If it feels like you’re always in meetings, it’s because you probably are: Employees attend an average of 62 meetings per month, and executives spend 40 to 50 percent of their working hours in meetings, according to data from TED.
That’s a lot of time dedicated to meetings — and it equates to a lot of wasted time, as 50 percent of employees find meetings to be unproductive and nine out of 10 people say they daydream in meetings.
What should companies do to address this conundrum? The easy answer is to say you’ll simply have fewer meetings, but with so many projects to complete and so many stakeholders to please, don’t expect meetings to magically drop off your calendar.
The more realistic answer is to redesign how your meetings are conducted, and a great way to do this is through a design thinking lens. At its core, design thinking is a user-focused approach to problem solving. You can learn more about it in this post from IDEO, a leader in the design thinking field.
The Harvard Business Review lays out a simple process for applying design thinking to workplace meetings:
- Develop empathy for those attending or affected by the meeting. What are their wants and needs? Speak with them and listen actively.
- Set a frame for the meeting. After you’ve listened to stakeholders, identify a clear purpose for what the meeting will accomplish and what people should take away from it.
- Creatively design the meeting. You of course want to accomplish the purpose you just identified, but perhaps there are new and interesting ways of getting there? Your meeting can be fun and productive.
- Test out your meeting. Consider sharing a draft agenda with attendees to get feedback beforehand. Or, after the meeting is over, ask for input on how things went.
It might seem like a lot to do before getting together, but this approach will make your meetings more productive and worthwhile in the long run. And once you get the hang of these steps, it’ll become almost secondhand to incorporate design thinking.
People who have applied this design process to their meetings tell us that it has radically affected both the efficacy of those gatherings, and the attitude people in their organizations have about them. Each phase has its benefits. Immersing helps people feel heard, and it ensures that meeting leaders are connected to participants. Framing pushes the meeting leaders to ensure that there are clear goals for each meeting. Imagining leads to more creativity and experimentation in the meeting design. Finally, prototyping—something as simple as getting feedback on your plan from a few people — makes people feel valued, more accountable in the meetings, and more invested in their success.