I have a simple rule for doing away with meetings that are useless for the company—and depressing for colleagues.
Meetings are supposed to be productive encounters, where points of view are expressed and challenged in a spirit of creative joy. Instead, they have become time-wasting diary obligations.
How much time do we spend in meetings—doing briefs, debriefs, workshops and kick-offs? How many times do we walk out the door frustrated about the overly consensual, lowest-common-denominator results, and with the feeling that the participants are imprisoned by rank and haven’t been able to let themselves go?
You know the game: The participants arrive one after the other, people sit protected behind a table, hiding behind the glowing screen of their laptop, hands on phones. People look isolated, like they’ve rebuilt their own private offices in the meeting room. Even though they’re sitting side by side, they are separated by invisible walls.
So, I’m going to let you in on a secret—one that will be a godsend, if you give it a try.
First, get rid of platforms and screens.
Then, ditch the laptops and phones.
And most important, replace the tables with armchairs and place them randomly around the room.
The meeting-goers will feel naked at first, exposed by the void left by the absent table and defenseless without their laptop shield. Yet, slowly but surely, they will start to express themselves as though they were in a comfortable lounge. Words begin to be expressed more freely and minds open. Some people walk around the room as they talk, approaching topics without apprehension. Ideas are expressed and challenged. Finally, a meeting is doing what it’s supposed to do.
Doing something as simple as removing tables and computers can be invigorating and freeing in a meeting. Once people’s armor is lowered, they talk to each other—making productive use of time and bringing a free flow of ideas.
At gyro, we call these meetings “humanly relevant.” We remove the traditional barriers and give people the freedom to openly express their ideas. It is what gives us ignition.
Try out my meeting method and tell me what you think.
Didier Stora is president of gyro Paris.