1. How to free up time to innovate using the meeting audit!

    By Russ Schoen

    “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.”

    – Dave Barry, “Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn”

    What is one of the most common barriers to innovation?

    During most innovation workshops that I facilitate, at some point I’ll ask the group, what are the barriers to innovating here?

    One of the most common answers given is “we don’t have enough time to innovate.”

    When I follow up with the question, well what is one of most unproductive uses of your time in this organization? The most common answer is – yup, You guessed it. Meetings.

    Think about your own work life for a moment. Think about the last five meetings you attended at work. Would you say they were engaging? productive? A good use of your time and your fellow colleagues’ time?

    Chances are, you answered that at least one in three of those meetings was a complete waste of your time. If so, don’t fret you are not alone.

    Did you know?

    In surveys conducted — in the US alone - where approximately 11,000,000 meetings are held every week as many as 25–50% of those meetings are characterized by those attending them as a waste of time.*

    Not only that. Here’s one more bit of bad meeting news. An MIT Sloan Management study showed that the more time employees spend in unproductive meetings, the more dissatisfied they are with their work and more likely they are to quit their jobs. Ouch.

    (*source: MIT Sloan Management: The Science and Fiction of Meetings: Winter 2007)

    So if you really want to free up some time to innovate, one of the best ways to do so is to clear out some space to innovate. And one of the quickest ways to do that is a meeting audit!

    What is a Meeting Audit and how do I conduct one?

    The purpose of a meeting audit is to identify meetings that you can stop holding (or attending) or that you can shorten which will free up time. A deliberate meeting audit takes about 30 minutes with a team and many teams find that they can cut about 20% of the total meetings they hold or attend on a monthly basis.

    To conduct a meeting audit, gather your team (and you can do this alone if you work independently)

    1. Create a list of all the meetings you and your team hold or attend on a regular basis (we recommend on a flipchart or white board)
    2. Review the list with the whole team and ask, which of these meetings could we stop holding? Which ones really are not that productive? Which ones can be shortened or altered? Which ones do we really need to attend and which ones can we stop attending?
    3. Physically, cross out the meetings that the group would like to stop holding or attending.
    4. Add up the time that will be freed up for your team if you stopped holding those meetings.
    5. Commit to using that time towards innovation efforts.

    Got concerns?

    Now you may be thinking, there is no way that we can stop holding that monthly x meeting! People will flip. It’s too important. Well one suggestion is not to kill the meeting all together – take a break from holding or attending meeting for a month and see if people really miss it. If they do, you can always reinstate it (and hopefully make some changes to make it more productive). If its not missed it, then you can officially kill it!

    Time to Innovate: Next Step

    So if you want to innovate and you think you don’t have enough time, why not conduct a meeting audit? You’ll deliberately clear out some much needed space and time from your schedule and overcome one of the most frequently cited barriers to innovation!

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 2 years ago
  2. Why is it so damn hard to find time to be creative? - Part 4

    By Sharon Walsh

    Click here to read part 1.

    Click here to read part 2.

    Click here to read part 3.

    Fear of unknown

    In prior posts, we have talked about the desire for getting things done and the concern that creative thinking takes time. While it is helpful to understand and have tools to help us through these challenges, we also need to understand and overcome the emotional barriers to being creative. We might wonder, if it is so important to be creative, why wouldn’t we welcome the opportunity?

    As human beings we like the comfort of the things we know. We tend to think that the things we know are right and they are easy to do. Hence we naturally default to make the time to do things that we know how and like to do. In short, our habits get in the way.

    As mentioned in Scientific American Mind (page 31, July/August 2012) ‘amid the financial and other practical and professional constraints of most workplaces, not to speak of other life concerns, abandoning a satisfactory solution to pursue a new concept may be the biggest challenge to capitalizing on creative potential.’

