Meetings and complexity

There’s a good post at FacilitatorU: Avoid Collective Incompetence. It looks at why we suffer so much disappointment and frustration in meetings.

Part of this problem though can be attributed to our pervasive ignorance of the complexities of facilitating group thought. Most tend to think that the groups they lead or are part of, should operate just as efficiently as they do individually. This is in fact untrue. Further, the belief in this fallacy by your typical meeting-goer contributes to harsh judgment upon themselves and other participants, leading to apathy, inaction, and the continual self-fulfilling prophecy of meetings that just don’t work.

It gives a pretty cogent list of reasons why it’s hard for meetings to work well for their participants.

This reminded of a comment I left at Dwight Towers’ (who also pointed me to the above article) blog:

What do we mean by saying a method works? It’s absolutely as a piece of shorthand but humans being what they are, it’s unlikely that they’ll all agree on what works means. It may not always mean that everyone has a really good time. Sometimes a fractious meeting that ends with raw nerves is what needs to happen for some issues to be taken seriously.

Many clients get very attached to their events ending on a high note but I always feel a bit wary about this. Why do we think we can or should control when or how are participants get high? Why do we think we can or should have everyone agree at 5pm rather than some other time? We can easily confuse our search quality with a desire to over-control.

The British comedian Eric Morecambe was accused in a skit of playing all the wrong notes. He insisted he played the right notes, not nessarily in the right order. In similar vein, and intending a degree of lightness, we can say that all facilitation methods “Work” but not necessarily in the way we like.

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