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Posts Tagged ‘Meeting Leadership’

How to Kill a Great Idea

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Assumptions: A major roadblock to innovation
By Mitchell Ditkoff

Thomas Edison had a very simple way of conducting job interviews. He’d invite prospective employees to join him for soup in the company cafeteria. If they salted their soup before tasting it, the interview was over. Plain and simple. Given the nature of his work – where even a single stone unturned could mean the difference between the failure or success of a costly product – Edison could not afford to surround himself with people ruled by faulty assumptions.

Of all the roadblocks to innovation, assumptions are the worst. Invisible, insidious and habitual, they stop us before we even start – the default position for those of us too consumed by our past to consider the future the way it really is: pure potentiality.

Definition of an assumption
What is an assumption? Simply put, it’s “taking something for granted”. A “supposition.” We do it all the time – although not always to our detriment. For example, if you leave your toothbrush in the bathroom at night, it’s safe to assume that it will be there in the morning. Your assumption saves you lots of time searching for it in the kitchen or garage. Other assumptions, however, don’t work out quite as well – despite the seeming evidence for their veracity. Many of our ancestors, for example, assumed the earth was flat. They had “proof.” They saw it with their own eyes. But their so-called proof – their inaccurate interpretation of existing phenomena – was a far cry from reality. And it was precisely because of their faulty assumptions, that many of our ancestors missed out on the New World and all the fabulous beachfront property that came with it.

Think about it. If every ten years half of what scientists believe to be true is proven to be false, how much of what your decisions are based on is anything more than just a temporary – and not very elegant – arrangement of half-baked perceptions, flaky factoids, and loosely interpreted statistics?
Take a minute now to consider what you may be assuming falsely. What conclusions have you drawn that prevent you from sailing new oceans? What beliefs are you bound by that are likely to be laughable three years from now? Are you absolutely sure you know what your customers want? Are you positive your manager won’t free up the money to fund your latest idea? Can you say, without a shadow of a doubt, that your current strategy to accomplish your “stretch goal” is based on anything more than hearsay and hot talk?

Famous assumptions
But hey, you’re not alone in your tendency to jump to conclusions. Join the club as you consider some of these (now famous) limiting assumptions throughout history:

“I think there is a world market for about five computers.” (Thomas Watson, founder of IBM)

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” (Charles Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899)

“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” (Albert Einstein)

“The phonograph is not of any commercial value.” ( Thomas Edison)

“I don’t need body guards.” (Jimmy Hoffa)

“Man will not fly for 50 years.” (Wilbur Wright, 1903)

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” (Bill Gates)

“With over 50 foreign cars on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market for itself.” (Business Week, 1968)

Conclusion
What is your biggest assumption about your hottest new idea? What is your company’s most pervasive, collective assumption? What can you do today to identify the one assumption most likely to sabotage your future success? What can you do to go beyond it?

Mitchell Ditkoff is president of Idea Champions, www.ideachampions.com
Reprinted from innovationtools.com

Training Solution: Pigeonholed in The Land of Penguins This video shows your employees how to see their co-workers in a new and different way; and helps them tap into the creativity of every team member.

Meetings that Matter: A Four-Step Model for Creating an Effective Learning Environment

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

I have a theory that if I listen well enough, everything I need to know about business I can learn from my kids.

The latest example involved a simple truth about why adults hate business meetings, and it inspired me to share some thoughts on how to take the pain out of corporate get-togethers, including training sessions, and turn them into gatherings people leave saying, “That was a fabulous use of our time, money and energy.”

When my daughter started high school, she came down heavy on one of her teachers in critiquing one of her classes for me: “All he does is talk. He never lets us do anything.” Keep in mind this is a course she wanted to take and a subject she wants to master. The pain is complicated by disappointment.
I’ve felt the same way when leaving many seminars and training sessions – well-intentioned affairs with too much talk and too little do.

So I developed a process I call LOOP Learning (Linkage, Obstacles, Opportunities, Plans) because it helps create sessions designed with real-world business issues in mind, and because it actively involves people learning about and dealing with those issues.

First, I abide by the need for good meetings and training sessions to be built around a well-developed agenda, an agreed-upon schedule and a group commitment to keep on track. But I’ve discovered four things more fundamental that, if accomplished, create high-energy, highly productive meetings:

Linkage. A vital early step is to make sure the session creates a sense of ownership in the participants about why they are together, and to assure the agenda connects to a specific business issue. Help people answer the question, “Why is this important – to me, to our team and to the company?” Linkage lifts responsibility for the challenge off the shoulders of “the boss” or the trainer who called the session and shares it with everyone in the room.

