How to Ensure Everyone Gets a Chance to Share Their Ideas During Meetings

“Brainwriting” lets everybody share their thoughts.

By Chaay_Tee/Shutterstock
By Chaay_Tee/Shutterstock

Research has shown that employees who feel they work in loving, caring environments report higher job satisfaction and teamwork. These findings rang true across industries — from healthcare to financial services to real estate. And spreading the love at work doesn’t mean offering hugs to your team members or sending them heart-eyed emojis. It can simply mean providing a safe space that ensures all employees have an equal opportunity to share their ideas and speak up.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the norm: In her research, Leigh Thompson, Ph.D., a professor of dispute resolution and organizations at Northwestern University, has found that in a six-person meeting, two people will do over 60 percent of the talking. And this phenomenon, which Thompson refers to as a “doom loop,” only worsens when more people are in the mix. “The people who are not quite as dominant don’t speak, because they’ve given up, and the overly dominant people take over. It just becomes this self-perpetuating cycle,” Thompson tells Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management

Thompson’s solution to this sort of imbalanced meeting is called “brainwriting:” The simultaneous oral generation of ideas. So the next time you call for group idea generation, have your colleagues write their ideas down — without attaching their names. That way, everyone will have a chance to bring their thoughts to the table and engage in an open, honest conversation.

You can also try a simpler fix first – practicing the Microstep of encouraging your colleagues to share their point of view aloud at every meeting. That, too, will show them you care about their ideas. 

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