It’s most effective not to think in terms of efficiency

When we want to be most efficient, we naturally think of setting efficiency as the highest context. For example, we ask: “How do we make these meetings as efficient as possible?”

We then start defining “efficient meetings.” It involves evidence, gathering a number of meeting leaders for a course in efficient meetings; that sort of thing.

We feel that we need to start with the concept of efficiency as an engine, but that’s actually not efficient. The reason is that we cannot stamp out efficiency as a fixed size. Efficiency is the result of getting the most out of resources in a given situation. In living systems, it cannot be put into a formula.

What one can do is place something else at the top of the meaning hierarchy. For example, learning. It could be that you start organizing your meetings to learn how to hold meetings. As an ongoing effort. If you do that, experiments, trial actions, and other everyday innovations suddenly become a natural part of the daily order, and not something that appears as an exception. You can also place something other than learning at the top, for example, meaning or energy.

Meetings need to be rewilded

The whole trick is to rewild the meetings. To assume they are not, and cannot become, a fixed and finished efficient form. The most efficient meeting is the meeting that unfolds naturally and goes where it needs to, and it can only do that on its own. With help, support, and influence from the participants and especially the meeting leader, but nevertheless on its own.

You can certainly create a meticulous agenda and have precise expectations for the meeting participants, which are sent out by email in advance, but that in no way guarantees the meeting will be efficient. It can even be the opposite; the more structure that is formed in advance, and the more precise the expectations are for the participants, the narrower the range of desirable outcomes. This can also be expressed by saying that the clearer the structures are formed in advance, the more premises there are for the participants to fulfill for the meeting to be efficient.

Rewilding meetings involves manifesting the meeting’s absolutely minimal attributes in advance (it could be the duration of the meeting, its purpose, a specific theme, or something else), and fundamentally leaving everything else open. The meeting starts by relating to itself as a meeting and tolerating most things appearing messy, unorganized, and complex.

At Promentum, we have worked with several models for rewilding meetings, including the principle of densification:

  1. Be clear about the non-negotiable (regarding time, place, content, outcome, or other aspects) and mark it clearly.
  2. From there, everything is essentially open. Stand together at an agreement. Empty your minds on content headlines, intentions, and everything else, preferably in mixed order.
  3. Continue standing together, tolerate the unresolved, and see if something emerges. Do some assumptions appear among the many elements, perhaps some shared interests?
  4. Find a starting point. Something that must at least be addressed, discussed, or arranged. Form a small battle plan for the meeting, but not beyond what you can foresee.
  5. From there, alternate between relating to the meeting (at the standing board) and executing the meeting elements.
  6. Conclude with a revisit to your highest context (learning, meaning, energy, or something else).

These points merely express an example. The principle itself is to let a meeting increase its density over its duration. This is most effective as it best allows the prevailing significance at the meeting to express itself. Simply because the idea of significance is not pre-formed.

Let it all loose – and practice reactive leadership

Consider this: Every time we talk about implementation, rollout, or learning transfer, the party is already over. The party understood as where ideas and opinions break through, where forms arise, where insight and drive take place. If you want to implement and roll out, then what needs to be implemented and rolled out is already formed. Now it just needs to – work. Like a model of a house that just needs to be enlarged into a real house. Who really believes it actually works?

One of the problems with the implementation notion is that it actually disregards the richness of ideas, insight, and practical applicability that prevails in the organisation’s diversity. What would it look like if you turned it all around: Let the organisation’s overall life manage nuances, changes, and transformations?

A simple but far-reaching principle is to let the jest loose. Let a thousand flowers bloom, let the multitude of ideas emerge, and create fertile ground for a wealth of practical trials. Leadership is not about figuring out anything in advance to be implemented but rather being an observer, appreciator, and assistant in the multitude of initiated attempts.

And no, it won’t become a crazy funhouse of disconnected and chaotic initiatives. Every employee in every organisation is already disciplined. Knowledge of and loyalty to the organisation (and not least to its task) are naturally occurring and highly developed in most people. The shortest and most qualitative way to test an idea is, in any case, to initiate some experiences with it.

The leadership task in organisations that let the jest loose becomes:

  • Encouraging experiments and appreciating the experiences made, regardless of immediate results.
  • Providing help, support, and assistance to the diverse experiments.
  • Creating environments where experiences and knowledge can flow effortlessly between the many experiments.

And most importantly; practicing reactive leadership. Leadership in such an organisation is not about leading from the front and being proactive (that would signal having it all figured out), but being reactive. Responsibility can be divided into “responding to.” There needs to be something to respond to, and that is the experiments. Sharing one’s assessments and assumptions, discussing the prospects of the experiment’s contribution and productivity for the organisation, evaluating, and creating connections and synergy opportunities across and in the gaps.

The reactive and responsible also mean facilitating dialogues – and sometimes making one’s own decisions – so there can be a distinction between the experiments that should be nurtured for further life and the experiments whose fertility appears doubtful. Letting the madness loose is not allowing and encouraging anything. It is seeking the shortest possible paths to realizing the best possible ideas. Which naturally also involves that certain experiments must cease.

Water runs downhill, preferably by itself. Unless it is stopped by dams, pumped, or otherwise influenced by using many resources, it will be affected in its flow. Thus also with the relationship between ideas and experience formation. If structural barriers are eliminated, good ideas and experiences will grow, almost by themselves.