joint activity can be, and lapse instead into wall to wall words. The lust for communicating in public has a lot to answer for.
The next time you call an important meeting – one where a goal has to be achieved, and a result is imperative – let me suggest this approach.
‘Can you, Rachel and I find time to meet this week. Ideally for 90 minutes, but an hour might do it. The Pure Ptarmigan campaign clearly isn’t working. I know it won us the pitch, and the Link results were extraordinary. But no one is buying the stuff, and it seems to be a disaster in the on-trade. ‘Pure Ptarmigan’ is a useless bar call, because the bloody bird starts with a ‘T’, not a ‘P’. Far from quaking on its moor, Famous Grouse is laughing at us. We need to get together and think together about what we should do. I absolutely don’t want to fill a conference room with a dozen people who will tell us they knew it wouldn’t work, although they said nothing at the time. Nor will we learn anything from a couple more focus groups and a bit of quant. It will just confirm it isn’t working – and that we already know. Please just bring your brains. We will huddle. We will share our thoughts. We will think our way through this’.
Read more from David Wethey in our Clubhouse.