All have been in one of those meetings. The one where only a couple of voices speak, and we never get a chance to add to the conversation. Not only do these degrade team morale, they stifle true discussion and they waste time! But most of these trouble come about because we do not have a way to signal each other without interrupting the speaker.
Recently, I found a blog post by a PaaS team in the UK that came up with a novel approach to resolve just this issue. In simple terms, they instituted a series of hand signals. This allows them to communicate requests or comments while another was speaking. What they actually did was formalize a second channel for commutation during meetings!
They created a simple language that uses a different medium than the speaker. Because the language is simple, it does not disturb the flow of the discussion. And it still allowing the signaler to state their intent. They created six basic signal, which suit the most common needs during a meeting.
They created two-handed signals for Agree, Disagree and ‘Point of Order’, or informing the speaker that they are off-topic. Additionally, they have ‘Direct Response’, ‘Request Clarification’, and ‘I want to speak’, which are one handed. These serve almost all the needs an attendee could have while not speaking. Ans since these signals do not interrupt the speaker, he can finish his point and then allow others to speak.
The only modification I might make would be to convert all their signals to a single handed approach. This way they would be more accessible. Further it would allow for the use of the other hand without disrupting communication. To accomplish this, only the ‘Point of Order’ and the ‘I want to speak’ might have to change. Instead of a triangle with the hands for ‘Point of order’, one could reach across their chest to their opposite shoulder with straight fingers to show the speaker is off topic. As for ‘I want to speak’ could just convert to a raised hand, or perhaps the ‘Direct Response’ but pointing upward.
I am struck by this progression. We as humans learn from our machines even as we create them. As an example, the creation of a smart watches ushered in Spritz. Spritz recognized that we could fundamentally re-invent the act of reading, on any computer display! This new channel of communication , and the idea to use it in tandem with the spoken word holds similar potential!
I admit to being very excited to try this in my next meeting. I offer kudos to the UK team, and thank them for sharing their discovery!