As a facilitator, I pay attention to effective interventions in group discussions. Of late I’ve found one of the most effective has been the introduction of a plateful of Jaffa Cakes to a meeting. I notice that this seems to generate an immediate rise in the sociability and general good humour of particpants. Ever the scientist, I have carefully introduced other stimuli such as a bowl of grapes or a selection of healthy cereal bars but found the impact, so far, nothing to compare with the Jaffas.
Ok, I’m being slightly facetious here. But it’s worth noticing the impact of environment on meetings. It’s especially interesting to note the impact of some very small changes in that environment.
It’s often thought that in order to stimulate creative thinking, it’s necessary to move to a very wacky, very stimulating venue, with lots of bright colours and interesting furniture. Actually, I think that sometimes leads to a kind of cognitive overload. That is part of a wider problem of confusing a creative atmosphere with a highly stimulated or adrenalised one, a problem I see in a lot of brainstorming. In reality, a very small intervention can often make a more useful difference.
I also know full well that this particular trick will not always work. In fact, now that I’ve identified it, it probably won’t. So I’m not going to rely on Jaffa cakes as a standard solution to getting meetings more sociable. But I think I will persist in being delighted by noticing how tiny, often accidental incidents, shift the ways people relate to each other.