Meetings are a building block of any good collaborative process. But time is money, and deadlines are...another kind of time. So when you meet with your team, you want to make the most of their expertise while respecting their schedules. Building on the previous post about brainstorming, here are some more recommendations for running an effective creative meeting.
Productive meetings have a clear goal that everyone agrees on or is at least aware of, preferably beforehand. If possible, give folks a heads up at least a few days before the meeting so they can warm up to the material, do research as needed, and prepare their ideas in the way that suits them best. Even a formal agenda? It's OK to have those for creative meetings too. That way you can start the meeting quickly without wasting too much time restating the purpose and setting out the known constraints in the beginning.
Start talking! Contribute your existing ideas, but also ask each other probing questions to help refine your collective thinking about what solutions might work. If it’s appropriate to your goal, let yourselves think big. Say something out there, even if it’s a weird, half-idea that just sounds intriguing and vaguely relevant. A good creative meeting gives the participants a chance to be inspired by each other, or by the chance to hear something new or innovative. Moderate the meeting to create a welcoming, fun environment that seeks to involve everyone present in some capacity.
Maybe you have a very tactile group of folks who like old-fashioned paper or whiteboards. Maybe you have a big monitor that allows you to browse websites as they come up in conversation. Look at free mind-mapping software to visually track all of your ideas. Maybe you like index cards, vintage Koosh balls, or have an enchanted dreamcatcher. Whatever your group uses to focus their attention and encourage collaboration. And take notes! Don’t let your ideas dissipate into thin air with no way to reference them later. Unless they are super terrible. You can let those go.
While you want to keep the discussion open and understand that any idea can lead to a gem, no meeting can last forever. At some point, you want people to start building on the quality concepts that meet your standard of creativity, functionality, and practicality. Or whatever traits best describe your stated goal. Read the room to find out what ideas are getting the most traction. Are people getting excited about certain concepts or struggling to understand others? Some things will usually present more obvious potential and promise. Take a few moments to restate and confirm these with the group, and then start to guide the conversation towards fleshing these out some more. You don’t have to abandon everything else - many times disparate ideas or features can be grouped together in a single, cohesive solution in clever and satisfying ways. But otherwise, feel free to table other options that don’t quite fit your goal.
Like most meetings, you want your meeting to end with a good debrief and some explicit next steps on what to do with all of your genius. Recap the most salient ideas you all (at least most) agree on and determine who has to do what to further breathe life into them. Check in with your key players. Do the people who have to do the actual work have what they need to continue? And if needed, set up another follow-up meeting with the right mix of people to get even more granular.