One of the main complaints among employees in a corporate environment is the time dedicated to meetings, from the effort coordinating schedules to the time and energy spent attending one. What’s worse? The dreaded ‘meeting about meetings.’ While meetings offer the rare opportunity for facetime and collaboration, they often get derailed because of mismanagement by the organizer and consequentially, sidetracked attendees. Fortunately, there are ways to ensure that meetings are productive, such as outlining clear expectations and outcomes and banning certain devices to alleviate distractions. By implementing more mindful meetings—being present and engaged in the moment—many companies are reporting positive results including more participation, shorter duration and fewer overall meetings. The concept of mindful meetings may conjure up visions of group hand-holding and singing, but the steps to implementation are hardly a 60’s throwback and surprisingly simple. In fact, if you were to walk by a mindful meeting, you’re likely to come across these 5 signs:
1. Clear Leadership
A primary frustration with meetings is the lack of a clear agenda and a leader who doesn’t, well, lead. A mindful meeting starts by setting the stage for active participation. This can be accomplished with a few deep breaths and check-ins around the room to ensure that everyone is present and ready for the task at hand. The leader will also share expectations for the meeting. Whether the purpose is a brainstorm or solving a problem, it’s important to assign tactical goals for the outcome. The leader will return to these goals to ensure that the group stays on track and doesn’t get caught up in tangential conversations. To alleviate this, he or she will also implement rules to discourage off-topic discussions and any critical or trigger responses to ideas. This creates a space where people are encouraged to share and aren’t afraid of putting forth ideas that may be controversial or unconventional, an integral part of fostering innovative thinking.
2. No Smartphone Zone
Walk by a mindful meeting and you may be surprised to see that even tech companies are going analog. The reason? As much as laptops, tablets and smartphones can be tools of efficiency, they are too often a source of temptation and distraction. Those who have understandably been burned by inefficient meetings have attempted to thwart this by bringing their laptop to work on other assignments. Others may be on their tablet or smartphone checking Instagram or Facebook, or even cruising their online dating app. Of course there are those diligent workers who bring a laptop for note-taking, which while honorable, can still be distracting to others with the sound of keys clacking drowning out those who are speaking. What’s more, research has shown when typing notes verbatim, users process and retain information less than they would if writing by hand. To curb these pitfalls, mindful meeting leaders are banning these devices at the door.
3. Pen and paper
Because studies support handwriting versus typing to enhance comprehension and memory retention, mindful meetings opt for the humble pen and paper for note-taking, sketching and capturing ideas. Handwriting also allows for a seamless transition between different types of ideation: words, drawing or even diagrams. However, when the meeting ends and follow-up work begins, transcribing the scribbles from post-it notes or flipcharts can be tedious and doesn’t lend itself to easy sharing. Fortunately, there’s a tool that offers the benefits and ease of handwriting with digital technology for a distraction-free way to capture, shape and share ideas: the smartpad from Bamboo. The smartpad comes in two styles, the Bamboo Folio with an integrated cover and the Bamboo Slate, without, that allows users to write normally with pen on paper and with the touch of a button, save work digitally. Up to 100 pages of notes can be saved locally and when synced later with a tablet or smartphone, files can be accessed and emailed from anywhere. There’s a number of compatible apps that can further enhance the experience, including converting handwritten notes to text, annotating documents, or turning drawings into scalable vector files. Now those mindful meeting notes can take on a life of their own even when the meeting’s over.
4. Active Collaboration
One of the main advantages of a room full of colleagues is the ability to build on each other’s ideas through active collaboration. A mindful meeting aims to maximize participation so that everyone has a role in brainstorming or mind-mapping or other kinds of collaborative problem-solving. Thoughtful leaders will allow everyone the time and space to ask questions that may help flesh out a concept or offer alternative ideas if necessary. Once the meeting has concluded, it’s important to continue providing a platform for collaboration, such as circulating notes with a specific task assigned. With the Bamboo smartpad, it’s easy to save and share notes or ideas for further review so ideas aren’t limited to just those in the meeting room.
5. Next Steps
A meeting is often just the first step of many in a process of formulating a plan, coming up with a big idea or solving a problem. A mindful meeting adheres to its set agenda and time limit and closes the meeting with clear next steps so attendees understand their role and what the expectation is for coming out of each meeting. It also helps to create closure around this particular step to segue into the next and is a good reminder that their time was well spent and productive. Recognizing the key signs of a mindful meeting is the first step in adopting these practices to ensure that all meetings are as productive as possible. At a minimum, aim to keep distractions at bay and create an environment that encourages participation and engagement. And all those great ideas may just be the sign of a great meeting.
For more information on the Bamboo smartpads, click here.