My exploration of this started when a client invited me to join and observe a leadership team meeting with the statement “I’m not convinced these meetings are very effective…” It reminded me of something in ‘From Contempt to Curiosity’ by Caitlin Walker. This sparked my creativity to try to capture visually what was happening in a way that as the title says — with curiosity.

So the first challenge was to answer the question:

What happens during meetings?

Over the last year I’ve played around with the technique and developed this quick and easy variation to the point where I use this almost daily in meetings large and small, remote or face to face, while still being an active participant.

Some extra tips — don’t worry about:

  • having a pre-prepared list of icons, just start by writing down the types of information you notice
  • capturing every single squeak, getting the essence and key themes is good enough
  • adding every person to the visual in larger meetings, just add those that contribute something (the example below is of a 2 hour meeting with over 200 people in 4 locations)

So — why bother? Well, what you end up with is… data. Rich insights into the nature of a meeting. Over time if you do this consistently with the same group you can easily identify patterns and trends and reflect these back to the group without judgement.

3 months after the original request to observe the leadership team meeting and 10 meetings worth of data, I asked them the following question to reveal what they believed the meeting were for :

Why is it that you come together on a weekly basis?

This was followed with a ‘play your cards right’ style game to reveal how many times they had:

  • broadcasted information at one another
  • shown appreciation
  • challenged each other
  • asked questions
  • referred to people as ‘resources’
  • made a decision
  • taken an action

Incredibly revealing stuff, and often out of line with what peoples intention for the meeting was, and what they thought was actually happening. The grand finale to all this is the follow up question:

Do you want to change anything about the meeting to better achieve its goals?

In the following weeks these meetings started: taking less time; beginning with appreciation; and provided permission for challenging each other. The number of times they referred to ‘resources’ went down too!

Now it’s over to you. You can try it in your note book without anyone even knowing, but believe me — people soon get curious and want to know more about it. This is when you can use this technique to influence change by providing insights without judgement.

Put pen to paper, give it a go and let me know how you get on.

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