My Leadership Lessons as Executive Director
Organizational Change Can Start Wherever You Are

Axelrod Blog picGuest Post by Dick Axelrod

Are meetings in your organization places where productivity goes to die? If you answered yes, you are not alone. There are 11 million meetings a day in the U.S. alone. Half are ineffective.

The problem with most meetings is that meeting leaders and participants do not think of them as places to do productive work.

An efficiency mindset prevails. How to get through the agenda as quickly and efficiently as possible becomes the driving force behind many meetings. This strategy may work to minimize the pain you associate with meetings, but it does not lead to a positive work experience.

In order to transform meetings into productive work experiences, look to two unlikely sources: the factory floor and video games.

What do the factory floor and video games have in common?

It is a proven fact that factory workers are more productive when they experience autonomy, meaning, challenge, learning and feedback while they do their work.

For meetings to become productive work experiences, we need to think of them as a place where work occurs. This means that autonomy, meaning, challenge, learning and feedback must become part of the meeting experience.

You can imagine our surprise when Colin Anderson, CEO of Denki, the company that created the award-winning video game Quarrel, approached us at a workshop we conducted and excitedly told us that autonomy, meaning, challenge, learning and feedback are similar to the principles his design team employs to create video games.

We learned that the extent to which these design principles are present determines whether the player becomes engaged in the game.

How elements of video games transfer to meetings.

  • Autonomy – Build in autonomy by ensuring that participants can influence the meeting’s direction by going beyond offering input into agenda items and inviting meeting participants to design the meeting experience.
  • MeaningDetermine if this meeting is work worth doing by asking: what do you want to be different because this group of people met? Ask why you are willing to put your own time and energy into this meeting.
  • ChallengeProduce the right amount of challenge by making the meeting familiar and different at the same time, giving the participant the belief that this meeting will be time well spent.
  • Learning and FeedbackWill meeting participants learn something new as a result of their meeting participation? Create an atmosphere where participants discuss whether this meeting was time well spent and how they can ensure that future meetings are time well spent.

7 tips to create a different kind of meeting.

You can make your next meeting a productive engaging work experience by rethinking your approach to meetings. To make your next meeting as engaging as a video game, make it one where:

1. There is a challenge to be met.

2. Meaning is present because you are doing work worth doing.

3. Participants feel invited to participate.

4. Feedback occurs so participants know how close they are to meeting the challenge.

5. Interest is built through variety and drama: new people, new ways of working, new settings.

6. Learning occurs: Participants leave smarter than when they arrived.

7. There is closure with clear decisions and assignments.


Lets Stop Meeting LIke ThisDick Axelrod is an author, speaker, and consultant who co-founded with his wife Emily The Axelrod Group, Inc., a consulting firm that pioneered the use of employee involvement to effect large-scale organizational change. In their work they seek to transform business interactions into human experiences. Dick has taught at American University, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago. Dick and Emily’s latest book is Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to save time and get more done.

Note from Jesse: This week marks the release of the much awaited newest book from Dick and Emily Axelrod: Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to save time and get more done. If you dread meetings, as most of us do, don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to transform your meetings to a place where important work gets done. I strongly recommend this enjoyable, easy to understand and implement guidebook. Don’t wait, get a copy before your next meeting. Better yet, get one for everyone on your team!

My Leadership Lessons as Executive Director
Organizational Change Can Start Wherever You Are

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