We live in a time where change and innovation needs to be in focus if we are to survive and succeed in business. Established business models and disciplines change and are challenged by new niches and solutions that pop up and grow at an increasing pace. In a world that becomes increasingly complex, meetings and interactions between people are one of the most important tools for working with innovation, learning, problem solving and building relationships and trust. Crucial to success is how all kinds of meetings, gatherings, teams and processes are designed and facilitated to solve relevant tasks in the most efficient way. New knowledge and tools about these topics are therefore a success factor to ensure a healthy change culture and bottom line results in any business.
Meetings - a center stage for change
When two or more people gather to solve a problem, learn something new, develop relationships and / or experience something together - it is briefly a definition and purpose of meetings. This means that all types of gatherings, seminars, conferences, and other types of meeting places are a kind of meeting. The interaction and energy that takes place in meetings is the center of attention when working on sales, marketing, innovation, learning, interaction, problem solving and restricting. Meetings are therefore one of the most important and resource-consuming tasks in a business, whether formal or informal. An effective meeting with the associated process also contributes to better decisions.
Traditionally, most people are good at organizing pleasant and inspiring meetings and events. On the other hand, most people are less able to solve the actual problems or tasks that are the purpose. New knowledge on design and facilitation of meetings and processes contributes to great results. It is not just the meeting itself that is being improved, but also the follow-up and implementation. All this represents a big change for how businesses and organizations around the world work smarter on innovation, learning and problem solving. The principles for self-organizing teams play an important role, as opposed to traditional hierarchies. It's no secret that the companies that have understood this are among the most successful in the world and some of the most famous are Google, Apple and Amazon.
Design and facilitation of meetings and processes
No meetings and processes are the same and there are differences in size and complexity, but most of them follow the same template and principles as to how they should be designed and facilitated. A critical factor is to make sure that the people involved have what is required by diverse expertise, personal strengths, capacity, motivation, chemistry and decision-making authority.
Since meetings are the starting point of most processes, consequently changing the behavior of participants from a to b, we start with the design of the meeting. The first is to find the specific problems and then define goals, target-group, content, meeting format and method to achieve desired results. Scheduling what should take place before, during and after the meeting is essential for the subsequent process.
Once the planning is completed, the work involves involvement of participants and their preparation. Thereafter the meeting is conducted with the focus on active meeting of the group and the process. For important and large meetings, a facilitator or moderator is usually used to ensure optimal utilization of participants' total strengths and skills to make it an efficient and productive process.
When the meeting is done then the most critical phase begins where most people fail, namely the implementation. It is here the design of the meeting and process initially will ensure that the participants get sufficient resources, tools and support to carry out their tasks. If it is new learning to be implemented, then it's important with guidance and repetition through real tasks. Another important element is to ensure that those who are helping these participants along the way also have sufficient resources, knowledge and are motivated to do so.
Crack or win
Surveys show that average 50% of our time at work attends meetings and 50% of meetings are ineffective. This means that every employee spends over a whole day every week on nothing, that's a huge loss for the business. Now try to calculate what the waste is for your business. Turning things around, this kind of waste could be transformed into new resources. Better design and facilitation of meetings could mean better decisions. What stands out between ignorance and success is first and foremost knowledge and ownership of this knowledge of effective meetings and processes.
There are some managers who take the initiative to make the meetings and the related processes more effective in their part of the business. But it requires knowledge on how to do this correctly and often external expertise will be a key. Well-functioning guidelines, tools, information and training must be in place, but as in all processes, the target group should of course be involved. To ensure that such initiatives have a lasting effect, ownership must be secured on the top level.
One example is Amoco, an American oil company that is now merged with British BP. The former CEO initiated an extensive project to streamline business meetings and problem solving processes. As a result, they went from being 30-40% effective to 70-80% effective. Unfortunately, they returned to old "sins" because ownership was not implemented as an organizational unit. Meetings, process management and interaction naturally belong together and this should be institutionalized as an organizational unit across the organization.
