M.I.N.M.: Friday Morning Staff Meeting
Who: Jessica Halem, associate, Doblin Group
Players: The entire company
Frequency: Every Friday morning, for 90 minutes
Purpose: "To share ideas, to offer updates, and to have fun."
Why I never miss it: "I get to hear about all the exciting work that people are doing. I also get to use a nontraditional skill."
At Doblin Group, a Chicago-based consulting firm that specializes in innovation planning, you can tell that people are getting serious — because they're rolling in the aisles. Doblin, which works with clients such as McDonald's, Monsanto, and Whirlpool, tries to infuse humor into everything that it does — from writing reports to driving change. "Companies want innovation — theoretically," says Larry Keeley, 43, the firm's president. "But when innovation requires change, it can be terrifying. Using humor and storytelling can help people understand new ideas."
That's where the Friday morning staff meeting comes in. The firm's analysts, designers, and strategists share data, offer updates — and riff. Their mantra? Make your presentation fast, funny, and relevant. Jessica Halem, 26, an associate at Doblin who moonlights as a stand-up comic, runs the show: "I bring an ability to think on my feet. But you don't need to be a comic to do that."
Group therapy. "We don't want to waste the one time each week when all of us get together. We're after deep insights: What did you find out about our customers? Which idea worked with a client — and which one bombed?"
Strategic humor. "All of us are expected to be good storytellers and entertaining speakers. We think that humor is our secret weapon."
"I sit down with project leaders to identify issues that we should discuss on Friday. We also send out just-the-facts updates, so we don't waste meeting time by talking about deadlines, deliverables, and so on."
"I'm the emcee-facilitator. I start with a few jokes. Then the meeting begins. The first half is designed for maximum efficiency: People deliver brisk insights into their project or business area. I ask questions and make observations that connect different views.
"The second half is devoted to one subject that's critical to the firm. Last week, for instance, the focus was on creating revolutionaries."
"We all sit on the floor of our conference room. The walls seem to have an acre of whiteboards, and you get bonus points if you draw something during your presentation."
A version of this article appeared in the May 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.