Productivity Tip #7

How often do you hear a colleague say, “I’m so excited to attend today’s group meeting,” or a student remark, “How is it possible that my group meetings are so stimulating and engaging?”

What’s that? You’ve never heard anyone say those things? Me neither. I dread meetings for the same reason that everyone does: They’re usually a waste of time…..So I decided to intervene. But instead of telling everyone what I, as principal investigator, thought the new format should be, I decided to have it originate from the group itself. I wanted our meetings crisis to be resolved from within, collectively, with a dash of Obama 2008—in other words, “We are the meeting we have been waiting for.”

These are the questions I posed: Why weren’t people contributing during our meetings? Why did they take their phones out? What did they think would make the meeting experience better?

At first only a few people raised their hands to offer suggestions. Then more. And more. And then the room filled with a robust discussion. Every single person in the room participated. Everyone. It was the liveliest and most collaborative meeting we’d ever had. We discussed, we argued, we complained, we made fun of ourselves. We got it all out and then some. We reclaimed the importance of our time together as a group. And then we voted on the completely new structure that we had come up with.

I’ll tell you the particulars of that structure, but not before offering a warning: Our approach to meetings might not be the right one for every group. The format should depend on the people and the type of research involved. The key is that, whatever the format, it has to have come from the members themselves.

During our intervention, an idea that became extremely important was that of the meeting as an “opportunity.” That word kept being repeated. We talked about how badly we had been squandering the opportunity, how valuable it could be, and how much we all wanted to maintain it. (Yes, not having group meetings at all was on the table, but nobody wanted that. Really.) In fact, what came out of our group catharsis was a realization that this opportunity was the only one in which all of us—with different ways of thinking, different backgrounds, and different interests working on different problems—could come together to talk about research.


Read more at The Chronicle of Higher Education: Regrouping the Group Meeting by Jeffrey C. Grossman

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