“Most meetings are fruitless”
…begins one of my favourite passages of a book called “Making Ideas Happen” by the brilliant Scott Belsky, founder and CEO of Behance. It appeals to me on a number of levels. I’m sure it appeals to you too.
Too many times have we’ve sat through badly planned meetings. Meetings where the agenda doesn’t have anything to do with your responsibilities and meetings that just go way too long.
Running a meeting is an art. It’s a skill that needs to be cultivated. But often people don’t consider this at all. Just because you hold the talking stick, doesn’t mean you’re doing a good job. We can all get better at what we do, and meetings are one of the most overlooked areas, that actually have a rather significant impact in your management influence. It’s often overlooked because it feels like one of the areas that we wouldn’t dare confront someone over. Meetings, as we will look at, can carry within them a power-play. They can become mere signs of who’s really in control here. And as such have been used by small people to assert their authority and empire.
The unfortunate outcome of this, is that something so helpful, has the potential to become so distorted and unhelpful. It’s very simple in my mind, if I get threatened whenever someone offers me the slightest bit of advice about how my meetings could be more helpful, then I may find that I am using meetings as stamps of my authority. This is not good enough because meetings are there to help us achieve more and achieve better, not remind people who is in charge.
Here are some helpful tips to get your meetings running better, so they stop wasting your valuable time:
1. Ban the automatic meeting.
Meetings that happen just because another week has rolled around need to be outlawed. Unless you have real actionable outcomes that need to considered with the input of the team, ban it. Any information exchanges can be done via email. Reports can be done by email. Directions can be given via email. Updates to tasks can be done via email. Unless there are things that require team input, encourage your leaders to do away with automatic meetings.
2. End meetings with required actions
At the end of a meeting, go around the group and ask them to relay what action steps they will be walking away with. This does 2 things. One is that it helps people own what they need to do. And Two is that it will also show you who didn’t really need to be at this meeting by seeing who doesn’t have any required actions from this meeting. This will be good to keep in mind when planning future meetings. You don’t have to invite everyone.
3. Call out the useless meetings
If meetings don’t result in required action then call them out as useless meetings. It’s your responsibility to your employer to be using your time wisely. A meeting completely stops the work flow in a day. It not only takes time away from your tasks, but it can also completely disrupt your flow of productivity. And then having to get back into your workflow after meetings takes precious time too. Bad investments in time = missed opportunities to be achieving more. Call out the useless meetings.
4. Conduct standing meetings
People are less likely to “waffle on” when they are also gradually getting weak at the knees. The awareness of the fact that people are literally standing around for you, helps give you a better perspective on how you want to use your time. Simple really.
5. Don’t call meetings out of your own insecurity
Don’t just call meetings because you want to be assured of all the work going on around you. There are better ways to feel in control than costing people their time and workflow. Scott Belksy says, “Great leaders candidly ask themselves why they are calling a meeting, and they are fiercely protective of their team’s time.”
6. Don’t have hour long meetings
When you restrict yourself to less time, you realise that you can say the same amount you used to say and also discover the amount of filler material you used to put in just because you had an hour. It’s just like popcorn, they give it to you in a bucket – you’ll eat the bucket. You don’t need all that popcorn. But because it came in that size, much to your detriment, you will keep eating away through the movie to find it all gone at the end.
Go and have better meetings.
All of us can be geniuses. I know it’s a big statement to make. But each one of us are carrying inside of us the potential for genius. The difference comes when we CHOOSE to activate this & we KNOW how to activate this.
For far too long the word genius has been held up like a badge of the elite, a beacon shining bright for the chosen few, and used to seperate those who think too highly of themselves from those who feel like they have no right identifiying themselves with that world, “Genius”. It has a bit of a stigma to it.
But there is slowly coming to the surface research and books that highlight and champion the potential of the average human to achieve great things. Books like “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle, or “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin, all point to high levels of skill and mastery not being gifted to you, but grown over persistant and deliberate times of practice and progress. The genius isn’t the smartest man in every area. True genius is found when someone becomes a master of a particular area. You may have an incredible mathematical brain, but fail to complete simple annagram puzzles. Geniues don’t become gurus of life. If anything their narrow-minded pursuit of their area of genius means a decreased functioning of other areas.
You need the right movitation.
