Meetings are the least productive part of the day. At least, that’s what Ken Hudson, a business consultant and former university lecturer in Australia, found when he asked executives to describe their schedules at work. But despite telling him their meetings were too long, boring and non-productive, Hudson found that the leaders he interviewed and worked with spent anywhere from 70% to 90% of their time sitting about the boardroom table. The worst part was the reluctance he met along the way to change the system.
After collecting some research and making observations, Hudson has developed a new pilot program called Blitz to replace ineffective meetings. In a Blitz, a group of between three and six people sit down together to solve a single challenge in 15 minutes or less. Some samples of Blitz topics include: “What are the risks associated with recruiting talent via social media?” and, “What would be a short, sharp tagline for our self-service promotions poster?”
When he observed the Blitz groups in action, Hudson found that the sessions helped companies achieve their objectives more consistently, in less time, with increased creativity and clarity. The managers also found that the Blitz meetings were a great way to recognize and encourage emerging talent in the company. Hudson encourages Blitz breakouts between members of the company who might not usually have a reason to get together to inspire new ideas. This also helps staffers learn about other business departments they might not normally interact with.
This kind of meeting style is what Steve Jobs credited with great innovation when he spoke to BusinessWeek in 2004. Innovation, he said, was fostered by “hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.”
Hudson is now developing a program for online Blitz conferences set to launch in mid-2012 to allow for quick international collaboration. And while he’s keeping the four-step loose structure of the Blitz sessions a secret for now, the reminder to get the most out of your meetings by reducing length and participants alone can increase productivity in the workplace.