We’re all familiar with the plot point: a character has a lightbulb moment and pulls an all-nighter, scribbling theorems on a whiteboard and frantically flipping through books while gritting a pen between their teeth. When inspiration strikes, we tune out our surroundings so as not to disrupt the precious flow of ideas. But imagine what would happen if said scientist was interrupted mid-formula by a child incessantly asking for a glass of water or a dog that wouldn’t stop barking? The same thing can happen in a meeting when one person opens their laptop. Suddenly it’s a domino effect: the room turns into a bunch of bowed heads furiously typing, derailing what may have been the perfect setting for innovative ideas. Call it a “laptop landslide,” it can cause the death of a productive brainstorm session. So what can a good leader do instead of watching the slow motion crescendo of one laptop squeaking open? Here are a few steps to stop the slide.
Ask a Random Question
One of the best ways to command attention in a room is to ask everyone a question that requires a thoughtful answer. The question doesn’t even need to be tangentially related to the task at hand, because the real value is in getting respondents to take a beat and really reflect. Questions can be light-hearted such as asking each person to name one thing people would be surprised to know about them or what animal they wish they were. The goal here is to help reset the meeting and get everyone in the mindset to brainstorm and participate. It can also provide some much-needed levity, a more impactful way to get back on track.
Try Pen and Paper
One of the best ways to stop a “laptop landslide’ is of course, to ban laptops. While meeting participants may argue they need them to take notes, research suggests that this kind of note-taking is not as effective as handwriting. The reason? Typing notes verbatim doesn’t allow for the same comprehension and retention as handwriting, where one is more inclined to process concepts. Additionally, without a laptop, tablet or smartphone in the room, attendees can’t be tempted by email or dinging alerts from their apps. For brainstorms, post-it notes, flip charts and whiteboards are reliable ways to capture notes but make sharing them post-meeting a little convoluted. A better option is the smartpad like the Bamboo Folio or Bamboo Slate, which offer the benefit of handwriting with the ability to save files digitally. Write as you would normally with a pen and paper and with the touch of a button, the Bamboo smartpad can save files (up to 100 pages locally) and when synced later with a tablet or smartphone, files can be easily edited and shared with others.
Take a Time out
The time out is a tactic that most parents are familiar with. While it’s generally a form of punishment, it can be restorative to stop an activity for a few moments and take a few deep breaths, drink a glass of water or stretch. The same holds true when a meeting gets off track. Better than fight it, take a time out and allow employees just a few minutes to check emails, grab some water or a snack, do a few yoga poses and then return—ideally refreshed—a few minutes later to continue the task at hand. By allowing a break, particularly in longer meetings or when there’s a taxing subject matter, taking a time out can lead to greater focus.
Assign a Task
One of the tenets of a mindful meeting is to outline a clear agenda which includes a role for every participant, whether it’s during the meeting or after the fact. Not only does this ensure group participation, but it encourages everyone to actively pay attention so they can absorb the right information for their particular task. A follow-up assignment could be asking for a recap of their favorite ideas or offering a counter point to something discussed.
When meetings are at risk of the laptop landslide, there are simple steps that mindful leaders can employ to get things back on track, rather than abandon the meeting altogether. Come prepared with a few strategies to combat the slide and you may be surprised how easy it is to keep things on task.
For more information on the Bamboo smartpads, click here.