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How to Predict the Future in Life More Accurately

How to Predict the Future in Life More Accurately

Where business is concerned, there is no crystal ball. When you take on a new venture or work to grow an existing one, there are inherent risks. You can run numbers and plan to your heart’s content, but there are so many factors outside of your control. Wouldn’t we all like to have a better way to predict what would happen in the future?

For the business-owner who is trying to decide whether they should expand to a second location or the big-time investor with money tied up in the stock market, being a few steps ahead of the game can make the difference between making bank or losing your shirt. Uncertainty can have devastating impacts. The Great Recession of 2008,[1] in which the bottom fell out of the US housing market, businesses folded, and people were left unemployed, still looms large in our memories when we think about our futures. Performing causal analysis can mitigate some of the risks of doing business by allowing us to anticipate major shifts like the Great Recession.

Take calculated risks and increase our success without losing it all.

The Great Recession had such a powerful impact because many people didn’t see it coming. The warning signs were there in advance of the collapse,[2] but most people didn’t take them seriously until it was too late.

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One of the great challenges in predicting your future is considering all the possible conditions. A business owner who was doing well in 2007 and had projected growth in 2008 had no way of accounting for the effects of broader economic troubles. The business owner who considered many perspectives and anticipated some unknowns undoubtedly fared better than the one who thought he or she could maintain the status quo.

Stop doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

One of the biggest pitfalls in business is thinking that a strategy will continue to be effective. In an ever-changing landscape, you have to be able to adapt you plan and respond to different circumstances. Causal layered analysis is an excellent way to find the best strategies for creating a secure future.

Causal layered analysis works by considering multiple inputs that can effect your outcomes. Some of the factors that must be considered are:[3]

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  • The litany: These are beliefs and feelings that people have about a situation. These beliefs can be based on quantitative data, but they can take on a life of their own. For example, if data projects low sales in this quarter, employees may internalize that belief and respond with fear or helplessness. They may perform poorly regardless of opportunities during the quarter.
  • Social causes: These include historical, political, and economic beliefs that influence outcomes. When a businessperson is deciding whether or not they wish to expand to a second location, they may cite uncertainty over the real estate market after 2008 as a reason not to buy a second property. The dominant political party’s economic policies may also impact how people choose to act in business matters.
  • Discourse: When we think about shaping new policies, who has a seat at the table? Are men and women included in the company’s discussion on parental leave policies? A company that values diverse perspectives will gain new insights. Inclusiveness is powerful.
  • Metaphor and myth: What are the dominant narratives, and how are those impacting outcomes? If we look at this in the context of schools, there is a common misconception that parents in low-income communities don’t care about education for their kids. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Parents in low income communities are still involved in their children’s education.[4] Misunderstandings in any context can have a negative impact on the way that we operate.

How Causal Layered Analysis helps you to predict the future?

After you’ve asked yourself a question and considered the litany, social causes, discourses, and myths surrounding that question, you can start to process of correcting misconceptions and shaping outcomes.

1. Brainstorm.

One of the best ways to correct misconceptions is to figure out what they are by reengaging stakeholders. When you empower every employee, from the entry level worker to the CEO to engage in a dialogue, you may see incredible results.

One powerful example of this comes from one of the most ubiquitous companies in the world today: Starbucks. Some baristas and a store manager suggested that the frappuccino would be a top-seller. People at the corporate level vetoed the idea, but a manager suggested that they try to market the product anyway. The frappuccino went on to be a major success for the company.[5] Different perspectives matter!

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2. Rebuild and repair mindsets.

From analyzing discourse and myths, you should know whose voices are being heard and who is controlling the dialogue. If one group is controlling the narrative at the expense of the rest of your staff, the imbalance is going to topple your organization. Perhaps you’ll need to change the office culture. If you are using causal layered analysis in your personal life, you may have to get to the core of why you hold certain beliefs.

3. Brainstorm again.

Use what you have learned to envision a better outcome. Solicit the input of your stakeholders once more in order to refine your solutions. Include multiple perspectives as well as quantitative and qualitative data.

4. Determine the takeaways.

Which ideas are going to take you toward your vision of success? What are the potential weaknesses and fears that you have moving forward?

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5. Lock on to certainty.

There are some things you simply can’t change. Identify those things because you’ll either have to use them to your advantage or work around them. Perhaps you aren’t able to find talent to fill positions in your business, and this has always caused problems for you. You’ll either have to find new ways to recruit and train people, or you’ll have to scale your work accordingly.

