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Meetings Make You Dumber

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the not-cumulatively-thank-everything dept.

Businesses 207

Maximum Prophet writes "Robert Heinlein once said that the committee was the only life form in the universe with three or more bellies and no brain. MSNBC reports that his statement may have some statistical truth to it. Researchers are finding that meetings are actually bad places to be creative. You're not actually 'dumber' when you're in the meeting, just more likely to lose your creative edge. Studies have now shown that, as collaborative primates, the more often a possibility is mentioned the more likely the group is to go along with it. Individuals placed by themselves were more likely to come up with imaginative alternatives to products, for example."

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404: File not found (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18125620)

Zonk must have been in a meeting...

Re:404: File not found (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18126500)

At least this wasn't a FRIST PSOT, and had some humor. First posts get on my chimes.

Nice Timing (2, Funny)

esobofh (138133) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125624)

...I just happen to be sitting midway through an all day brain storming session on service mangement.

I can feel my brain atrophy.

Re:Nice Timing (0, Offtopic)

esobofh (138133) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126100)

Oh man.. I've been on slashdot since it was chips-n-dips... and that was my first 'first post' ever! what a waste of my 15 minutes.

ah well.. party at my house - everyones invited!

Re:Nice Timing (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126140)

If it took you 15 minutes to come up with those two sentences then your brain really has atropied. ;)

Re:Nice Timing (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18126230)

Your brain must REALLY be atrophied. Apparently, you no longer can count to one, seeing that you failed your firstie.

Re:Nice Timing (1)

NetCurl (54699) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127022)

So when was "chips-n-dips?" Because your user ID shows you were maybe 132,000 people away from being an "early adopter."

Re:Nice Timing (3, Funny)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126104)

Your meeting is so boring I can feel my brain atrophy. Oh, wait, that just might be the slashdot effect.

Never fear! (3, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126118)

Your boss just called. We're having a breakout session at lunch to determine what to do about all this brain atrophy. There will be lettuce and cheese sandwiches with generic food-service chips. See you there!

hmmm (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125630)

Meetings Make You Dumber... Researchers are finding that meetings are actually bad places to be creative. You're not actually 'dumber' when you're in the meeting, just more likely to lose your creative edge.

Sounds like someone wrote this writeup while in a meeting...

Re:hmmm (4, Funny)

cperciva (102828) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125822)

Sounds like someone wrote this writeup while in a meeting...

Not at all. The title is a very creative interpretation of the story.

Point of Article: Avoid Group Think (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18125632)

The point of the article wasn't that meetings are bad. The point was that group think at meetings is bad. The example they gave was that if people go off and develop a list of ideas on their own, the combined list of ideas is longer than if people develop a list of ideas together in the group.

There are two points that are important here. First, a group of people is likely to develop more ideas than a single person regardless of whether the group develops the ideas together or separately. Second, when it comes to choosing one idea from the list of many possible ideas, a well organized group is going to make a better choice than a single individual. In fact, the biggest problem in a poorly run group is that one person makes all the decisions so it is equivalent to a single individual make the choice.

That was basically the point of the article: for a group to be effective it needs to be organized to allow everyone in the group to have input.

In a perfect world, maybe. (4, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126144)

But the Reality is that most meetings suck, are mis-managed and a waste of time. Why these things are true does not matter. They are and they aren't going to change.

So, avoid meetings as much as possible. Use email and the telephone and finally, talk to people in their cubicles/offices. Use the one-to-one means of communicating as much as possible. People will give you more information and more SENSITIVE information in person than they will in a group.

Once you have all of that and you've run through the email/telephone/cubicle cycle a few times, then call a short meeting to make sure that everyone sees everyone else agreeing in public to what they've agreed to.

Meetings suck. Avoid them.

Re:In a perfect world, maybe. (3, Informative)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126738)

Which meetings? For which purpose? Are you developing a new product? Are you in an IT team producing a support document for users? Are you a research scientist trying to track the work of your assistants, or talking with investors? Are you part of a legal team?

I know there's an IT and/or software development/engineering lens through which a lot of Slashdotters view the world. But many of the assumptions don't migrate to other contexts well. A receptionist, an IT tech, an industrial designer, and a financial analyst all have very different relationships to meetings, information, and creativity.

Re:Point of Article: Avoid Group Think (2, Funny)

gregoryb (306233) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126176)

The point of the article wasn't that meetings are bad.

You must be a PHB, right?

Re:Point of Article: Avoid Group Think (4, Interesting)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126358)

The problem is that in a meeting you are on a social and political stage, however small. It's often not just about what idea is best, but rather whom you're going to support (for reasons that may have nothing to do with the idea being discussed) and how you want the group to perceive you. I know that on more than one occasion I've kept my doubts about a proposal to myself because I didn't want to be perceived as, well, a doubter (which really I am)...