Most businesses have a person or organizational unit where one or more people are responsible for planning and organizing internal and external meetings, gatherings and events. Expertise is mainly concentrated around project management and experience-based communication. In addition, there are many so-called meeting planners in a business that should be affiliated with this unit so that they have access to tools and expertise when needed.
On the other hand, most businesses lack a person or organizational unit with expertise in meeting design, facilitation and interaction in general. Such expertise should be integrated with the one mentioned above so that they can complement each other. There are great gains to be obtained if this is done correctly and integrated with other areas such as HR and communication.
Responsibility and action
As a leader in a business, it is extremely important to be awake and not least hungry for new ideas and concepts that contribute to development and efficiency. The CEO has the main responsibility for ensuring continuous development and efficiency of people, operations and organization as well as the products. It should be the management's responsibility and in fact in their own interest to seek and implement effective work processes. Meeting design and process facilitation as well as ownership and management of meetings have been prioritized as an improvement initiative. Therefore, senior management should take responsibility to focus on this, and not least ensuring that the pressure is kept up for so long that the change takes place and becomes institutionalized.
Development and innovation
It does not matter if you have the characteristics of Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs if you are not understood or taken seriously. When basic knowledge and effective guidelines on meeting design and facilitation are in place and work according to their purpose, it will help people with the really good ideas to be more easily seen, heard, understood and accepted to create development and innovation.
The United Nations has launched its 17 sustainable development goals. Expertise on the design and facilitation of the meetings and processes that take place in such work is a powerful tool for achieving such goals. We create energy and opportunities when we meet, but if you have a good structure and tools tailored to the task and the participants, you get further, much further. Therefore, a new concept for the design and facilitation of sustainable meetings and processes is under development. People and processes are complicated stuff, but if you make this simple and correct at the start so everyone comes on board, everything is so much easier. The direction to more effective meetings and processes is to start with simple guidelines and tools everyone understands and can use. Then you can add more complicated elements as the group and timing are ripe relative to the surrounding factors.
From logistics and experiences to problem solving
Traditionally, the meeting industry has been concentrated on the major meetings and the actual planning and implementation focusing on destinations, hotels, facilities, logistics, entertainment and experience-based communication. Therefore, the industry is better known as the event industry since these are mainly the same services we find around all types of events, whether it's business, culture or sport. This represents the underlying part of the meeting industry focusing on the frameworks and wrapping around the actual content and tasks to be solved.
The second and new side of the meeting industry that is now emerging has focus on learning, problem solving or whatever is the purpose of achieving the desired change. It is here the work of designing and facilitating the meeting and the change process for the target group is at the center. Here there are great possibilities and an enormous improvement potential. The principles, tools and basic knowledge are also the same if the meeting is large or small.
Project management, experience-based communication, meeting design and process management naturally belong together. Many managers have traditionally been good at initiating projects and processes but poor at implementation. This game is about to change. What's happening around the new meeting industry will affect all, a new set of knowledges where everybody wins.
A global collaboration project
As said, we are in a paradigm shift in relation to learning, problem solving, innovation, process management, design and facilitation of meetings. There is a jungle of methods, concepts and vendors where everyone wants to sell their diagnosis and medicine. There is an excessive need to clean up this jungle so that it becomes clear and comprehensible to all parties. There is also an increasing need to integrate new knowledge about these topics in education and development of management.
The traditional and established part of the meeting industry with MPI Norway (Meeting Professionals International) at the forefront has therefore launched an extensive international cooperation project called The Meeting Industry Project. One of the goals is to build bridges and knowledge across the many industries that the new meeting industry naturally represents, as well as help solve the various socio-economic challenges and build sustainable solutions. Here everyone who has any interest of the topics is invited to participate and contribute. You can find more information and keep up to date at www.meetingindustry.org