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15 Secrets To Running Meetings Like The World’s Top Innovative Companies

15 Secrets To Running Meetings Like The World’s Top Innovative Companies

Meetings can be a source of creativity and motivation – a time when team collaboration and leadership combine and create the space for achieving organisational goals. Maybe in an ideal world. Unfortunately, more often, meetings are just an unproductive and inefficient waste of time.

There’s a secret to running meetings that energise rather than demoralise. Here are 15 things the world’s top innovative companies do to keep meetings productive:

1. Apple – Small groups of smart people

A meeting is not a party, so “the more the merrier” does not apply. Steve Jobs was notorious for insisting that meetings should be small groups of smart people – and he wouldn’t hesitate to let someone know if they weren’t needed. Experts suggest there should be no more than 10 people at a meeting – so pick your invitees wisely.

2. TED – Keep it short

There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a meeting watching the clock tick by. Meetings should not drag on for hours – or even half an hour. Research shows that our attention span is between 10 – 18 minutes, so the most innovative organisations know that meetings should be short. TED has proven that a lot can happen in 18 minutes:

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In a 15-minute TED talk, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg inspired millions of women to “lean in.” Steve Jobs gave one of the most popular commencement addresses of our time at Stanford University and he did it in 15 minutes. It took Dr. Martin Luther King a bit longer to share his dream of racial equality—he did it in 17 minutes.

3. Google – Appoint a decision maker

The secret to Google’s success is not acting like a large multi-billion dollar company – it’s acting “like a hungry startup”, according to CEO Larry Page. A problem with big companies is the increased red tape and bureaucracy that comes from having so many separate departments (corporate, operations, sales etc). This leads to increased meetings and slower decisions. So, Google has adopted a “buck stops here” approach to streamline decision making in meetings.

As Larry says: “There are no companies that make good slow decisions”.

4. 3M – Allow free time

Meetings need agendas and purpose – but innovation and creativity also need room to breathe. 3M created the 15% Program to allow its employees (paid) time out of their working day to generate ideas and pursue creative endeavours – that started in 1948! Over 50 years has proven that the best-selling products and services come out of allowing this free time and space. Google has followed suit and upped the ante with 20% free time, which famously led to the creation of Gmail and Google Earth. So, whether it’s before/during/after a meeting, allow free time for creative thoughts to flow. 

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5. Virgin – Location, location, location

A boardroom and powerpoint is enough to put anyone to sleep. Richard Branson suggests innovative ideas will come from innovative spaces. He says that the novelty of holding a meeting in a park or cafe will inject a breath of fresh air into any group meeting and likely generate new ideas and ways of thinking. If you don’t have a private island or yacht to discuss this month’s P&L, try getting outside or using a different space in the office, like the kitchen.

6. Facebook – Think on your feet

Experts say that for every hour that we sit, we reduce our life expectancy by 22 minutes. Considering we spend approximately 40 – 80 hours per week sitting at our desks, it’s no wonder the top innovative tech companies are refusing to meet sitting down. A recent study also found “that when people stand during meetings they appeared more excited by their work, acted less territorial about their ideas, and interacted better as a team”. Plus, standing also reportedly cuts meeting times by 25%. Facebook’s engineering manager (Mark Tonkelowitz) reportedly holds 15-minute stand-up meetings at 12pm daily – no chairs and an impending lunchtime keep updates short and sweet. For one-on-one meetings, Nilofer Merchant asked TED audiences to consider the benefits of a walking meeting. Let’s start thinking on our feet!

7. Microsoft – Share air time

Meetings are not a lecture – input is usually required from all attendees (particularly if you’ve adhered to #1 and got the guest list right!). The best innovators know how to keep meetings on track and ensure that each person is afforded air time. A team at Microsoft uses “Ralph” – the rubber chicken – to toss around the group to the speaker of the moment. It sounds a bit like an ice-breaker at summer camp, but it can help keep the balance of speaking/listening in meetings.

8. Facebook – Have an agenda

This is really a big one and arguably pretty obvious. Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, insists an agenda is crucial for meetings and always has a spiral notebook with her to ensure that each item is ticked off. Ideally, the agenda should be circulated in advance and have some flexibility – it doesn’t need to be a detailed list but should reflect the purpose and objectives of the meeting. This leads to my next point…

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9. American Express – Know your purpose

All meetings should have a clearly defined purpose or problem to solve. Christopher Frank, the VP for American Express, says you should be able to articulate that purpose or problem in 5 words or less. He told Forbes, this gives “a good idea of the information you need, the people you should talk to and will ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.” It’s not always easy! As Dr Seuss says, sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.

