Not enough debate

By Morten T. Hansen via   Article

The Problem with Most Meetings Is That There’s Not Enough Debate

“… most meetings are devoid of real debate. To improve the meetings you run, and save the meetings you’re invited to, focus on making the discussion more robust. … So how do you lead a good fight in meetings? Here are six practical tips:

Start by asking a question, not uttering your opinion. In one meeting I was invited to as an adviser, the boss started out by saying, ‘I think we should do X; I would like your opinion.’ Then he went around the table, and everyone in the room raised their hand in support, with zero objections. If you want a real discussion, start with a question. …

Help quiet people speak up (and don’t let the talkers dominate). Even with good questions, many people refrain from speaking up. … To draw them in, try to ‘warm call’ them ahead of the meeting, as one top performer in my study did: ‘Sometimes I’ll talk to folks in advance of a meeting, saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to have this meeting. I know you have a particular viewpoint, and I think it’s very important that it gets heard, so I’d like to make sure you share it with the group.’’ …

Make it safe for people to take risks — don’t let the sharks rule. … lead by example (‘Let me just throw out a risky idea…’); support those who try (‘I really appreciate you suggesting…’); and sanction those who ridicule others (‘I don’t want that kind of language here…’ ).

Take the contrarian view. … take the contrarian view: If the meeting was about raising the price for a service, … ask whether they should lower the price. It [forces] … people to have really solid arguments for their views. …

Dissect the three most fundamental assumptions. … One of the managers in our study kept asking the team one tough question: ‘What are the key assumptions, and what data will make them flawed?’

Cultivate transparent advocates (and get rid of the hard sellers).  People are led astray by confirmation bias, where they pay attention to data that confirms their idea, and they escalate commitments by continuing to advocate for their plans even in the face of negative information. You can combat this tendency by forcing people to show the negative: ‘When you present in the meeting tomorrow, I want to see a slide with the five biggest risks, and we will spend lots of time discussing them, so be prepared.’ Or you can ask for a pre-mortem: ‘Assuming your idea will fail, what would be the key reasons for the failure?'”


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