Here’s the scenario: You’re in a room filled with a diverse group of your colleagues. Different opinions are being thrown about. The loudest voices dominate the conversation. A hint of aggression creeps in and eventually explodes between two hot-heads at the foot of the table. Three colleagues haven’t had a chance to get a word in, while two haven’t even bothered to try. And at the end of the grueling, hour-long meeting, you’ve only managed to get two or three worthwhile sentences of information.
Does this seem all too familiar? You’re not the only one. In fact, it’s because of this scenario that many organizations, Amazon and Square included, are turning to a different type of meeting called a silent meeting.
Silent meetings may be a growing trend, but there’s plenty of science behind it to give it some credibility. In fact, Google’s famous research into team productivity found that one of the most important ingredients to the most successful teams was that everyone had an equal chance of speaking up or sharing their thoughts. Sometimes meetings aren’t conducive for that to happen, hence the rise of these silent meetings.
No, not entirely. Just for the first 30 minutes or so. An example is given by Lila MacLellan in her recent article, The rise of the silent meeting, on Jeff Bezos’ use of silent meetings; “When he gathers his senior executive team, everyone sits and reads a multi-page memo, scribbling notes in the margins, for about 30 minutes before they begin to speak. The memo is part of a quest to save time, since forcing someone to write a memo means they’ll have to distill their thesis, gather all the relevant data, and touch on counter-arguments. But it also cuts down on theatrics and bluster. Eventually, when the speaking begins, what’s left to say ought to be only the essential.”
This way, everyone gets to deliver their information on equal terms. Instead of opinions from the loudest voices in the room taking center stage, a more concise, calculated piece from each individual is made available. Silent meetings can also cut out the repetition and the time-wasting—since everyone has a record of their comments and can track when someone else raises a similar point. Another big positive? It means that people who are working remotely or who can’t make it to the room can also contribute equally and fairly. It becomes less about who’s louder, more politically connected (in the organizational sense) or dominant, and more about who’s right.
We’ve taken this growing trend and have made it digital, more accessible and easier to use across the organization. Our version is asynchronous (meaning it’s not bound by time or place) and it’s anonymous. Think of it as the ultimate pre-meeting tool (which could even replace the meeting altogether) that ensures everyone has their calculated input and that everyone is equally represented. It’s made to ensure a relevant, informative and worthwhile meeting or conversation that’s based on well-thought-out ideas and opinions on the topic at hand.
More voices are contributing: We understand that not everyone can attend a scheduled meeting. By providing feedback before the time, those who can’t attend—including their input—will still get the representation they deserve and need.
Greater diversity: This expands the previous advantage to include the people who you wouldn’t usually get into the room in the first place (think outside the office, department or even the city!)
The immediate feedback is anonymous: We also realize that the formulation of ideas, feedback or opinions in-person or chat-based may still involve politics. Doing this in an asynchronous and anonymous way allows the best ideas to shine, and not necessarily the most connected.
Avoid the awkwardness and lack of softer voices: Just because a meeting may be silent, it doesn’t mean a junior would feel comfortable speaking up and presenting their ideas. Collating feedback in this method ensures the everyone’s voices are heard.
Feedback is stored and centralized: The feedback you gather through the exercise will also be recorded, easy to store, and it will be accessible by everyone. Meaning less duplication of ideas and more visibility into the workings of the project.
So, the next time you want to call a meeting to get feedback on a project, presentation, product idea or solution, or even if you just need a strategy session on a certain subject or for a department, try giving this alternative to silent meetings through BigTeam a chance. Not only will you save time, be more productive and get more complete, calculated feedback from your stakeholders, but you’ll also be in a better position to get ahead of the task at hand.
There’s a quote that stands out from famous composer Claude Debussy that goes; “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between them”. Likewise, the best feedback is usually born from silence that’s optimized for creative thinking—a silence that’s hard to find in a traditional meeting.
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