Re:Point of Article: Avoid Group Think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18126540)

your post about group think as +5.... on Slashdot..........where anyone who disagrees will get modde down.......

The ironing is delicious

Re:Point of Article: Avoid Group Think (1)

Kashif Shaikh (575991) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126580)

Good point, but I find brainstorming at a meeting to be far more effective when all peers are at the same level of understanding. In other words, having a meeting with just engineers or just directors is better than a mix of those groups, simply because the two groups don't collide on objectives (i.e. problems/solutions vs time-to-ship). I mean if you're at a meeting where the boss says, I want this done by next month or you're fired really restricts your options of creativity. Then it's simply 'fuck it, whatever works'.

Meetings are not meant to be creative (5, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125656)

Their function is to seek consenus, bring us all up to speed, get everyone reading from the same page, allocate division of labour etc.

Re:Meetings are not meant to be creative (4, Interesting)

rbanzai (596355) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125790)

Perhaps SOME meetings are not meant to be creative, and are just for information sharing but many meetings ARE meant to be creative. Many meetings are intended for problem-solving, for example, and creativity can be quite useful so you don't want to stifle it.

I work at an ad agency where by definition we have Creative Meetings where creative concepts are going to be brainstormed.

Meetings are not all simply to seek consensus, etc...

Re:Meetings are not meant to be creative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18125844)

llocate division of labour

I think you meant to say "Assign Action Items" there.

Re:Meetings are not meant to be creative (5, Funny)

not-enough-info (526586) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126030)

Synergize your intellectual capital in a heads-up actionable game plan by leveraging mission critical low-hanging fruit that's just outside the box. It's a win-win-win for everybody!

Re:Meetings are not meant to be creative (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126216)

Looks like somebody is creating new paradigms to find out who moved their cheese.

Re:Meetings are not meant to be creative (1)

Jester998 (156179) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126628)

It's a win-win-win for everybody!

Except for that manager, who's about to get lynched by a mob armed with hard-drive-stuffed-socks.

Ugghhh... (2, Funny)

interactive_civilian (205158) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126772)

so said not-enough-info:

Synergize your intellectual capital in a heads-up actionable game plan by leveraging mission critical low-hanging fruit that's just outside the box. It's a win-win-win for everybody!
Uggghhh...I just threw up in my mouth a little. A pox on you.

Re:Meetings are not meant to be creative (3, Funny)

bgfay (5362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126200)

Their function is to seek consenus, bring us all up to speed, get everyone reading from the same page, allocate division of labour etc.
But of course, the first reason for having any meeting is to make the person calling the meeting feel or seem important.

At least, that's how it works in my school system.

Re:Meetings are not meant to be creative (1)

CrazyTalk (662055) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126432)

Some are. I was in a meeting recently that was basically a brainstorming session on how to improve the performance of an application. We had developers, DBAs, project managers, etc. present. If someone had an idea ("lets add an index to the database") the DBA was there to provide input. If a developer had an idea ("Lets eliminate that piece of the code, it doesnt do anything anyway") we had business people present to give their yay or nay. This way, we were able to come up with a list of viable possibilties in a short amount of time, rather than going back and forth for weeks over emails, etc.

Not all meetings are bad.

Re:Meetings are not meant to be creative (1)

zero_offset (200586) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126596)

"lets add an index to the database"
"Lets eliminate that piece of the code, it doesnt do anything anyway"

It sounds like you got a bunch of people in the room to discuss the stuff they should have done anyway.

The primary reason for this (4, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125660)

is that in private corporations there is no way to give a eral opionon and not be fired if it isn't what the boss had envisioned.
The boss want's hoola-hoops with razors on the inside? then you better be a team player and commit 125% to that goal.

You think it's dangerous? not a team player, get out
You think there isn't a market? not a team player, get out
you mention that 100% is pretty much all someone can give without physically harming them selves? not a team player, get out
Forgot to clean the fridge?not a team player, get out

Re:The primary reason for this (1)

EzraSj (993720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125862)

I think the problem runs much deeper than simply the nature of private corporations. Mob mentality (which is essentially what you see in meetings - people forced to make a decision as a whole rather than as individuals) is known to be 'stupider' than a single person acting rationally as a general rule. Neurons within a brain communicate better with each other than people do within a group.