Many people go about mastery the wrong way. Our concept of genius is either too lofty and therefore not attainable. This is simply because what you can’t see, either tangibly or in your mind’s eye, you can’t attain.You must see it, and believe it to attain it. Or we simply try, don’t see results and give up. Let me be very clear. Genius will not spring up overnight. Acheiveing mastery is hard work. Ridiculously hard work. But you need to believe that it is possible. You’re passion for always wanting to grow must be stronger than your comfortablitiy to live an average, un-engaged life,where you never reach your full potential.
In addition to people’s intentional or unintentional appathy towards personal growth, another reason why people never reach mastery is that they are going about it all the wrong way.
You’ve heard the phrase, particulary in gyms, “You have to work smart”. Or, “I’d rather work smart, than work hard”.
That motivation needs to be attached to smart work.
I propose that it is both. You need the motivation to work hard. But you also need to work in a manner that gives you maximum return on your investment, maximun engagement and maximum growth in your skills.
This is what working smart can look like:
Pianists/Keyboardists, I’m betting that most of us who grew up having lessons may have experienced this. You start to play a piece and play through the first few bars without any issues. But you play further on and you run into a patch that you aren’t as confident with, and you begin to make mistakes. Your timing suffers, but you just hold on and get through the piece.
Now the smart teachers here will stop the pupil and focus on the bars that weren’t correct. They may get the pupil to slow down. They may get them to play it one hand at a time. This is good. This is an example of working smart. Rather than just blundering though the piece and hoping that by sheer number of times you attack it, it will get better, you are taking a critical analysis of what went wrong and how to fix it. This “sheer number of times attack” is actually quite common in a lot of areas of employment. It’s amazing the amount of corporate skills that aren’t critically analyised so as to improve performance, with many workers (and managers) just believing that it’s bound to get better over time. And it will, but at a much slower speed, and also a potentially a greater cost to safety and productivity.
But let me touch on what I believe is a greater method to mastering that piano piece. Rather than just slowing down and seperating the hand, I believe we can take this one step further. This is where the more fully-engaged teachers will shine. They will not just see the mistakes, but the reasons for the mistakes. Maybe the problem will be that the student is struggling with the arpeggios in that section. Or the polyrhythmic nature of the section. Here the truly smart teachers wouldn’t just teach the notes that are on the sheet music, they would find excerises that will increase that skill set. So for example, the use of clapping games to help the student get used to polyrhythms.
Research shows that people engaged in this type of method of skill aquisition are remarkably quicker at mastering things than their “sheer number of times” counterparts. And much more likely to retain this skill, as they aren’t “parroting” what’s there on the sheet music, but have aquired a brand new skill.
You can be a genius.
You have to believe you can be a genius.
That belief will help you work hard to be a genius.
That hard work should take the form of critical analysis, to not just repeat an action, but to acquire a brand new skill. This is working smart.
You can do it. I believe in you.
It’s one of the most encouraging books I’ve ever read as a creative person. I wanted to unpack some of the things I’ve been reading in the hopes that you will a) learn some awesome things that might help you as a creative this crazy world, and b) encourage you to buy the book yourself. It will flat out change your life. No bigs..
So let’s begin looking at what the book defines as Creativity.
“So – what is creativity? Is it a matter of genius? Is it magic, mystery or madness? Is it a gift or a curse? It is none of these. Rather, as Ken Robinson says, creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.”
It’s a pretty broad, almost too easy an idea. But it communicates the something of the simple complication that is creativity. This statement comments that not every original idea is a creative one. For it to be creative it must have value.You can write a large, grand symphony, but if it is not validated as something that has value (by your peers, not just your mother) then this falls outside of the definition of creativity.
This is not to say that your art has to be validated by the “vox populi“. In fact art often has an element of reaction against the popular voice, or a reaction to what is commonly accepted as popular. But the chances are that if you are the only person who likes what you do, you may not be a genius at the forefront of culture….you may be crazy.
The other observation is that creativity is a process. It is not a purely mystical singular occurrence. The book proposes that this process can be broken down into 3 phases.
- Perception – where something is seen, revealed, felt or recognised.
- Discovery – where something is interpreted, known or found out.
- Production – where something is made, performed or realised.
Read the book for more detail. But one of the really cool things I drew from this understanding of the creative process is that in the Discovery process, creative minds are wired differently from other people’s minds.
It’s incredibly releasing to know that I am wired differently. That people telling creatives to just be “normal” may not be the most helpful advice. And in the discovery phase what happens is the creatives have the ability to process a idea, thought or truth that may not fit within the prevalent world view, or culturally-held concept of normal. Basically, where other’s prefer not to challenge something that “just is”, creatives are wired to challenge the accepted and the norm. Because we have the ability to live with the tension of two seemingly opposite truths.
