28 (123) 2017
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Poles in the UK

2017 is the year to be brave with your meetings

By Tom Russell, director, and Adelajda Kolodziejska, inky thinker, at Inky Thinking
Header t.russel a.kolodziejska


Making the complex simple to work with

A year of opportunity beckons.

Who knows what will happen by this date in 2018? What will we be saying? We will remark (again) on the speed of change, that we ‘didn’t see that one coming!’, and  we’ll wonder if 2018 will be the same again.

The presence of change, of complexity being ever-present in our lives, is here to stay. Maybe this is because we know more (or think we do) than we ever did about what’s happening in our world, thanks to the omnipresence of digital communication, social media and, of course, good old-fashioned conversation.

Good old-fashioned conversation. What does that mean to you? Could it be a phone call, a quiet conversation in a coffee shop, a discussion while taking a bracing walk, or a full-on business meeting where everyone wants to share their ideas?

Recently someone responded to the question “where do you go to get your answers”. The person responded, “I go to Google, or my grandmother.” These two sources may appear worlds apart, but they may have more in common that we might imagine. Both a grandmother and Google will give you instant access to a range of information. Both will generally provide you with instant access to that information. Admittedly Google will provide access to more than just one perspective, where as the grandmother is possibly more likely to stand loyally by her own view. Having said that the grandmother probably wins hands down when it comes to the richness of the information.

Here’s the point. The combination of rich conversation within a complex and constantly changing environment is a powerful mix that can lead to great – no – amazing results. Never has there been a more pressing time to talk, to explore, respect and celebrate in each other’s perspectives and ideas. If we do this more often, more effectively, we can break through complexity and ambiguity together, and get to the real issues that matter to all of us.

Author and speaker Simon Sinek advocates that we should start with ‘Why?’ Sinek’s TED talk has been captured here by Adelajda Kolodziejska of Inky Thinking.

Mr Sinek’s proposition is simple. Leaders who foster an environment of trust and co-operation create a ‘circle of safety’ in which their people feel they belong, grow confidence and can adapt to changing environments.

Here’s a suggestion. When you next have an important conversation – whether it’s a one to one meeting with a member of your team or a group meeting – start by understanding the ‘why’. It’s not a difficult question to ask; grandmothers across the world are asked the question every day and the world is probably a better place for it.

In business we are constantly focused on what we must do and how we are going to do it, such as the next big product launch or market strategy. Not surprising really given the globalised environment in which we operate, with that constant need to look over one’s shoulder to see what the competition is doing, or anticipate the next ‘big thing’ our clients will desire.

Rarely do we take the time to fully explore what lies behind our actions.

Here’s a final insight to reflect on. In your meeting, start with the ‘why’ AND show your working out. Visual meetings are more powerful as we are all wired to think visually to some degree, whether that includes pictures or text.

And let’s be clear. When I refer to a ‘visual’ approach, I don’t mean another slide deck. There are too many slides in too many meetings where people sit passively, stare at a screen full of content and recall only a small fraction of what was presented. It is often wasted time and energy.

If 2017 is to be a year when you break through complexity by asking why, make it a year when you actively transform your meetings. Show your working out. Help each other to see and discover the why before you get to the what and the how.

“There is some comfort in knowing that your current meeting routine is safe. To make a change you need to be brave.” (Helen Chapman, The Meeting Book, LID 2016).

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