    It is natural for people to be fearful of unfamiliar things. Creativity by definition brings up the new and different. In turn, we don’t feel comfortable and are scared. The fear of the unknown and ambiguity that in inherent in the unknown needs to be acknowledged

    What can we do to help get over these very real and limiting fears? Here are some key questions to think about.

    • Think about worst case scenarios. Then ask yourself what you can do to ensure these things don’t happen.
    • Maximize learning by asking the following questions: 1) What happened? 2) What did you learn? 3) What would you do differently?

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 2 years ago
  3. Why is it so damn hard to find time to be creative? - Part 3

    By Sharon Walsh

    Click here to read part 1.

    Click here to read part 2.

    Concern that it takes a long time

    One of the fallacies behind the challenge to be creative is that people assume that it takes a long time to be creative. Some believe that to be creative they need to have an offsite workshop where they set aside days, gather with a cross functional team, play with toys, and then they can be creative. While some challenges might require this kind of extensive creative immersion, many don’t. This is one way to be creative, but it’s not the only way. Creativity can happen whenever creative thinking is employed. Whenever we use our imagination and knowledge to look at something in a new way we are being creative.

    Doing unfamiliar things take longer than doing familiar things. We quickly develop habits so we automatically know what and how to do the things. Why not just let our habits drive us? It would save us time and we wouldn’t feel the pressure of being creative. The issue is that if we aren’t creative, we will always do the same things we have done before. And that’s fine if the world was static. However, things change around us, so we can’t always rely on our habits to be successful.

    We need to find ways to train ourselves out of relying on our habits and to let our creativity blossom. There are quick and easy things that anyone can do in just a few minutes.

    One quick tool that encourages creative thinking is called PPCO — Pluses, Potentials, Concerns, Overcome concerns. In short, think affirmatively about an idea and then look for ways to improve on it. When faced with an idea or opportunity, it just takes a few moments to think about it by asking yourself the following questions:

    • What are the pluses or positive things about doing this?
    • What are the potentials? Where might doing this lead to? What longer term advantages might there be?
    • What concerns do I have? What challenges might this present?

    How might we overcome these concerns/challenges?

    Click here to read part 4.

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 2 years ago
  4. Why is it so Damn Hard to Find Time to be Creative? - Part 1

    By Sharon Walsh

    A common excuse for not being creative is not having enough time. Actually, it is hard to find time to do lots of things. Being creative often falls to the bottom of our to-do list. We all know that being creative is a good thing, something that we want, yet, we are full of excuses for why we don’t.

    Looking at what we know about creativity can help us understand why it is high on our list of desires, yet, finding the time to be creative is so challenging. Creativity helps us adapt to the changing world. While we might want to be lazy and always do the same thing (which probably would get boring anyway) - but the world around us doesn’t let that be possible. Since our environment changes, we have to change too. And we want to grow and develop as people in our personal and professional lives.

    So why don’t we find the time? What are those pesky excuses that we come up with that hold us back? And what benefits do these excuses give us?

    • Many people prefer to focus on getting things done. Implementation is increasingly important in today’s society. At home and work, more and more is demanded of us which requires us to be highly task focused. Just stepping back and considering the full scope of objectives can ensure that we are getting the right things done.

    • We think that being creative takes a long time. We are so busy with obligations that we think we don’t have time to think. The irony of this is that creative thinking can save us time by helping us think through the what we are doing to be more efficient and effective.

    • We are afraid of the unknown. Ambiguity of the future path leads to uncertainly, discomfort and fear. Even when we think that a different way might be better, we sometimes choose to stay the course.

    • We don’t think we have the permission to do things differently. We live in a hierarchical world and may feel that we don’t have the responsibility to challenge the status quo. Or we may feel that it is just easier not to change things. After all, when doing new things it takes more time.

    In future posts, we will be delving into these areas in more depth.

    Click here to read part 2.

    Click here to read part 3.

    Click here to read part 4.

    See full post and discussion
    Posted: 2 years ago