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Leadership

Why Meetings Never Accomplish Anything—And 3 Ways To Fix Them

If two heads are better than one, three's a crowd, and too many chefs spoil the broth, how do we meet those client deliverables? By following these steps.

There's a problem that's perplexed everyone from Miles Davis to Thomas Edison to LeBron James: how to make teams actually work.

Writing in Behance's 99u blog, psychologist Christian Jarrett gathers new research on the common problems teams face and offers solutions for them—three of which are below.

Don't let loudmouths hold too much sway.

Echoing Quiet author Susan Cain's point that the loudest people don't have the best ideas and can, in fact, hamstring the ideas generation process.

"Vocal, overconfident team members have a disproportionate influence while shy contributors lose faith in their own proposals," Jarrett writes, drawing from a Swiss and Hungarian study.

The solution: make sure everyone involved notes their ideas and prediction before the discussion—and influencing—begins.

Inject a little pessimism.

When teams fail on projects, companies will make inquiries to find out what went wrong. Jarrett writes that the downfall is often caused by project groups growing isolated and inward-looking, a symptom of the "unrealistic optimism that often bedevils creative teams."

To tackle this, Jarrett suggests a bit of healthy incredulity from decisions researcher Gary Klein: air out reservations with a "pre-mortem," a thought experiment where members forecast that their project fell apart in the future—and then backtrack to the present to find out why.

Watch the clock.

If you're having meetings, research suggests that you need them to be crisp. Jarrett notes a 2011 study that found that 367 American employees across industries didn't care so much about how long a meeting lasted, but whether it started and ended on time.

And when in a week should you have a meeting? According to a 2009 analysis by scheduling service When Is Good, people's flexibility peaks at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays.

So we'll see you in the conference room then. Hope you have your pre-mortem ready.

[Image: Flickr user Patrick Hoesly]