And besides, each of the things you just mentioned (being called 'not a team player') has less to do with the stupidity of groups/mobs than it does with the ability of people in power to force their point of view on others through intimidation. "Not a team player, get out" sounds an awful lot to me like "you're either with us or against us". Yes these statements need to be adressing a group of people in order for them to work, but its more a trait of bad leadership than it is collaboration.

Re:The primary reason for this (4, Insightful)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126266)

Mob mentality (which is essentially what you see in meetings - people forced to make a decision as a whole rather than as individuals) is known to be 'stupider' than a single person acting rationally as a general rule.

On the other hand, "swarm" decision-making based on the aggregate of individual decisions is known to be smarter than any single person. The point is not avoiding meetings or group work, the point is avoid common pitfalls and adopt a working style that deliveries results.

Re:The primary reason for this (4, Insightful)

hotdiggitydawg (881316) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125904)

If you're working in an environment like that, why wouldn't you want to get out anyway?

Every place I've worked (so far), I have in fact been rewarded for coming up with better alternatives to the boss's suggestions, and I've never once been punished for disagreement. Thing is, you have to earn their respect before you can do that...

Re:The primary reason for this (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126464)

Every place I've worked (so far), I have in fact been rewarded for coming up with better alternatives to the boss's suggestions, and I've never once been punished for disagreement. Thing is, you have to earn their respect before you can do that...

Yup. I won't work for a boss who wants to hear "Yes-man" echoing of his own opinions, mainly because I won't do it and we'll end up driving each other crazy. That said, once a decision has been made it's my job to help make it work even if I didn't think it was the best idea originally. That's being a team player.

Re:The primary reason for this (4, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125994)

So you get out and get another job.

Believe it or not, there are workplaces where it is safe to voice opposition as long as you do what you're told once the decision is made. Your boss shouldn't mind that you tell him it's a bad idea to port your product to the latest trendy language for no good reason, but once he decides that's what the company is doing, you better deliver, 'cause that's what you're being paid for. It's when you refuse to drop it once a decision has been made that you should have to worry about losing your job.

In my experience, most workplaces are like this, and there is always some whiner that doesn't know when to drop it and get to work who thinks that their opinion (rather than their behavior or performance) is what got them in trouble.

Re:The primary reason for this (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126326)

So you get out and get another job.

Oh! I never realized it was that easy! Amazing! And I bet if your current boss learns you're looking for another job, like when a recruiter calls you in the middle of the day, he'll be completely understanding about your views.

Re:The primary reason for this (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126888)

Let me guess. You read that line and responded, instead of reading the whole comment.

Good job!

Re:The primary reason for this (2, Interesting)

abb3w (696381) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126452)

Believe it or not, there are workplaces where it is safe to voice opposition as long as you do what you're told once the decision is made.

The difficulty lies in distinguishing such places from those where, if you say "this won't work because of reasons A, B, and C" before the decision is officially final and your prediction proves right, you're accused of causing the failure because you weren't "a team player behind the project 125 percent" yada yada yada....

Such places are worth leaving as soon as you see signs of such, even if you weren't the victim. If a project goes ahead when one of your listed reasons is either "that's unethical" or "that's illegal", don't wait for the project to fail before hunting a new job. If your budget can survive it, don't even wait to find a new job before leaving the current one, either. That kind of go-ahead means that the midden has already hit the windmill and the smell has just arrived — and it isn't the only thing headed downwind.

Re:The primary reason for this (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18126112)

hoola-hoops with razors on the inside

Q: What do these three things have in common:
1. hoola-hoops with razors on the inside
2. HMS Manchester
3. Hurricane


.
.
.
.


A: They are all naval destroyers.

Re:The primary reason for this (2, Insightful)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126174)

You just have to respond appropriately to those concerns in a constructive manner.

Think its dangerous? Suggest marketing it to the 18-24 demographic and an "extreme" advertising comparing while continuing to evaluate the potential liability throughout focus group tests.

Think there isn't a market? Suggest a test marketing campaign " to see which market it would best be leveraged in" Then with firm data about its failure, suggest gradual improvements until the device is no longer a hoola hoop and is now a covert ops weapon marketed to the Military, or until the company has moved on to the next gadget.

Think you can't give more than 100%? It depends what you define as 100%. Just schedule 30% of your time to reading slashdot and count the remaining 70% your total available time, then stop reading slashdot and boom now you are giving over 100% of your effort!

Forget to clean the fridge? Easy defense, you cut out time to clean the fridge to give 130% of your time to the death-a-hoop while questioning the commitment of your not so committed " quote- unquote teammates" ( and actually say quote unquote while making air quotes).

Thats my rules to success in any buisness

As someone who has been in too many meetings (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125678)

let me just say, "Well, duh!"

