innovation | November 22, 2012

Workplace Innovation: Douglas Merrill On Making Meetings More Productive

In a new article in Forbes, innovation speaker Douglas Merrill asks you to question whether the next meeting you call is truly necessary. While he notes that there are many instances when employees need to meet and discuss a certain strategy or issue, a great deal of time and productivity can be saved by only calling a meeting when no other method of communication will suffice. Make sure that every person in a meeting really needs to be there, he stresses. In the article, he writes that in the best meetings, "everyone contributes, everyone comes away knowing something they didn’t know going in, and everyone is clear on what needs to happen next." However, if the meeting drags on, doesn't stick to the essentials, and includes unnecessary participants, a meeting can pull people away from other work that is more important.

First, he says, ask whether or not you really need to call a full-fledged meeting. If the answer is yes (and the information could not be effectively communicated in a memo, email or phone call), then he advises that you have a game plan and stick to it. Keep the meeting brief and focused on a specific goal, he explains. He also suggests providing notes about the content of the meeting to the participants beforehand so that they are up-to-speed with what will be discussed and can participate and add to the discussion. Finally, if you have out-of-office employees participating, he recommends using videoconferencing rather than conference calling. If you can see each other it helps keep people focused because they feel more engaged with what is going on—even though they are not physically in the same room as everyone else.

Merrill is a leader in envisioning and implementing innovative new practices in the workplace. He is the former Chief Information Officer at Google, where he was in charge of innovating at the world's most innovative company. He also created his own web-based financial start-up,, where he harnesses both human research methods and big data to provide loans to those with little-to-no access to credit. In his keynotes, he teaches audiences how to create a culture of innovation in any industry—how to stay ahead of the curve, how to uphold an innovative culture once it is achieved, and how to hire the best employees to make the whole process possible.

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