Incubation: 5 strategies for conducting productive meetings at the work place
Most organisations do not draft strategies; in most cases, what they call strategy is a bunch of decisions fixed into a seductive phrase. Decisions don’t equal strategy. Strategy is strategy because it is an indepth embodiment of conscious and unconscious considerations that will dictate decisions and directions. Therefore, decisions are tiny fractions of what a strategy is. A strategy is supposed to therefore ensure decisional and directional coherence like a hub that holds several lines.
However, that doesn’t come cheap. The body of work that goes into developing a strategy is too important to be hurried. Ample time is required to twist, add and eliminate bodies of insights and possibilities – and if not consciously and subconsciously well thought out may have dire consequences in the long term. This is why ‘brainstorming’ session, the compound lingo for ‘strategy’ meetings in organisations, has to be functionally rethought.
Many times, when the staff members appear for the routine sessions, their most essential tools – the mind – is averagely focused somewhere else, probably on other projects. Simply put, the ‘grandmaster’, their subconscious, have been busy on something else. Unfortunately, it is this ‘grandmaster’ that, in most cases, provides solution. Hence, inadequate engagement of the conscious and subconscious mind prior to brainstorming or strategy sessions is like coming to the workshop without the most important tools.
How? Because while the conscious mind gets as much info it couldn’t handle at once, the subconscious mind takes up the role of sorting, analyses and illumination. Sometimes, this takes days. Eventually, from the sorting, assumption and analyses, the conscious mind will illuminated for solutions.
Some folks call that hunches – no, that was the subconscious mind illuminating certain things you have known, seen, heard and felt but have hardly consciously paid attention to. The subconscious is the ‘engine-room’ of great people.
Now consider taking the staff into a session for important ‘brain-storming’ session without allowing for the necessary engagement of their conscious and subconscious minds. What great decision, illumination, conjectures and strategy can develop out of such hurried arrangement however? No matter the length of the meeting, no tangible solutions will emerge.
More, it is like trying force a swamp of fresh water through tiny pipelines in a short time. That is not great. Certainly there is only so much that those tiny pipes can convey within a set time. If the content or time is forced, one of two things can happen: the pipe either burst or the water spill, eventually wasting the content.
The mind has to be properly conditioned to carry out due analyses and assumptions that are necessary to enrich the body of decisions and conjecture that arrive at suitable strategies for organisational growth.
Strategies must have various inputs from internal and external variables. It must have focus; and it must have the ability to project into the immediate and distant future. These won’t happen in a brainstorming or strategy session called within one-day or a two-day notification.
Strategy meetings or ‘brainstorming’ sessions are effective not because of their duration but the quality of participants’ preparation and inputs within the time allotted. That is why incubation is a necessary process before holding a strategy/ brainstorming session.
Graham Wallas wrote about Incubation in his 1926 book titled ‘The Art of Thought’. According to Wallas, every creative human being goes through four stages in his or her creative processes: Preparation, Incubation, Illumination and Verification. While he defined the Preparation stage as data gathering and problem understanding stage, the Incubation stage is when the brain takes up the problem and starts working on it in the background (the subconscious level). It is like feeding numeric data to an accounting software programmed on your computer.
It can also be compared to the stages leading to a child-birth. All the mother needs is to eat right, rest well and exercise adequately. If she does all these well, there are natural and biological systems in place to ensure whatever she does right help the baby develop and eventually get delivered in the 9th month. Note that however well she feeds, she is not expected to birth a healthy child before the nineth month.
In sum, that is how it is in optmising organisational strategy sessions. The human resource (staff members) must be allowed to chew and gestate on the problems for a number of days before meeting for a ‘brainstorming’ or strategy session. These are simplied guidelines to getting it right:
- Hold a Briefing Session: Call for a briefing session to familiarise the staff members with the problem(s) that the organisation needs to tackle.
- Provide Necessary Data: Ensure the briefing session provides data that can help the staff members understand the problem(s).
- Do eMail Follow Up of the Briefing Session: Send a follow-up email to participants at the briefing session so that they will have a written guide to the problem(s) with which they are expected to familiarise, chew and gestate.
- Provide Deadline: Gestation or Incubation session can range from 3 days to 1 week to allow for extensive research and analyses by staff members. Anything more than this duration can prove costly knowing that organisations often face new problems weekly. These new problems can become a distraction. Therefore, it is wiser to limit the incubation period to a short duration.
- Hold the Meeting: Now arriving for the meeting are participants with rich insights and understanding of the problems. The subconscious must have been allowed to do its work as well. Expectations are high and every moment at the meeting will be worth its value. Most importantly, there is a higher probability that debates and arguments that will spring from the session will be robust and help develop a more fitting strategy for your business, projects or brand.