Scientific Evidence Already Stated (5, Insightful)

ShrapnelFace (1001368) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125692)

It's called "Group Think" and it was a major factor of evidence in the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia. We've already read this, been over this, and done this. Is this a presentation of a new idea, or an idea restated in a new light?

Either way, it's always a good idea to realize that in most cases, people are in a situation to satisfy themselves first, then those who are most related to that self next.

I find that in meetings I lead, I spend more time chairing the discussion than growing the actual discussion from the seeds of creation. Group think tends to be the by-product of that one person in your meeting who wont let go of their own idea and continues to bludgeon the group into submission.

Re:Scientific Evidence Already Stated (-1, Redundant)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125842)

I think you just gave me an idea for the next meeting...

1) Propose raise for self
2) Bludgeon group into submission
3) Profit!

Re:Scientific Evidence Already Stated (3, Insightful)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126314)

I don't know what 'major factor of evidence' means in your context but I think Microsoft Powerpoint should shoulder more blame for the Columbia disaster than groupthink. Maybe I have been reading too much Edward Tufte though.

You may want to consider that your definition of groupthink is overbroad. Part of how a business motivates its employees is to convince them to align their personal goals with those of the company. Done properly, satisfying oneself in a business setting means furthering the goals of the company.

Rather than say that gets lost due to groupthink I would say that it gets lost amid all the ass covering and finger pointing that often goes on. In Columbia's case, Lockheed Martin's main goal during the investigation was not to uncover the actual cause but defend against any possibility that they might have been at fault. They offer up test results of their insulation hitting a part of the shuttle that the actual insulation didn't hit, then claim that their insulation could not possibly have caused enough damage to be a problem on reentry. Maybe groupthink led people to believe them, I don't know.

So many companies are managed for the short term that this kind of thing is nearly impossible to prevent. The shuttle blows up, someone looks at a spreadsheet that shows the shuttle business is only 3% of revenue, so whatever future business LHM might have with NASA is sacrificed for the goal of protecting the company.

Re:Scientific Evidence Already Stated (0, Offtopic)

ShrapnelFace (1001368) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126838)

NASA's internal documentation on the causes of that disaster are well documented and self presented in their own report, a documentary,a Movie of the Week, and etc.

It was a major portion of study in college for us from 1990. Presented by a professor of psychology that was also a member of Stanford University. Call me lazy, but I dont feel like pulling the documents for you. Go out to the internet and find them youself.

Group Think was the major reason why the O-Rings were not updated or repaired due in fact to this effect.

What kind of meeting? (1)

Sneakernets (1026296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125706)

If we're talking about a room with a table and a bunch of office guys around it with the boss/supervisor/whatever blabbing on about "analysing reports from 1st quarter blah blah", you're bound to go numb. :)

Certainly Explains Congress (5, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125726)

Just one loong meeting...

Which is good! (2)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126398)

The last thing you would want is to increase the creativity of Congress...

It's not meetings, it's how/why they are held (3, Informative)

rbanzai (596355) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125736)

Meetings by themselves don't have problems. It's meetings that are flawed.

1. Meetings that should never have been held. They serve no real purpose.
2. Meetings with no structure, and no one to lead them
3. Meetings where there is an agenda but no one follows it and no one guides it
4. Meetings that run overtime due to mismanagement and no one is willing to conclude it.
5. Meetings that start late because there is no respect for the time of the attendees.

These are just some of the things that make me dread meetings. Over the last 6 years out of the many meetings I've been obliged to attend maybe five were really useful.

Re:It's not meetings, it's how/why they are held (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126018)

"We need a meeting to decide when the next meeting is going to take place"

Actual quote from a useless manager I once had.

Re:It's not meetings, it's how/why they are held (1)

Cornflake917 (515940) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126638)

Sounds like you work for Mircosoft.

(ducks)

Brainstorming (1)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125748)

There are few things more frustrating to me than so-called "brainstorming sessions". "Let's get a bunch of smart, creative people together and bounce ideas off each other." It never works. Never.

Anytime you have more than two people at a time trying to go through this process, you invariably get tied up in social motivations that are detrimental to the outcome. People are afraid to offend. People try to impress. People are afraid of sounding stupid.

The best and most useful creative ideas always come from individuals or occasionally pairs. Not committees.

Re:Brainstorming (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126066)

It is possible to have good brainstorming sessions. You need to have two distinct phases, the brainstorming part, and the editing part. No editorializing during the brainstorming part. No saying that an idea is good or bad, just write those suckers down. Saying it's good or bad tends to engage people's internal censors as they try to come up with things that fit what they perceive the group as wanting/not wanting. That kills creativity, so don't do it. When people see that any idea, no matter how good or how zany, is given equal treatment, it encourages them to let go of preconceptions in a way that brainstorming by oneself never can.

