Innovation in practice: ensuring focus in meetings and workshops

The Innovation in practice series is a short-form, practical guide to using innovation and agile techniques in the workplace. Most of these techniques can be equally applied to everyday activities or to breakthrough innovation.

The problem

Business meetings and workshops often suffer from ‘rabbit hole’ syndrome. Depending on the competencies in the room, you may find that you are getting bogged down in too much details, and often are rushing through those last few agenda items, or maybe you just don’t achieve anything from the meeting due to everyone wanting to provide their thoughts and opinions.

Introducing: The Parking Lot

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Also known as:

  • ELMO (Enough, Let’s Move On)
  • The Rabbit Hole Rule
  • Can It
  • Time Out
  • Pulling the weeds

What you will need:

  • A flipchart, whiteboard or other place to write down ideas or keywords.

How it works:

  • At the beginning of your meeting or workshop, ensure you state the purpose and have a specific and realistic agenda that you need to get through.
  • Everyone in the meeting, no matter how junior, has the power to consign a conversation to the parking lot.
  • A conversation can be parked by anyone at any time. This includes those within the discussion at hand and those who are not part of the discussion who see it it getting into the weeds.
  • Ensure to introduce the concept of the parking lot to the meeting attendees at the start of the meeting.
  • If a conversation looks like it is going to be ‘parked’, give it a minute or two first to see if it self-corrects. If not, then step in yourself.
  • Criteria for parking lot:
    • Off-topic conversations
    • Too much depth or detail
    • Tangenital discussions or those that are veering off-track for the agenda scope
    • Circular conversations
    • Conversations between two or more people that can occur later, especially if others in the meeting are not needed to contribute
    • Recaps or catching up latecomers, unless the context is really important
  • At the end of the meeting, acknowledge the parked conversations and, if appropriate, remind people to continue the conversation at a later stage.

Result

Your meetings will be more focused, everyone will have more time and can be more productive!

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