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Your Next Meeting Needs a Beekeeper

Everyone wants productive meetings. Often people come together in meetings and fall into a predictable pattern of behavior. The same people speak, the interaction is routine, the outcome is known, and the results are less than stellar.

Instead of complaining about your next meeting, why not do somethings differently? I offer the metaphor of a Hive to help give you some alternative possibilities. In nature, bees live in hives. Besides being home, a hive is an amazing place of highly evolved communication. The hive offers the means to live through interaction and communication.

Certain kinds of groupware can offer you and your team a new way to approach your meeting and a way to achieve extraordinary results. We love GroupMind for this work. We liken our groupware to a Hive. A question is posed. Thoughts appear in real time. Some are valuable others are not, but all are considered. Everyone in your meeting has a voice, and it becomes fun and exciting to see everyone’s thoughts at once, live and in person. We call this brainwriting as compared with brainstorming. The difference (and it’s a big one) is that the group facilitates its own process as new ideas emerge.

The sheer volume of ideas that are generated is often surprising to teams. New energy is released as everyone has the chance to share their thoughts on a topic. Brainstorming with a facilitator or with stickies is so slow and time-consuming in comparison. Brainstorming is especially problematic if the loudest extraverts take over the board and start judging the entries. We all have been in these sessions and they are slow, painful, and often forgettable.

The answer is a good beekeeper a solid process and an extraordinary set of tools. It’s a three-legged stool: facilitation, process, and technology all working together to give your team an entirely new way to think together. Let’s face it. Thinking is hard work, thinking in groups is even harder, and prioritizing what has been revealed in the discussion is the holy grail of meetings. To give this short shrift is to accept that your team will probably have another unproductive meeting.

What I am recommending is simple, but it’s not easy. Thinking well is a discipline, and in groups, it needs to be an inclusive discipline. Visual dialogue can be helpful and in our experience, it comes afterward. Pictures can help to create meaning by connecting ideas to concepts by creating metaphors that we can all understand. We see it all starting with words and sentences. Meaning is constructed out of our thoughts. As these thoughts become visible we see patterns, and patterns create avenues for divergent thinking. Later we can use convergent techniques to narrow down the most valuable ideas so that we may move forward together.

A highly trained beekeeper (facilitator) can help the group do its thinking work. She can suggest “moves” (techniques to advance thinking, compare alternatives, prioritize ideas etc.) that advance the conversation while tracking time, recording decisions and designing on the spot. She remains neutral, while the “bees” do their work, converting raw data into honey to maintain and sustain the team through time. A beekeeper can help design the before, during, and after experience of your meeting giving new continuity, energy, and life to your mission-critical decisions.

Some of the best companies are on to this type of thinking in groups. The technology has been around for the last 30 years and it’s been one of those best-kept secrets of high performing teams – especially global teams. Maybe now is the time to give it a try for you and your team. You might consider stopping talking about “design thinking” and learn how to design your teams thinking. We can show you how to get started with team beekeeping. To do what you have never done, you have to think in ways you have never thought. Our intensibe beekeeping school is starting soon. Request a description.

The New Light Saber


AR Scorpi
This is AR Scorpi, the first discovered white dwarf pulsar. Credit Mark Garlick / University of Warwick

When the empire strikes back, we need to respond. This is a call for the return of the Jedi. But before we all rush in with our old paradigms tools and models, let’s rethink this. I love the idea of the lightsaber. It’s elegant and powerful, part of us, and connected to “The Force.” The problem is it still divides things in two.

Our new light saber would cleave things together. It would allow us to see the paradox, feel it, get comfortable with our own inconsistencies, and work our way through the mazes, the smoke screens, the fake news, and see each other more fully and more compassionately. This new saber, again, born of light, connected to our essence and fueled by the universal force of good would enable us to immerse ourselves in our humanity.

Together we could view the planet as a whole, and begin to take actions that would make a difference. Emmanuel Macron reminded us last week that there is no planet B. And as Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

I strongly believe we must immerse ourselves in each other’s stories. It is in the telling that one begins to take the necessary risks, and it is in the listening that one gets finds compassion to accept and honor the other’s experience and beliefs. Behavioral science has a great collection of tools, techniques, methods, and methodologies that have proven effective in bringing people to new understandings. New Jedi can be trained, and they need to be. Marv Weisbord said, after reflecting on more than thirty years of changing workplaces, “Every generation needs to learn the same things all over again.” Susan Glisson reminds us in her article in the Washington Post that “Person-to-person leads to group-to-group,” she says. “And groups create policy.”

This work requires effort and takes time. Tools need to be re-learned. They need to be applied with skill and practiced relentlessly. The concept of feedback needs to be revisited so that once again it gets connected to learning and not simply to results. Clickbait won’t save us, but seeing the whole and cleaving things back together just might help. Know what I am talking about, do you? Hmmm.