Only after a good long session of censor-free brainstorming should you switch modes and start judging what you came up with.

Re:Brainstorming (1)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126280)

I hear what you're saying, and it sounds great in theory. I've attended a lot of meetings that were organized around exactly what you just stated. Without exception, they have all been a colossal waste of time. Eventually, some have eventually arrived at something useful, but invariably, they could have been handled more efficiently by other means. Why not have people submit their ideas ahead of time to someone that could organize and collate them?

Your mileage may vary.

Re:Brainstorming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18126708)

There are few things more frustrating to me than so-called "brainstorming sessions". "Let's get a bunch of smart, creative people together and bounce ideas off each other." It never works. Never.
Brainstorming sessions can work if done correctly.

First: You can't just throw smart people into a room and say "brainstorm." The openness of a brainstorming session requires trust and comfort to be effective. If people are not comfortable they will be hesitant to present ideas, and are more likely to latch on to an idea they feel the group likes.

Second: you need to try to have a group as diverse as makes sense. A bunch of EEs in the room will tend to have an EE bias in their thought process no matter how creative they try to be. It's a balancing act, because the more diverse your group is, the more difficult it is for each individual to be comfortable.

Third: Establish ground rules. Clearly have a goal for the group and also set loose boundary conditions. Being told "Think of something creative," is equivalent to somebody going to a comic and asking, "Say something funny." Without establishing a context it's hard to get thoughts started. If you set a target like ways to improve power consumption, it gives a starting point for people to think of ideas.
While it may seem contradictory to have boundary conditions on a brainstorming session it is useful for keeping focus on the goal. You may start with power consumption and drift into thermal improvements. For example a suggestion of lowering the fan speed to reduce overall system power usage is a good suggestion, but delving into the ideas on how to reduce thermals removes you from the original topic. A good idea is to take those suggestions and make them the subject of the next brainstorming session.

Fourth: Understand the role of brainstorming. Brainstorming is a sharing session, it isn't about solving problems or finding the best idea. The main purpose of brainstorming is to "seed" the participating individuals with ideas from other people to create more ideas.

Obligatory despair.com poster (1)

keithmo (453716) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125768)

Meetings [despair.com] .

Re:Obligatory despair.com poster (1)

teslar (706653) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126004)

And here's [worth1000.com] the related recent entry at a Worth1000 contest :)

Say.... (3, Funny)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125796)

Guys --

I just scanned this great article on MSNBC..Let's have the whole team meet at 4:30, I've got some ideas...

--The Boss

How it works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18125806)

A single stupid idea will gain traction at a meeting if enough people are apathetic about it.

Fellow Nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18125812)

If we keep meeting like this we could lose our status.

Does a forum count as a meeting? (1)

koan (80826) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125828)

That would explain a lot of stuff I see and read on the Internet.

Re:Does a forum count as a meeting? (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126000)

Well, if this does include Internet forums, I'm sure it would exclude distinguished ones like Slashd..d..duhhh, I like fruit. Fruit is good. Do you like fruit?

Make sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18125832)

Studies have now shown that, as collaborative primates, the more often a possibility is mentioned the more likely the group is to go along with it.

I'd have to agree with that. What do you think?

Oh, I Definately Believe That (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18125866)

"the more often a possibility is mentioned the more likely the group is to go along with it."

Iraq...9-11...Iraq...9-11...9-11...Iraq...Iraq...9 -11...

Not entirely to my experience, but close (2, Informative)

skorch (906936) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125880)

While I certainly agree with the general conclusions drawn in the article about large groups or meetings in the traditional sense, I find that a single person working alone can sometimes also be fairly unable to come up with new ideas due to working from only a single perspective. Unless of course they meant have these people working alone for the brainstorming, and then have them come together and pick the best ideas and implementations from the bunch.

I think there may be a certain critical mass where enough (creative) people are in the room to come up with ideas from different perspectives, and enough cooperation and teamwork is in the room for the best ideas to rise above the ones that are simply said with the most volume and frequency. Of course I think the likelihood of getting the right sorts of people together with the right amount of self-awareness and ego to be able to admit when they don't have the best idea, is probably nothing short of a minor miracle for a company. I know there are people with whome we are more creative as a team than separately, but that is due to our experience and already established compatibility. The chances of us ever finding ourselves in the same company at this point are pretty slim.

Certainly the groups one finds in a typical office meeting are not the slick and well-tuned creative machines that me and my friends have developed on our own, and certainly those sorts of meetings are the bane of all intelligent and productive people's corporate existences.