Obstacles. Sometimes the most important thing you can do in a meeting or training session is identifying what´s blocking your goals. Acknowledge there are barriers, and examine the risk in not overcoming them and of not challenging the status quo.

Opportunities. Once people understand the challenge and the barriers, turn them loose on generating ideas for improving, changing and innovating current successes and creating new possibilities for growth and success. An important element of identifying opportunities is to challenge the mindset that there is only one right way to do things. It’s critical to keep asking questions, knowing that solutions always will be a moving target.

Plans. The final step is to clarify priorities and to make plans and commitments for what must be done to achieve the desired business results. Determine who will do what and by when, to move toward the goal. Commitment and accountability built into the learning process help to achieve sustainable results.

The length of a session influences what can be accomplished and how, but in almost all sessions this model allows for a blend of interactive exercises, stories, activities, video vignettes, music, metaphors and illustrations related to the business objective. Perhaps the only “rule” for using LOOP Learning gets back to my daughter’s lesson: Give people plenty of chances to talk to each other and share ideas about how to deal with the challenge.

The objective in designing worthwhile meetings is to create an environment that encourages people to think differently, build on each other’s ideas and develop high levels of communication, commitment and collaboration. Think about a classroom full of teenagers. Energy and intelligence abound, as in every work team. When we bring people together, the challenge is to tap them, not to turn them off.

Reprinted with permissions from effectivemeetings.com

7 Quick Tips for Leading Meetings

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Do you only have a minute to spare? Need a few quick tips for leading your next meeting? Check out the tips below!

1. Be Very Clear on the Purpose of the Meeting
Before your meeting, set goals and decide upon the specific objective for the upcoming meeting. Identify the desired outcome for each agenda item to be discussed. Doing this will clarify what needs to be accomplished during the meeting.

2. Begin Small Meetings with Introductions
First introduce yourself and thank people for coming to the meeting. Review the proposed agenda for the attendees. Briefly explain each item, so people understand what the agenda topics mean and point out the time limit. Ask if there are any questions. Doing this provides structure to the meeting and communicates to the attendees that the meeting has a schedule and a defined set of goals that must be accomplished.

3. Involve As Many People As Possible During the Meeting
Ask silent people for their opinions, call on a variety of people, and don’t allow nonstop talkers to monopolize the discussion – everyone will appreciate it. Having a variety of people contributing not only creates an interesting discussion but also promotes a more in-depth discussion. The more perspectives that are involved, the better your group’s decisions. Making an effort to involve all participants also moves people from a passive to an active role.

4. Make Sure Everyone Understands What’s Going On
Throughout the discussion, it’s a good idea to clarify and summarize what’s happening. This shows consideration for all of your meeting participants and helps maintain focus during the meeting.

5. Remember That Time Is Important
Disorganized and unexpectedly long meetings can demoralize people. Try to put time limits on each agenda item and select a timekeeper. Keep the meeting moving and adhere to the schedule dictated by the agenda. Otherwise, your meeting will go overtime and the attendees will become frustrated.

6. Assign Action Items
When action items arise from the meeting discussion, assign them immediately. Select an individual, a priority level and a due date for the action item. This way, no items will be forgotten or left unassigned. You’ll likely get some volunteers to help fulfill any remaining action items. Naturally, everyone wants to be helpful and cooperative in front of their peers!

7. End the Meeting with a Summary of Decisions and Assignments
Take five minutes to review the outcome of each agenda item, as well as the action items list. Doing this ends the meeting on a note of accomplishment and also reminds the attendees who’s responsible for what after the meeting adjourns. It’s also a good idea to review the meeting process. Ask the group what went well during the meeting and which areas need improvement. Take note of the comments and try to improve on them the next time you lead your group’s meeting.

Reprinted with permission from Better Business Meetings by Robert B. Nelson and Peter Economy © 1995 by RICHARD D. IRWIN, INC.

Training Solution- Meeting Robbers: Stop those dominating, time-sucking, overbearing, idea-stealing people from derailing your next meeting! This video shows you the secrets to shutting them down, and getting everyone at the table to contribute.


 

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