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If you attend meetings where participants sit around a table and talk until time is up there is one very easy thing you can do to drastically improve your productivity: Get a flip chart (or white board–any shared writing space will do) and start writing down ideas generated and decisions made where everyone can see them.
Why this works
Group conversations can be hard to follow–especially during brainstorming and decision making sessions. Most participants are splitting their focus between listening to the ideas generated by the group, formulating opinions, and deciding what to say next. With all that information flowing in and out it’s difficult to track the conversation and to make sure that everyone in the group is tracking the same way. By providing a flip chart and someone to write down ideas as they come up group members can not only remind themselves of what’s on the table but also check what they heard against what’s being written down–which means misunderstandings are likely to be caught much earlier in the process.
Who can do it?
You don’t have to be a group’s leader to implement this process. If your group meets in a room where there is already a flip chart or white board it is often appropriate for any member of the group to say “I’m hearing a lot of great ideas in this conversation, would any one mind if I wrote them up here so we can all stay on the same page?” If there isn’t an obvious place to write you can improvise by using notebook paper and writing large enough so everyone around the table can see the “shared notes” or even use a laptop and slide creation software (like PowerPoint) to take notes and periodically summarize what you’ve written for the group to make sure the group is tracking together.
If you are a group leader–bring a chart with you and offer to capture ideas–you’ll be glad you did!