Validation, not innovation (1)

LibertineR (591918) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125928)

Meetings are almost never for the purpose of new ideas.

When employees know which way the boss is leaning, how many feel safe calling him a dope?

I remember when it actually WAS that way at Microsoft, because everyone was respected, and you could tell your manager that his idea sucked, so long as you had a better one and could PROVE it verbally and demonstrate it in code.

These days, opposition to the bosses' idea is a fast track to unemployment.

Companies that are succeeding today hire well, then turn their people loose to solve problems their own way. You just tell them where you want to end up, and let them drive.

You have to have secure management for that, and this is a rare thing these days.

How to have a sucessful meeting (3, Interesting)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125932)

Let me recommed the book, "How to Run a Successful Meeting in Half the Time" http://www.amazon.com/How-Successful-Meeting-Half- Time/dp/0671726013/sr=8-7/qid=1172256632/ref=sr_1_ 7/102-8911026-2154546?ie=UTF8&s=books [amazon.com] , It's a quick read, and does have good advice.

The author gives the an example of a good meeting, the opening of the old TV show, "LA Law", where the lead attorney came in, laid his pocket watch on the table, then asked everyone to bring him up to speed with what they were doing. The pocketwatch was a device to let the audience know that he valued his time. Always, the meeting was over by the first commercial break. If real life corporate meetings could be more like this, I think we'd get a lot more done.

Re:How to have a sucessful meeting (1)

grassy_knoll (412409) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126446)

A former boss had a similar method. He took all the chairs and tables out of the room.

Staff meetings went from 2+ hours to about 20 minutes.

Meetings: None of us is as dumb as all of us. (1)

wernst (536414) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125948)

I have a fakey "inspirational" poster in my cubicle with this expression quoted at the bottom. A wise investment of $13 that is now empirically proven to be true.

Re:Meetings: None of us is as dumb as all of us. (1)

abb3w (696381) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126560)

ObPlug: Despair, Inc [despair.com] . I don't work for 'em, I just buy their toys.

The one for Burnout [despair.com] is popular with the local BOFH crowd; the one for Arrogance [despair.com] seems to amuse most of the local managers.

Laptop (1)

ms1234 (211056) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125972)

Thats why I bring my laptop with me and do work, mostly ignoring the discussion, nod a few times, say "Mmm-huh" and then 10 minutes before the end actually listen to the conclusion and ask who the hell came up with a plan like this.

No Fucking Kidding (2)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125980)

And for our next trick, we'll prove that water is wet.

From what I've seen, the best projects/products in terms of actual value and progress (not popularity) tend to be the ones entirely controlled by one person. The Linux kernel is an excellent example. It outshines the capabilities of the Windows kernel in so many ways it's not even funny. And it's all under the watchful eye of the benevolent dictator Linus Torvalds. It could even be said that early Apple computers under Steve Jobs' guidance was progressive for similar reasons. All of the "asshole" myths from the 70s and 80s about him indicate that he was still highly involved in controlling the direction of Apple products and pretty much defined what Apple was before he was ousted. Now, if you want the APPEARANCE of progress and value, then you can use committees, consultants and most specifically nice shiny PR to make people THINK you're "the shit". But in reality, you aren't. Sadly the reality based world is not a place people want to live these days.

Re:No Fucking Kidding (2, Interesting)

guruevi (827432) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126546)

I tend to disagree. The Linux kernel and in a lesser degree Apple, but a great (commercial) example is Google all share the following:

They are not run by a dictator. A dictator tends to stifle progress because his idea is law and that's what's going to happen. I had a manager like that once, he was the CEO and everything he said was a good idea. He also had no clue about anything going on outside his office (kinda like the pointy-haired boss in Dilbert), actually that whole company runs like the Dilbert cartoon including the salesmen and Catbert.

They actually let people run with their ideas, produce something great and see if it fits in somewhere. If it gives any added value, it gets integrated, otherwise it gets dropped, rehashed or whatever is needed.

Meeting (1)

Mullen (14656) | more than 7 years ago | (#18125998)

I held a meeting on this and we did not understand.

Oh No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18126046)

Along with Powerpoint [slashdot.org] and crystal meth, it sounds like some of my co-workers might be in trouble.

"We" have decided to comment (4, Funny)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126050)

After much discussion we have decided to comment on this absurd proposition that a group cannot write anything creative. Towards responding to this accusation, we propose a set of action items which will form a roadmap for our final response which will be distributed and posted to Slashdot by next Thursday afternoon.