6. What are the free radicals?

What types of unknowns could affect your outcomes? Could you build more fail-safes into your plan to account for potential problems?

You can perform Causal Layered Analysis on almost anything

This form of causal analysis is most often applied in the world of business, but it can be useful in other forms of future planning and problem solving–from climate change to terrorism futures.[6] Whether you are deciding to buy a house or take a new job, you may find that thinking about your questions through the lens of Casual Layered Analysis can help you unpack the complexities of a problem. As we learned from Dubner and Levitt’s Freakonomics, we often come to the wrong conclusions because we do not understand the difference between correlation and causation, and we ask the wrong questions.

Causal analysis can help us ask the right questions and come up with solutions that reflect a multitude of considerations. We may not have a crystal ball, but we can have a multi-faceted approach to anticipating future events.

You can learn more from Sohail Inayatullah about Causal Layered Analysis here:

Reference

[1] Forbes: What Really Caused the Great Recession
[2] The Telegraph: Federal Reserve missed financial crisis warning signs in 2007, documents show
[3] Shaping Tomorrow: Making better decisions today: Causal Layered Analysis
[4] Center for Public Education: Back to school: How parent involvement affects student achievement
[5] Business News Daily: If you listen up, your employees will step up
[6] Dr. Sohail Inayatullah: Causal Layered Analysis

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Last Updated on September 30, 2019

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

Minutes are a written record of a board, company, or organizational meeting. Meeting minutes are considered a legal document, so when writing them, strive for clarity and consistency of tone.

Because minutes are a permanent record of the meeting, be sure to proofread them well before sending. It is a good idea to run them by a supervisor or seasoned attendee to make sure statements and information are accurately captured.

The best meeting minutes takers are careful listeners, quick typists, and are adequately familiar with the meeting topics and attendees. The note taker must have a firm enough grasp of the subject matter to be able to separate the important points from the noise in what can be long, drawn-out discussions. And, importantly, the note taker should not simultaneously lead and take notes. (If you’re ever asked to do so, decline.)

Following, are some step-by-step hints to effectively write meeting minutes:

1. Develop an Agenda

Work with the Chairperson or Board President to develop a detailed agenda.

Meetings occur for a reason, and the issues to be addressed and decided upon need to be listed to alert attendees. Work with the convener to draft an agenda that assigns times to each topic to keep the meeting moving and to make sure the group has enough time to consider all items.

The agenda will serve as your outline for the meeting minutes. Keep the minutes’ headings consistent with the agenda topics for continuity.

2. Follow a Template from Former Minutes Taken

If you are new to a Board or organization, and are writing minutes for the first time, ask to see the past meeting minutes so that you can maintain the same format.

Generally, the organization name or the name of the group that is meeting goes at the top: “Meeting of the Board of Directors of XYZ,” with the date on the next line. After the date, include both the time the meeting came to order and the time the meeting ended.

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Most groups who meet do so regularly, with set agenda items at each meeting. Some groups include a Next Steps heading at the end of the minutes that lists projects to follow up on and assigns responsibility.

A template from a former meeting will also help determine whether or not the group records if a quorum was met, and other items specific to the organization’s meeting minutes.

3. Record Attendance

On most boards, the Board Secretary is the person responsible for taking the meeting minutes. In organizational meetings, the minutes taker may be a project coordinator or assistant to a manager or CEO. She or he should arrive a few minutes before the meeting begins and pass around an attendance sheet with all members’ names and contact information.

Meeting attendees will need to check off their names and make edits to any changes in their information. This will help as both a back-up document of attendees and ensure that information goes out to the most up-to-date email addresses.

All attendees’ names should be listed directly below the meeting name and date, under a subheading that says “Present.” List first and last names of all attendees, along with title or affiliation, separated by a comma or semi-colon.

If a member of the Board could not attend the meeting, cite his or her name after the phrase: “Copied To:” There may be other designations in the participants’ list. For example, if several of the meeting attendees are members of the staff while everyone else is a volunteer, you may want to write (Staff) after each staff member.

As a general rule, attendees are listed alphabetically by their last names. However, in some organizations, it’s a best practice to list the leadership of the Board first. In that case, the President or Co-Presidents would be listed first, followed by the Vice President, followed by the Secretary, and then by the Treasurer. Then all other names of attendees would be alphabetized by last name.

It is also common practice to note if a participant joined the meeting via conference call. This can be indicated by writing: “By Phone” and listing the participants who called in.

4. Naming Convention

Generally, the first time someone speaks in the meeting will include his or her name and often the title.

