You may be saying that most meeting
planners do this already. Most effective
meetings now seek interaction. But breakouts to discuss thoughts and share different
perspectives require suf;icient time as well
as feedback from the facilitator. How many
of us have been stuck at tables with a few
people talking to the people they know?
Facilitation and positive and informed feedback will help participants feel con;ident in
their own creative inputs and outputs.
In addition to the group interaction, participants also need time to focus on ;inding
their own solutions on their own or in pairs.
The reason is that trust and safety are crucial for ideas to generate. People tend to
trust another person but not a whole group.
Trust is easier to achieve in a shorter time
frame if participants can work in pairs, as
people can feel more con;ident to express
Time to focus is critical. My research
shows that the more important someone
feels a task is, the more participants want to
focus on the activity. So before you ask
participants to focus, you must be sure that
your participants will understand why it is
important to do so. Many planners struggle
to allow enough time for participants to
focus on a particular issue. Brave planners
will program enough time in, especially in a
world where clients and attendees demand
ever more packed programs of activities.
But focus is critical to creativity, and is one
of the biggest values a meeting can provide.
Meetings that provide safe spaces to
focus on something different, meet different
people and get away from the everyday
routine produce the most creative outcomes. If you can combine time to focus
with a sense that something is important,
you will fuel the creativity of your participants. Creative meetings allow people to
spend valuable time and time that is valuable.
Looking at the research and my latest
;indings, planners may well want to incorporate creative-process thinking into the
structure of their meeting designs. After all,
if your meeting succeeds in shaping a significant part of the creative process, rest assured that you have planted the seed of
innovation. It is the creative climate outside
your meeting that will determine whether it
will grow. ■
tance of structure in producing creative
Structure (But Just the Right Amount)
When trying to help our participants think
creatively at a meeting, we might assume
that providing a blank canvas would be
most effective. It was for Van Gogh perhaps,
but in everyday business a blank canvas
does little to stimulate the types of business
creativity we need—a type of creativity
often centered on solving problems or
identifying new markets, saving money or
even making the photocopier work!
Based on my research, I suggest using
the stages of the creative process to inform
your structure. Speakers can prompt a new
way of thinking about a service. A task may
involve looking at a common problem in a
different way. A team-building activity
might make participants re-evaluate leadership in their business. Most meetings do
this in some form. Many clients may not
realize that this is important for creativity.
If your meeting includes this kind of content, whatever the desired objective, creativity is likely to be part of the outcome.
To stimulate the creative process, you can
intentionally structure sessions that:
1. Make participants curious about
something or make participants
2. Help participants to identify an
opportunity or a problem,
3. Provide participants with the resources (stimuli or most importantly
other people with different
perspectives) to help them consider
new ideas or approaches,
4. Ensure people feel safe and
comfortable to exchange views and
gain positive and informational
5. Give people time to focus.
Planners may want to
process thinking into
the structure of their