The first action item will be to define what "creativity" actually is. This issue will be discussed at a CD meeting (Creativity Definition Meeting) tentatively scheduled for Monday at 9:45 am. Donuts and coffee will be served.

The results of the CD meeting will be compiled into a compelling Powerpoint presentation and displayed at our weekly Status Meeting on Wednesday at 4:30pm. Please note, we'll all be going out for drinks promptly following the meeting.

Thursday will consist of a full day of intensive focus groups, follow up discussions, and satellite meetings which will put a fine point on the issue of our supposed inability to generate new and compelling ideas. That full day of meetings will be compiled in a pink sheet for distribution to top management prior to our official Slashdot response.

Thank you.

Re:"We" have decided to comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18126956)

Hold on cowboy - are you sure you want to jump right into that CD Meeting right away? Might I suggest a pre-meeting to plan the CD Meeting, to decide what room to meet in, who is responsible for coffee, donuts, etc. Now that I think about it, how do we know what kind of donuts to get? What kind of coffee? Good God, man, we have to have a pre-pre-meeting!!

Well duh! (0, Troll)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126054)

How else would Fox "news" have any influence over people's opinions?

If you don't buy what I'm saying. Just keep reading it over and over until you understand it.

I wonder... (1)

SuurMyy (1003853) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126056)

if they had a meeting to come up w/this study... Maybe they could've reached another conclusion individually... ;)

confirmation of ancient knowlege (1)

senahj (461846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126058)


Effective leaders have known this at least since the Bronze Age.

You do all the creative work, all the organizing,
all the planning and "getting one's ducks in a line"
_before_ the meeting. You talk to all the important
participants, sound them out, and introduce your ideas,
_before_ the meeting.

Then you hold the meeting to review and ratify.

For a picture of an effective leader playing this game
at the grandmaster level, see the second volume of
Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon B. Johnson,
_Master_of_the_Senate_.

Irony (1)

TheMidnight (1055796) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126204)

Ironically this article popped up on Slashdot just as I loaded it onto my laptop at the beginning of a two hour team meeting. On top of that, I just ate McDonald's.

I agree with the article. I believe the cloudy feeling that comes over me during meetings is probably due to the lack of mobility, several people in the same room trying to share oxygen, and psychological factors such as disinterest, disconnect and general boredom. I have been to very few interesting meetings, so I can imagine that people don't want to brainstorm during a typical meeting. I brainstorm best when it's a small group or I'm alone, and when my alertness is high. Meetings tend not to foster such an environment, and the room is darkened to help with the visibility of projection. It's just not good for thinking.

Offtopic. Did MSNBC site recently fix its errors? (-1, Offtopic)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126228)

I have always used Firefox and mozilla before that and Netscape before that. I distinctly remember that MSNBC used to have lots of difficulty and cascading menu used to overflow frame boundaries and make a general mess. So I stopped visiting that site. For this story I clicked on the link, (I know, I know, as a slashdotter I should not read the article, but please forgive this newbie with id>900000) and it seems to rendering correctly. A side effect of IE7 roll out? All these sites finally stop putting hacks?

Re:Offtopic. Did MSNBC site recently fix its error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18126250)

Mods, mod parent offtopic.

social modes and introverts (2, Insightful)

drDugan (219551) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126270)

To those people with a basic understanding of human personality, this conclusion is obvious. The basic point here is that introverts are not able to function at their highest ability in real-time, face-to-face groups. Duh. . .

It is interesting to note that in some other cultures, (like France, for example) introversion is respected and placed on an equal footing with extroversion. In the US, and in prevalent US-dominated world culture, extroversion is pushed almost exclusively as the norm. Most introverts are forced into physical spaces (cubicles) and interactions (meeting rooms) with lots of other people around. This leaves an introvert drained and unable to function at their highest ability. Also, the general expectation for most interactions is for real-time discussion (face to face or by phone) where extroverts have a distinct advantage solely because if their ability to respond faster verbally. Email is a notable exception to this in generally accepted practice, where the introverts have a distinct upper hand.

Note: when I use the words introvert and extrovert here, I am not talking about the colloquial social definitions, nor the psychological disorder (maladaptive, overt) introversion, but rather the psychological typing used by MBTI, Keirsey, and other systems.

In Other News (1)

jaypatrick (696151) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126274)

Dumb teammates make you dumber. Incompetent bosses make you look dumber. Big Macs make your ass fat.

As the demotivation poster says (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126294)

"Meetings: No one person is as stupid as all of us."

Well, it's a close approximation to the poster. Alternatively:

Neither I nor U are in Teamwork.

Re:As the demotivation poster says (1)

silvertear72 (899704) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126394)

Neither I nor U are in Teamwork.
True, but there is a "m" and an "e".