We challenge things, not because creatives always stir up trouble just be provocateurs. We stir things up simply because we are smarter than everyone else. (See what i did there?) Well…maybe more that we challenge things, because we are wired to perceive more views than just the strongest one. This…by the way is referring to strong creatives…everyone is creative. Just some are more deeply immersed and enriched by creativity.
We challenge things…and it’s okay to challenge things. We can’t be arrogant, in our heightened perceptive state, but understand that it’s okay. You are like that for a reason.
Enjoy…we’ll talk some more later.
Oh…just found this. It’s a video from one of the authors doing a better job at explaining this better than I ever could:
Ran into this after some gentle nudging by KB.
“New Stanzas for Amazing Grace“
I dreamed I dwelled in a homeless place
Where I was lost alone
Folk looked right through me into space
And passed with eyes of stone
O homeless hand on many a street
Accept this change from me
A friendly smile or word is sweet
As fearless charity
Woe workingman who hears the cry
And cannot spare a dime
Nor look into a homeless eye
Afraid to give the time
So rich or poor no gold to talk
A smile on your face
The homeless ones where you may walk
Receive amazing grace
I dreamed I dwelled in a homeless place
Where I was lost alone
Folk looked right through me into space
And passed with eyes of stone
On 11/08/2011, melodramatic soundscape mastermind ensemble Sigur Rós released a mysterious trailer entitled “INNI.” The clip is an etherial and elegant monochromatic journey, featuring what looks to be recent live footage of the band. This is the first new material from the Icelandic outfit since the release of the album hvarf-heim and film Heima in 2007. Nevertheless, frontman and primary writer Jón Þór Birgisson (aka Jónsi) has been far from idle, taking time to invest into two notable side projects; Riceboy Sleeps and more prominently his own solo material Go. With hopes held high and fingers crossed, the enchanting Vertov-esque teaser means a new album/film project logically followed by touring.
This project was set to be released on the 8th of this month, but is now available, at least in Australia.
So get it from iTunes or your local JB HiFi.
Check out the teaser here:
And download free mp3s from the official Sigur Ros website here.
The champions of pop-folk, Mumford and Sons have given Philadelphia radio station Radio 104.5 FM a sneak peek at a possible new album track called “Ghosts That We Knew”.
Rumours are that they will be releasing their new album mid next year.
So if the anxious wait for it, have a listen to their new material below.
WHY, HOW and FOR WHAT PURPOSE?
I have a book that I keep coming back to and reading in bite-size pieces as it is a little heavy going sometimes. That book is “Everything Is Connected: The Power of Music” by Daniel Barenboim. Barenboim is a widely regarded conductor, pianist and musical thinker. One of the concepts in this book is that every choice you make musically impacts upon every other musical aspect and the listener’s perspective. It’s an incredible idea, thus the title: “Everything is Connected”.
As he unpacks this idea he talked about a pianist who plays a sheet of music and follows every little direction in regards to performance instructions and dynamics, but doesn’t know why they are doing so. He calls this an sin of omission. His reasoning being that a musician who follows the letter of the law, ultimately neglects the spirit in which those letters came about from.
In our travels and pursuits as musicians, I think one of the healthiest ablilties to have is the ability to question. Not a condesending interrogation, but a child-like “What’s That?”. The child-like investigation of the status quo can be massively rewarding. As this thinking, not only allows you to imitate, but to understand the core of the message, so as to create your own expression, not merely a mimicry of things you learnt in music lessons.
Music, after all, is too big to be confined to the few years you did in High School and/or Higher Education. Music belongs to the family of knowledge where the depth hasn’t been found yet. No one knows how deep this well is just yet. This mystery is part of the magic of music. Music has a certain attractiveness, being both attainable and beyond our grasp all at once.
What now do we do?
Question everything you’ve every heard. Question everything you’ve ever loved to play. Why does it stir you? How does it do that? Why did Beethoven use a subito piano there? What purpose did the first chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” serve? You don’t get closer to answers without questions. But once you do have answers, or partial answers, you know have equipped yourself with an edge, an advantage, a perspective that never existed before. And i promise you, it will make you a more informed musician. You’ll start to join the conversation with peers further up the scale of musicianship.
But most of all: you will experience music much deeper than before. Deeper and deeper, as long as you commit to a life of questions.