Turning Meetings into Doings

This past week I reunited with my healthcare client. While I was away this over the summer, they have made some encouraging changes. They recently hired a Chief Innovation Officer and opened a new Center for Innovation. Considering that this time last year the same organization only thought of design as something that created websites, it is amazingly encouraging to see them embrace innovative thinking. While the organization is going in the right direction, there are some unique, cultural atributes that seem to be hindering their progress.

The meeting I attended last week had an agenda created by a former MiD’er who has become a employee there. This agenda had a breakdown of each issue we would be addressing, accompanied by an allotted time frame to help keep us on track. We had materials to help support our conversation like post-its, sharpies, and a visual framework that was created on the wall to help flush out the who, what, where, when, and how of several prototypes that are currently in development. Unfortunately, this useful structure was under-utilized and I feel like our productivity suffered because of it.

In my experience working with this organization, meetings have a tendency of being conversations that go around in circles. People spend most of their time taking turns sharing ideas, frustrations, or successes from their recent work. Whereas meetings are scheduled to provide an opportunity to create or flush-out the details of a project, they usually just end up being idle conversation. This doesn’t seem unique to my specific client, but rather something that is common in the workplace.

As a human-centered designer, I strive to turn these “meetings” into “doings.” I want to identify methodologies that will allow people to be more productive  during these gatherings, so people can have more effective meetings. I believe that if I can understand why a culture has a tendency to “meet” like this, it will help me build a framework that can promote a better way of “meeting.” Through design methodologies that include guided facilitation, understanding small group dynamics, and creating physical frameworks such as storyboards, employees within an organization can successfully (and more important comfortably) be more productive during their meetings.


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