Concluding the Summer – A little suggestion on changing minds

It’s not the official “end of the summer” – not till 23rd of September – but I’ve always felt at home with the academic calendar ever since I started kindergarten.

Today, I offer a brief observation on meetings, not the one-on-one kind but meetings of groups.

Anyone who thinks he can change minds in one group meeting is either colossally arrogant or hopelessly naïve. Seriously, can we even quickly or easily change the habits of, say, our cat or dog? I recently learned that crows are highly intelligent and can learn to adapt for their survival…when it suits them (a fascinating TED talk, really worthwhile). If we humans could change our minds readily (and I don’t even demand “quickly”), what would we be like?! And, what would our world be like? If you and I can’t be easily convinced of the value of a proposal, however brilliant and sensible it might be, why should we expect others behave differently? (By “proposal,” I mean something more consequential than the proposal to change the lunch hour from 12 to 1, or move the monthly report from beginning of the month to the last week of the month.) We feel frustrated with most meetings because while everyone wants to change everyone else’s mind, in the end, most meetings are just clarification, convergence on an agenda, or the prolonged spouting of empty words on strategic planning (which is rarely executed).

There are, but rarely, truly productive meetings — mostly one-on-one. And strategic planning has some value as long as we don’t take it too seriously.

"So, what's the agenda today?"

“So, what’s the agenda today?”

Let’s make it simpler for meetings to accomplish program design or change. If you want to reach an important decision that is likely to change the landscape of your group or your project…gather the handful of people who have already shown some level of discontent with the status quo and the inclination to favor the direction of your choice. Further, instead of opening the meeting to all possible scenarios for future direction or change, offer one or two possibilities. Then, launch the meeting focusing on “how to get from point A to point B or C.” While it may seem manipulative, it would be at least more productive, for you and your colleagues.

I will be off next Monday, Labor Day. If you travel, be safe. Whatever you do for the long weekend, enjoy it. Till September,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

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