Meeting protocols don’t scale

I covered a lot of really heavy things with no good solutions in group organization the last three days.  Now I’d like to talk about one easy thing that we solved brilliantly.

When Seattle EA first started, all meetings were discussion meetings that operated with discussion norms.  One person came prepared to lead a discussion, which meant both presenting information and steering the conversation.  This worked great with 8 people and was increasingly creaky at 15.  Physically it became harder to find spaces where everyone could hear and no one had to shout.  Conversationally, a tangent rate that led to charming new discoveries with 8 people led to huge snarls with 15, increasing the brain power required to moderate just as presenting got difficult.  We solved this by splitting moderation and presenting into two different jobs (often two people trade off between them in the same meeting), and shifting meetings to be more presentation and questions, and the moderator steering tangents back to the meeting purpose.  These are not the same as the old meetings, that’s not possible, but they are just as good at what they do.

1 thought on “Meeting protocols don’t scale”

  1. “Conversationally, a tangent rate that led to charming new discoveries with 8 people led to huge snarls with 15”

    Am I the only one who thinks there might be a lot of low-hanging fruit in modeling conversations mathematically to better understand phenomena like this? Conversations seem really understudied relative to their importance in society and the amount of value they provide for people.

    Another option when groups get large is to split in to multiple smaller discussion groups. Anyway, great blog.

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