Edited and prepared by Oscar Michel, Masters in Journalism, DCU

Great guest post by Ian Gilbert one of the UK’s leading educational innovators, founder of Independent Thinking Ltd and author of a new book The Compleat Thunks Book. See his Thunks website here

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In meetings, it is often said that those who are speaking the most are the ones who are thinking the least. And if people see a meeting as an opportunity to boost their egos, you’re asking for trouble. After all, they say there’s no ‘I’ in team, but there is one in ‘meeting’. There’s a ‘me’ too.

Often, team meetings involve the same minority speaking whilst the same majority listen, trying to not doze off or tune out. If you’ve had enough of meetings following the same pattern, then there are a number of things you can do to shake them up and ensure everyone is speaking up and getting themselves heard.

Are you more intelligent in a different room?

Meetings were happening before the advent of meeting rooms, so try holding a meeting somewhere different each time. The brain likes habits, the things it can do without having to think. Doing something the way you’ve always done it is great for your brain as it can have an easy time. That Monday morning, 9.30 meeting in the conference room? Snoozeville! But suddenly that meeting is at 8.43. It’s in the museum. Or the supermarket. Or the park. Or your kitchen. Now your brain has to put some work in. Not only will you approach such meetings differently, more alert and on your toes, you will also come up with different ideas because we are subconsciously influenced by the environment. Even taking it in turns to introduce different stimuli into your fixed meeting room will help – posters, music, different food, puzzles and games.

Does who you meet change who you are?

New inputs lead to new outputs. The research shows that if you fill the room full of people who are all experts and who all think the same, the quality of the responses is less than if you have a mixed group with some non-experts. So throw in some ‘new blood’, either in the flesh or by taking it in turns to show something stimulating from YouTube and ask everyone for five things you can learn from it?

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Often, the ones doing the speaking are the ones who think they have the best answers. Listen to a politician and they’ll say things like ‘The fact of the matter is…’ or ‘Technically speaking…’. They are trying to get you not to think for yourself. The key here is to discuss questions for which there is no right answer. Or a wrong one. BIG questions with many possible answers but no one fixed solution stimulate thinking in a way that settling on the right answer fails to do.

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Asking such questions means a level playing field for all and no-one can do the ‘ego measuring’ things because everyone is as clever – or otherwise – as everyone else. Thunks, beguiling little philosophical questions with no rights or wrongs, can help stimulate thinking, enhance creativity, help you see the world differently and build confidence. But don’t take my word for it, start each meeting with a Thunk and go round the group for their thoughts. It’s a simple ‘yes’ ,‘no’ or ‘something else’ response and then the thinking really starts when people have to explain their reply and then defend it or amend it – ‘change your mind, prove you’ve got one’ as they say.

In this way, everyone is taking part, you are all equal, and you are showing you are about creativity and thinking, not settling on the first answer to get you out of their as quickly as possible.

Ian Gilbert is an educational innovator, founder of Independent Thinking Ltd, and author of The Compleat Thunks Book, published by Crown House Publishing, and available now on Amazon.


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