Re:As the demotivation poster says (1)

jcuervo (715139) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126592)

Neither I nor U are in Teamwork.
True, but there is a "m" and an "e".
Also: meat, mat, tram, market, toe, toke, mote, mate, worm, ream, row, wart, more, mar, mow...

# killall boggle ; rm -f /usr/games/boggle

Meetings is where my productivity is highest (2, Funny)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126328)

I write some of my best code during long, dull meetings.

I even seem very active to the other participants, constantly taking notes on my laptop (as far as they know).

"in the box" (1)

drDugan (219551) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126354)

so let me get this straight... you take a bunch of people and put them in a box (a meeting room) and have some expectation they will think "outside the box"? Um?

being around other people introduces an enormous set of implicit norms and expectations. most people follow all these norms completely unconsciously.

U mean the internet stifles creativity? (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126356)

The same idea repeated thousands of times by thousands of search results. Billions of people grouped together. A handful of sources providing all the original information. Sounds like a description of the internet. Did humans get less creative when they created the internet?

Study isn't really about meetings! (1)

odyaws (943577) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126444)

I don't have access to the study, but at least FTA is seems like what they did is ask people to come up with a list of soft drink brands after exposing them to one brand. They came up with more alternatives individually than when paired with two others (though it's not clear whether each individual came up with fewer alternatives when in a group, which would be a trivial result, or whether the group came up with fewer alternatives than each of the separate individuals, which would be more interesting). It seems like a pretty big stretch to make general claims about the process of coming up with alternative solutions to problems from this data. In a well-run meeting (I know, they're rare) about a real-world *problem*, it seems like people can bring forth solutions that may be flawed, but that others in the group could help adapt to work. The group really can be smarter than the individuals (and I've seen it happen).

Many posters have brought up the concept of groupthink, which also seems to me to be a separate issue. Groupthink has more to do with people being reluctant to come up with/bring forward alternative solutions when the majority of the group has already settled on a decision.

Essentially I'd say that the issue of problem-solving individually vs. in groups is vastly more complex than can be explored with such a simple experiment. As the article mentions, the study may argue in favor of advertising during events that people watch as a group, but that's about as far as it goes.

Meetings aren't for that... (2, Interesting)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126472)

The primary purpose of meetings is to achieve consensus or to efficiently communicate information to the people who need it, not to be creative. The rest of your time on the job is the time to think of ways to effectively solve a problem. A meeting is for taking those ideas and throwing them out there, and seeing whose idea sticks.

Honestly, if a group of supposedly well-educated people couldn't think of a solution to a problem on their own, multiplying their inability won't magically make 0+0+0=1

Re:Meetings aren't for that... (1)

antispam_ben (591349) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126636)

A meeting is for taking those ideas and throwing them out there, and seeing whose idea sticks.

This reminds me of throwing a certain substance against the wall and seeing what sticks. It's as good a description of the meetings I've attended as anything.

Nail in the coffin for brainstorming sessions (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18126564)

Unsurprisingly, both the Slashdot and TFA headlines are misleading. What the article really says is the whole idea of a brainstorming session is, to be blunt, bullshit. This isn't classic groupthink, per se, which has more to do with an overemphasis on agreement and congeniality squelching dissent in teams, leading to false consensus. Instead, our evolutionary heritage of social behavior means that we're more likely to discard our own ideas in favor of anothers, especially if that other is someone we look up to or perceive as a leader. So in a group situation, once a few ideas are thrown out it's hard to get any further new ideas because people will self censor themselves as "dumb," or worse not even consider anything else because they lose the thread in favor of paying attention to what's on the table. Hence, brainstorming is a complete waste of time.

A better solution is to procede in rounds, where people do their creative thinking alone, then meet to coalate ideas, then go back off to perform creative synthesis on this new set of ideas alone, and so forth. Of course you still have to deal with groupthink when it eventually comes time to evualate competing options and select winners, but that's really a seperate issue with its own set of pitfalls.

Enteresting (0, Troll)

milatchi (694575) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126834)

Eye did note now this.

I dunno (1)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126854)

"Meetings Make You Dumber"

We should have an online town hall meeting to discuss whether this is truth or not.

IMO it's true, meetings require consensus building and 'LCD' communication ( least-common-denominator)--which usually takes up 75% of the meeting's time. So there's little chance anything creative comes out of it.

Like a Chain... (1)

Ikcor (676683) | more than 7 years ago | (#18126912)

Meetings are only as smart as the dumbest person attending.

Pair programming (1)

Channing (514228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18127026)

isn't pair programming just one long meeting ;-P
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