I thought I’d try a new tactic and keep you in suspense for a day (of course, it only works for my one daily reader. There’s more? Please reveal yourself.)
Or it could be that I just ran out of time last night and didn’t want to finish the post.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the story.
The Meeting Canoe is about how to design a meeting, and it gets it’s name from the shape associated with the design concept, which looks like the top view of a canoe, when you’re looking down it – thin on one end, getting fatter in the middle, then getting thin again at the end.
The first thing you want to do in a meeting is welcome people. Let them know that they are in a different space. One of the most important aspects in architecture is how one enters the building – the entryway. The same is true for a meeting, make it pleasant and welcoming. Let people know you are glad they are there and make it a place they want to stay.
2. Connect to each other and the task
Remind people what they have in common and why they are there. When people are connected to the group, they are more likely to participate and be engaged in the conversation.
3. Discover the way things are
Share information, have a discussion about the current state of whatever topic you are meeting about. Allow all perspectives to be presented.
4. Elicit people’s dreams
Get people into the future. What would the situation look like if everything happened the way they’d like it to? Get creative and invoke the arts, use skits, freewriting, stream of consciousness, headlines, or any method to get people thinking outside the norm.
5. Decide who does what
This is where you create action plans, give assignments, and have a clear understanding of the next steps.
6. Attend to the end
Review agreements. Understand the path forward. End with a feeling of excitement, motivation, and possibility. Appreciate everyone’s time and contribution.
Those are the 6 steps to the meeting canoe. The canoe shape is derived from the size and depth of the conversation. At the beginning, it is somewhat small talk with little emotion or feeling. As the meeting progresses, discussion gets deeper, more involved, more passionate and detailed. Then, in closing, we begin to converge on specifics, wrap up the loose ends, and feel complete or finished. It’s a gradual curve, thus the canoe shape – a great memorable image for designing any meeting.
One of my favorite consultants I had the opportunity of working very closely with is Dick Axelrod. He was basically the father of the Engagement movement with his books, Terms of Engagement and You Don’t Have to Do It Alone. He taught me a lot about consulting, putting on workshops, and working with groups. His books contain simple, yet powerful concepts, with his latest free e-book as a perfect example, a short read with timeless lessons. In fact, his whole Everyday Engagement effort was developed when working with our team, so I’ll take a little credit here (but no where else.)
One of my favorite concepts I learned from Dick was the meeting canoe. He really keyed in on meetings and said to me, “If you want to find out about the culture of a company, just attend one of their meetings.” How people interact with each other is truly surfaced in meetings, so his take was that if you wanted to change the culture of a company or organization, just start by changing their meetings. Meetings are what people seem to hate the most, therefore, they are the greatest source and have the greatest potential for changing the organization’s culture.