10. Upfront Ventures – Leave the laptops

Mark Suster – a successful entrepreneur, angel investor and venture capitalist – says laptops have no place in meeting rooms. Everyone should be fully engaged and attentive in a productive meeting and laptops rarely facilitate this. What about note taking? Well, research shows that conceptual recall is much better after taking handwritten notes than on a laptop anyway. If it’s going to be a long meeting (but see #2 above), schedule a 15 minute email break.

11. Barack Obama – Switch off

A recent study found that 79% of people aged between 18 – 44 have their smartphones on them 22 hours per day. Although this mobile technology has many advantages, it’s mostly an unnecessary distraction in meetings, so keep it a phone-free space! Very few things are that urgent or important. Even Barack Obama gets it – apparently the bi-monthly cabinet meetings at the White House are a cell phone free affair! There is a basket on entry for all attendees to deposit their phones. If it’s good enough for the President of the USA…

12. Apple – Have a DRI

It’s no surprise that Apple is on this list twice. Apparently, the key to achieving meeting action items at Apple is appointing a “Directly Responsible Individual”. This creates a culture of accountability, which keeps things moving forward and ensures meetings are always productive. Steve Jobs encouraged (read: insisted) on senior staff taking full ownership and responsibility of issues and action items. There’s nothing like the shame of public accountability to motivate staff to follow through.

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13. Amazon – Get rid of PowerPoint

We all love a good pie chart or line graph, but CEO and founder of Amazon (Jeff Bezos) has banned PowerPoint in his meetings. Nobody enjoys death by a thousand slides. Jeff argues that PowerPoint is easy for presenters but difficult for the audience. Unless you are a PowerPoint pro, stick to bullet points.

14. Yahoo – Use data

The CEO of the $35 billion internet portal is (unsurprisingly) a firm believer in the power of facts and figures in meetings. She considers data to be an equalizer. It also prevents the meeting from succumbing to office politics and opinion-induced debates. Don’t interpret “data” too conservatively though – a balance of qualitative and quantitative information is usually the most well-received.

15. Nike – Doodle away

A 2009 study at the University of Plymouth found that doodlers can retain 29% more information than non-doodlers in meetings and lectures. It’s no surprise then that Nike CEO, Mark Parker, is often found with a moleskine notebook and pen in hand during meetings – he says it helps the brainstorming process. The $15.9 billion empire was probably built on a foundation of designs sketched in meetings on a Tuesday afternoon.

Now you’ve got all the tools to create motivating and productive meetings in your workplace. You’ll be having 15 minute standing team updates in the park, throwing around a tennis ball, in no time. Still, remember – no meeting is better than a bad meeting.

Featured photo credit: Hybrid Tech Car via hybridtechcar.com

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Last Updated on November 5, 2018

20 Best Places to Work for a Great Career in 2018

20 Best Places to Work for a Great Career in 2018

Looking for a job? There’s no doubt to the fact you will want to work with a company that appreciates you for who you are.

Well, good news. The labor market today is one that has peened up with more opportunities for advancement and personal employee improvement. This is partly due to the fact that a lot of companies have been made to understand the value of their biggest assets: the employees.

To wit, here’s a list of companies- across a wide array of industries- that have been able to develop working environments that are healthy and accommodating to workers.

Take a look at these 20 best place to work for a great career:

1. Salesforce, San Francisco, California,

    Salesforce is in the information technology business and the company ranks highest due to their commitment to learning and innovation. They are ready to try new things and everyone with a new idea is always welcome to share it at the company. The company has also been known to exhibit an exceptional approach to alignment.

    Find out more about careers in Salesforce

    2. Wegmans Food Markets Inc.,Rochester, New York

      Based in Rochester, New York, employees have been known to enjoy a sense of purpose from working here. The company has been able to achieve an optimal level of engagement across all working tiers and they’ve been able to achieve great things together. They even do deliveries.

      Find out more about careers in Wegmans

      3. Ultimate Software, Weston, Florida

        Employees get amazing benefits here but that’s not the only reason why this place is so awesome to work. Whenever there is a need or a death of an Ultipeep or any of other family members, the company shows love and support like no other.

        Find out more about careers in Ultimate Software

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        4.The Boston Consulting Group, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts

          Development is at the center of anything that goes on here. The business is about people and employees are the company’s biggest asset. Employees are able to challenge the status and also leave impacts on clients.

