I would like to wish the warmest welcome to those of you who are receiving this blog for the first time (e.g. we recently updated our mailing list). This blog goes out just about every Tuesday and provides updates, recaps, or reflections of recent happenings in the Hub (which is located on the first floor of the main hospital near the cashier and volunteer offices). At any time, if you have questions, thoughts, comments, ideas, etc. feel free to email HubBlog@jhmi.edu, or if the Hub is a totally new concept to you, feel free to visit our website or shoot HubBlog@jhmi.edu an email with whatever questions or thoughts your brain desires! (and see below a picture of the entrance to the Hub-come find us!)
And now back to the normally scheduled blog post:
Last week, I spoke a bit about the idea that being willing to ask the question can be just as important as being ready to answer. In design thinking and in our everyday lives, I think being willing to question is pivotal to the everyday process. Please read the old blog post here for more detail. Our guest last week, Merlin Mann, really capitalizes on that same concept. Merlin, traveling to us from the West Coast, is a master at improving productivity and efficiency, and his presentation couldn't have been more interesting! One thing he asked us to question was the definition of a meeting. A simple thing that we rely on everyday, but not something that we question very often.
So, what is it about a meeting that we could improve upon? Well, sometimes it is as simple as learning from our meetings--being able to see who and what are necessary parts of each meeting and adjusting the next meeting based on these insights. Below I will try to outline two of Merlin's talking points.
First, try scheduling meetings that aren’t a multiple of 15 minutes long. Try a 24-minute meeting, why not? Will it make every attendee wonder why you deliberately scheduled the meeting for a specific amount of time? Yes. Will the attendees of the meeting appreciate knowing they aren’t actually expected until 9:06 as opposed to 9? Probably. With this advice, I purposefully scheduled a 19-minute long for next week. I haven't even had the meeting yet, but I have to say it was hard to schedule a 19-minute meeting in outlook (and I couldn’t do it in iCalendar). How many decades of work have been influenced by the 15, 30, 45, or hour-long meeting being the norm? How many times has a 23-minute meeting been appropriate, but instead we manipulate the content of our meeting to fit into a longer or shorter time frame?
Second, Merlin suggested focusing on verbs instead of nouns. As he said, verbs are actions and things that we can do, nouns are ideas or concepts. The reason for this focus is to improve the clarity of tasks and assignments. Instead of thinking about needing to work on "the project" in general, specifically think about an action—like research, write, contact, schedule, etc., things we can imagine ourselves physically doing. If we can’t visualize doing the task, how are we actually going to be able to do it? Use the last minute or two of each meeting to focus on naming and assigning the verbs that each person needs to do. If we are daring, someone can write these down directly and send them out to the whole group and then everyone knows the plan. Everyone knows each other's verbs.
These two things barely scratch the surface of what Merlin got in to with us on Friday, but they are both things that I felt were easy to try out. In the end, they have the potential to save minutes and stress related to not knowing exactly what we need to do. At the very least, they will help us feel like we are working to improve our day to day efficiency and productivity.
Please email HubBlog@jhmi.edu to share your feedback, experiences, feelings, comments, or ideas about anything—I can't tell you how amazing it has been to hear the thoughts that people have shared and sent in, so keep them coming! Also, send an email if you want to join our feedback team and are willing to be interviewed for our future projects!
Feel free to say hi or come by the Hub to find me!