Do your brainstorming sessions end up being very little storm and a lot of silence? There are reasons why people don’t speak up – and ways to get them to speak up.
HR managers often find themselves in brainstorming meetings. Too often, though – as you may have noticed – there’s more silence than storming.
What keeps people from throwing their ideas on the table? Is it because they’re just shy?
Not really. The deeper reasons come to us courtesy of those ever-busy researchers at Harvard, who observed people at meetings and learned why some appeared to take a vow of silence.
Here are two chief reasons – and how you can help draw out ideas from meeting members:
The presence of an “expert.” When people sense there’s someone who knows a lot about the topic, they’ll withdraw for fear of looking foolish in front of the “expert.”
What you can do: If you’re the expert – say, for instance, the meeting’s about HR policies – start off by saying something like, “You should understand that this topic is so wide that there’s a lot I don’t know about it.” A little false modesty can go a long way.
If there’s someone else there who’s the expert, encourage him or her to make a similar statement.
In any case, the expert should withhold opinions until others have had a chance to speak.
The wrong attendees. People tend to comment on ideas that affect them directly. If they don’t see a personal effect from the decisions, they’ll clam up and let someone else take over.
What you can do: Check the attendance list. Does it consist of people who “always” show up at the meetings, such as department heads? Maybe it’s time to whittle down the list a little.
Certainly, you don’t want anyone to be offended or feel left out. To prevent that, you can just describe the topic before the meeting and ask potential attendees if they’re interested.
From: “Teams That Click,” Harvard Business School Press.