          Find out more about careers in The Boston Consulting Group

          5. Edward Jones, St. Louis, Missouri

            Edward Jones is admired for their ability to acknowledge history without being mired down by it. The company builds on a solid foundation but there is also a level of flexibility that allows for innovation.

            Find out more about careers in Edward Jones

            6. Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, San Francisco, California

              Kimpton is a trendsetter in the hospitality industry. The company always strives to try something different and that perspective is welcomed there at all times. Enjoy the weekends with luxury rooms, conformable mattress, furnished and well dressed service staff. A great opportunity for job seekers.

              Find out more about careers in Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants

              7. Workday, Pleasanton, California

                Newbies will find no issues with feeling welcome and at home here as this has always been a core culture component of the IT giant. Everyone is treated like family and this fosters a sense of oneness.

                Find out more about careers in Workday

                8. Genentech, South San Francisco, California

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                  Here, employees are encouraged to be themselves. There is a feeling of care, safety, and acceptance that you get here that you can’t get at many firms. The development of an all-inclusive environment has always been foundational.

                  Find out more about careers in Genetech

                  9. Deloitte, New York, New York

                    Deloitte is one of the biggest professional service providers in the world, noted for their focus on constant learning, development and improvement. They invest in their employees and are concerned about their well being.

                    Find out more about careers in Deloitte

                    10. Baird, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

                      Baird is a financial services provide that is known for adopting a “no asshole policy’ which guides the way people relate with and respect each other, regardless of their position on the company’s hierarchy.

                      Find out more about careers in Baird

                      11. Quicken Loans, Detroit, Michigan

                        At Quicken Loans, the views and opinions of everyone are respected and heard. The organization is revered for the amount of investment they put in their team members and everyone looks for ways to grow and be better.

                        Find out more about careers in Quicken Loans

                        12. Capital One, Mclean, Florida

                          Capital One has adopted a culture that encourages employees to take risks and try new things. They foster a healthy work-life balance and associates are challenged to live better lives.

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                          Find out more about careers in Capital One

                          13. Cooley LLP, Palo Alto, California

                            Cooley LLP is a law firm known for their ability to care about the company culture and being able to develop a working environment that is empowering and fun. Cooley is known to go for the best when it comes to their employees, regardless of the occasion.

                            Find out more about careers in Cooley LLP

                            14. Southern Ohio Medical Center, Portsmouth, Ohio

                              The medical center has been known for their propensity to delegate so much to their employees, thereby providing them with the ability to grow and learn on the job. In the end, you get a workplace that is all-engaging and super fun.

                              Find out more about careers in Southern Ohio Medical Center

                              15. American Express, New York, New York

                                American Express is a firm that celebrates wins, no matter how small. Everyone is made to share the same attitude towards service and the people they are to serve, thereby making people care about what they do.

                                Find out more about careers in American Express

                                16. Adobe Systems Inc., San Jose, California

                                  The culture at Adobe Systems is one that encourages employees to develop their own ideas and get a strong viewpoint. As opposed to encouraging competition, work-life balance is fostered everywhere here.

                                  Find out more about careers in Adobe Systems Inc.

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                                  17. The Cheesecake Factory Inc., Calabasas, California

                                    The Cheesecake Factory rewards dedication and hard work. Promotions come pretty easy, and there is always space for guidance to develop your experience and skills.

                                    Find out more about careers in The Cheesecake Factory Inc.

                                    18. Sap America, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania

                                      If you’re looking for a new career path, SAP might be the best bet for you. The company is adept at recognizing value and transferable skills. And you can always look for a new path while maintaining your employment.

                                      Find out more about careers in Sap America

                                      19. NVIDIA Corporation, Santa Clara, California

                                        NVIDIA is known for looking after even the smallest of things. With even a “pets allowed” policy this company accepts you for who you are, and helps you to work within your personality. Advancement is also fostered, and you are able to collaborate effectively.

                                        Find out more about careers in NVIDIA

                                        20. KPMG LLP, New York, New York

                                          Communication and progressive collaboration are the foundation of this company’s workforce treatment. Regardless of the level you are, someone is always at the ready to help and the company rewards extra effort with gratitude.

                                          Find out more about careers in KPMG LLP

                                          All in all, it’s safe to say that you will be able to find somewhere to apply your skills (whatever they are) that is all inclusive and highly accommodative. Companies today are being made to understand how much they can get when they treat their employees right and this has opened the door to an encouraging work environment for all.

                                          Happy job hunting!

                                          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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