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For example, “President of the XYZ Board, Roger McGowan, called the meeting to order.” The next time Roger McGowan speaks, though, you can simply refer to him as “Roger.” If there are two Rogers in the meeting, use an initial for their last names to separate the two. “Roger M. called for a vote. Roger T. abstained.”

5. What, and What Not, to Include

Depending on the nature of the meeting, it could last from one to several hours. The attendees will be asked to review and then approve the meeting minutes. Therefore, you don’t want the minutes to extend into a lengthy document.

Capturing everything that people say verbatim is not only unnecessary, but annoying to reviewers.

For each agenda item, you ultimately want to summarize only the relevant points of the discussion along with any decisions made. After the meeting, cull through your notes, making sure to edit out any circular or repetitive arguments and only leave in the relevant points made.

6. Maintain a Neutral Tone

Minutes are a legal document. They are used to establish an organization’s historical record of activity. It is essential to maintain an even, professional tone. Never put inflammatory language in the minutes, even if the language of the meeting becomes heated.

You want to record the gist of the discussion objectively, which means mentioning the key points covered without assigning blame. For example, “The staff addressed board members’ questions regarding the vendor’s professionalism.”

Picture a lawyer ten years down the road reading the minutes to find evidence of potential wrongdoing. You wouldn’t want an embellishment in the form of a colorful adverb or a quip to cloud any account of what took place. Here’s a list of neutral sounding words to get started with.

7. Record Votes

The primary purpose of minutes is to record any votes a board or organization takes. Solid record-keeping requires mentioning which participant makes a motion — and what the motion states verbatim — and which participant seconds the motion.

For example, “Vice President Cindy Jacobsen made a motion to dedicate 50 percent, or $50,000, of the proceeds from the ZZZ Foundation gift to the CCC scholarship fund. President Roger McGowan seconded the motion.”

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This vote tabulation should be expressed in neutral language as well. “The Board voted unanimously to amend the charter in the following way,” or “The decision to provide $1,000 to the tree-planting effort passed 4 to 1, with Board President McGowan opposing.”

Most Boards try to get a vote passed unanimously. Sometimes in order to help the Board attain a more cohesive outcome, a Board member may abstain from voting. “The motion passed 17 to 1 with one absension.”

8. Pare down Notes Post-Meeting

Following the meeting, read through your notes while all the discussions remain fresh in your mind, and make any needed revisions. Then, pare the meeting minutes down to their essentials, providing a brief account of the discussion that summarizes arguments made for and against a decision.

People often speak colloquially or in idioms, as in: “This isn’t even in the ballpark” or “You’re beginning to sound like a broken record.” While you may be tempted to keep the exact language in the minutes to add color, resist.

Additionally, if any presentations are part of the meeting, do not include information from the Powerpoint in the minutes. However, you will want to record the key points from the post-presentation discussion.

9. Proofread with Care

Make sure that you spelled all names correctly, inserted the correct date of the meeting, and that your minutes read clearly.

Spell out acronyms the first time they’re used. Remember that the notes may be reviewed by others for whom the acronyms are unfamiliar. Stay consistent in headings, punctuation, and formatting. The minutes should be polished and professional.

10. Distribute Broadly

Once approved, email minutes to the full board — not just the attendees — for review. Your minutes will help keep those who were absent apprised of important actions and decisions.

At the start of the next meeting, call for the approval of the minutes. Note any revisions. Try to work out the agreed-upon changes in the meeting, so that you don’t spend a huge amount of time on revisions.

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Ask for a motion to approve the minutes with the agreed-upon changes. Once an attendee offers a motion, ask for another person in the meeting to “second” the motion. They say, “All approved.” Always ask if there is anyone who does not approve. Assuming not, then say: “The minutes from our last meeting are approved once the agreed-upon changes have been made.”

11. File Meticulously

Since minutes are a legal document, take care when filing them. Make sure the file name of the document is consistent with the file names of previously filed minutes.

Occasionally, members of the organization may want to review past minutes. Know where the minutes are filed!

One Caveat

In this day and age of high technology, you may ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be simpler to record the meeting? This depends on the protocols of the organization, but probably not.

Be sure to ask what the rules are at the organization where you are taking minutes. Remember that the minutes are a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said at the meeting.

The minutes reflect decisions not discussions. In spite of their name, “minutes,” the minutes are not a minute-by-minute transcript.

Bottom Line

Becoming an expert minutes-taker requires a keen ear, a willingness to learn, and some practice, but by following these tips you will soon become proficient.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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