At many companies, large group meetings are a regular occurrence. However, sometimes meetings are unproductive. For example, it might be a situation where only a couple of people run the meeting (and everyone else spaces out), or the meeting participants might includes archetypes such as “jerk who interrupts people” or “yes-man who agrees to everything their boss says.”
It can be difficult for people to change their basic tendencies, but maybe the addition of a “meeting role-play” game would help in the situations described above.
This could be done by assigning people to “meeting roles” randomly: each participant is given a card with a “role” on it, such as:
- Person who rambles on and on until they are interrupted.
- Quiet person who never says anything unless specifically addressed.
- “Consensus builder” who tries to solicit feedback from everyone.
- Impatient individual who interrupts anyone after 10 seconds.
- Person who over-explains every technical detail.
- Skeptical engineer who expresses doubt about any technical proposal.
Many people already fit into one or more of these archetypes, but this card-based system will force people to try out other roles, rather than the one that most naturally suits them.
Ideally, people wouldn’t reveal their actual role, but would let their coworkers infer it from their actions. (Conceptually, this is like the multi-player bluffing game “Werewolf” or “Mafia,” in which players are randomly assigned secret roles to perform without giving away their role).
An alternative approach would be to assign required actions to meeting participants, rather than roles. In this proposal (Figure 1), a person entering a meeting might draw three cards that said, for example, 1) “Interrupt someone inappropriately,” 2) “Agree with a co-worker,” and 3) “Provide constructive negative feedback.”
To encourage people to perform these socially-transgressive actions (e.g. “Disagree with your boss!” or “Rudely say that an idea is bad!”), we will provide some incentive: if a person uses up all their required “meeting actions,” then they are allowed to eat one of the donuts that was, presumably, brought for the meeting.
Anyone who shamefully fails to perform their card-mandated meeting role will be denied donut privileges.
Someone might say “hey, why do some of these cards that suggest negative actions that will prevent a harmonious meeting?” The answer is that meeting participants need to be able to have a productive discussion despite human failings: it’s important to “inoculate” one’s coworkers so that they can productively handle socially-transgressive actions, rather than being shocked by them.
PROS: Could actually legitimately improve meetings!
CONS: Good luck figuring out what to do when you get the “interrupt the head of your company and say that their idea is terrible” card. Is that worth a donut?