Who should run the meeting?

Most of us have mixed feelings about meetings. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em, is the best we can think to say, and it goes downhill from there. Like everyone doing knowledge work, I found myself in a meeting earlier this week, developing a new course that is being co-taught by the legendary cast of thousands (well, actually, more like ten professors). This particular meeting went quite well and we all came up with a lot of good ideas, ending in a valuable consensus. But I had a nagging feeling that we could do better, and so can your organization.

Who led your last meeting? Most likely, it was your boss; or at least, the most senior person in the room. Leading a meeting is considered an authority role and the highest-status person naturally gets to do it. Of course, no one can be an effective manager without being able to run a meeting. But very few of us have been in a meeting that was led in a way that fully realized the creative potential of the team.

The research on group genius is unambiguous: groups led by a trained facilitator are more creative. Design firm IDEO has taken this research to heart, and identifies and cultivates good facilitators. And why not try something radical: The person who facilitates your meetings doesn’t have to be the most senior person. A manager needs a whole host of skills, and why not delegate the meeting facilitation to a trained expert? You might end up with better meetings, less stress, and more innovation.

3 thoughts on “Who should run the meeting?

  1. Dear Mr. Sawyer:

    Great post. Genius can come from anywhere, it just needs a chance to stand up and take charge. In most places this is almost impossible because egos get in the way. If more people knew how to celebrate the people around them chances are they would see an increase in creativity and innovation.

    Your insights are reflected in the most recent blog by the US-Japan Innovators Network blog “waku waku”. You can check it out here if you like: http://innovatorsnetwork.wordpress.com/


    Andrew Stuerzel

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