6 Tools That Make Productive and Engaging Meetings
I had a time in my professional life when meetings at work were an important event. Later I learned to skip them. Anyway, it was nothing I couldn’t catch up later with by the email or through a coworker. Usually some kinds of information or new instructions were given and the objective of my presence was to nod affirmative. Besides, I was too busy working, doing the “real stuff”. Sometimes I could see my coworkers with their laptops reading emails and answering, doing the smalls tasks of every day, and nothing like a meeting to do so.
Times have changed and meetings have become an important tool for organizations of any kind. Many people have made efforts to make them another productive activity for the company. Countless authors have written about it and one of them is Edward De Bono with the “Six Hats” tool.
The main idea is to divide the principal aspects of group communication into six axis, with the intention to cover the objectives of the meeting and coming to conclusions, making people active participants and not only listeners (and teach others the importance of being a listener also). These tools make even small talk a source of information.
The Six Hats are the following:
1. White Hat: Its neutral color means objectivity, this section of the meeting has the goal to bring hard data and facts. It’s the opportunity for the people of numbers to show statistics, probabilities and any reliable and documented fact like customers or supplier complaints. It’s the opportunity to separate the real issues from opinions.
2. Red Hat: The red means passion. Is the moment to express feelings, emotions and intuitions without justifying or going beyond any “reasonable doubt”. It’s the perfect time to express fears about any project or facing a new position or situation in the company. Also expressing the good expectations you have or how well do you feel about something. The goal is to express sincere opinions without judgment.
3. Black Hat: Precaution and prevention. Is the use of fear in a way to avoid danger of any kind (physical, emotional, financial, etc). It is the oldest and most effective mechanism of defense of the human. If something doesn’t fit in an exposition this is the time to express it. Focusing for a moment in the dangerous or negative aspects of the subject in discussion can put the awareness of the participants and get to know the limits. This hat can take us away from the illegal, the futile, dangerous, contaminant and all actions that could hurt us. The intention is to warn on something not to freeze us over.
4. Yellow Hat: Optimism. What is the gain for us? If everything goes as we planned what positive consequences could be? This is the moment to search opportunities and thinking in a constructive way to measure the potential of an idea. Maybe what we can discover is not as good as we thought but also we can find out it could be a lot better. To avoid the daydreaming, we have to support any idea with a logical reason may be taken from the White Hat section. The way of reasoning comes from a mix of curiosity and complacency and the wish of “making things happen”.
5. Green Hat: This is the hat of creativity, it’s the time for “lateral thinking”, of spawning new ideas it’s the opportunity for the people in the field of the job (like sales people who visit clients every day or designers who spent all week on the computer, or people from the shop). Usually, the most motivated are the best for bringing new perspectives. We can make a tank of ideas for later evaluations and use the most promising for test. Intangible ideas must be discarded; maybe we can’t find the use right now for some of them but in the future who knows? We are searching for reasonable possibilities, not immediate solutions (but some could make up). We can also use deliberated irrational and provocative ideas to test others and as a trigger for creativity.
6. Blue Hat: This is the responsibility of keeping order in the use of the hats and making people get back on track in case of any deviation. This is also the one to choose the order for use of the hats. According the situation maybe we can use Red first so people can relieve all the pressure, then go to Yellow for an uplift of the mood, then go White and Black to put things on perspective, and finally Green to set and plan of action. We may even call on the Red again to see if there is any change on the emotions now we have come to a plan. The Blue Hat is the master of ceremony and must have a preliminary plan for the meeting so it doesn’t all get sunk into one hat (like the Red one or the Green). The Blue Hat has also to define problems so people can focus their energies on the proper solutions.
This structure does not appear easy at first glance, but is a way to make the natural process of meetings a motivating and productive activity by concentrating energies and not letting them disperse. The disorder without results is what turns on a person’s apathy. So if you have this problem, this kind of tools can surprise you with its effectiveness.
What are your main problems in meetings? Do you have any tools to enhance people dynamics and engagement? Do you use already these tools? Would you like to share your experience?
Javier Dominguez – Design Professional
Gould Design, Inc.