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Water Guns And Crayons — Welcome To 'Creative' Meetings

In behavior, business on January 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm
Leaders attend a breakfast meeting during the ...

At least they're facing one another...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Is this your kind of meeting?

Water guns and crayons, reports today’s Wall Street Journal, help participants loosen up, think freely and brainstorm without fear of criticism and negativity.

Dixon Schwabl Advertising Inc., in Rochester, N.Y., tries to lower the inhibitions of its 82 employees by arming them with water guns, which workers are instructed to bring to all meetings. Anyone who passes a negative comment at the meeting is bound to get wet.

“It helps them be more comfortable because no one will be criticized or scrutinized,” says Lauren Dixon, the marketing and advertising firm’s chief executive.

Anonymity can also help lower inhibitions. During meetings at cloud-computing firm Box.net Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., Jen Grant gives workers seven minutes to jot down as many thoughts as possible on Post-It notes, without having to write their names. When time is up, the suggestions are put on a wall for the employees to read and rearrange.

“I tell them to not think about whether the idea is dumb or too costly, which allows them to think as big as they can,” she says.

I like the idea of finding ways to make people, when possible, less self-conscious and more comfortable in meetings. Many people hate speaking out publicly for fear of looking or sounding stupid, or being ridiculed, while blowhards and brown-nosers can easily dominate. And knee-jerk negativity is a real creativity-crusher.

Many of the cool ideas we use and value today were risibly out-there, but someone found the guts to express them.

Have you found a way to make your meetings work better?

  1. I think President Bush was trying this out when he tried to give German Chancellor Angela Merkel a massage, and President Obama also when he crashed the meeting of all the emerging market leaders in Copenhagen.

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