By Lisa Solomon. What does it take to create sustainable cultures of innovation? Let’s start by Flipping the Meeting.
Ten years ago, Sal Khan started tutoring his niece using homemade online video tutorials. Fast forward to the present, and the Khan Academy is widely recognized as one of the most innovative forces in classroom education in nearly half a century. Khan Academy’s initiatives and ideas are sparking lively debate and experiments in blended learning and classroom engagement in schools across the world. What was behind this fundamental shift?
Beyond using technology to develop and scale content, Khan Academy sent powerful ripple effects through the world of education when it called out the cultural need to “flip the classroom” – essentially, to use the extremely limited, yet valuable in-class time with teachers for collaborative and personalized problem solving, and save content consumption for students’ afternoons and weekends at home, where they can digest information at their own speed.
This is what a flipped classroom looks like: instead of a teacher delivering one-size-fits-all lessons at the front of the room while students listen passively from their desks, the flipped model has students engaging actively in the material, asking questions and getting customized attention to their needs, and learning from each other and their teacher in-class, after having absorbed the content through instructional videos at home. The difference rests with a critical design choice around the use of time.
The “flipped” model raises a vital question, not only for students and teachers, but for anyone working together as a group: are we really making the best use of our time?
Organizations are ripe for an equally powerful reframe on time. Ask anyone this question about their most recent meeting, and the answer will likely be “no.” Just like a typical classroom, the standard meeting is spent listening to one person at the front of the room deliver updates, while the rest of the room listens, doodles, or dozes off. Sound like the old classroom model? Worst of all, time lost in meetings is time lost forever. There is no “money-back guarantee” on time – it’s just gone. If gone unchecked, the norm of burning time can unintentionally fuel an anti-innovation environment – sapping the energy of the even most motivated talent who will start to learn that the “real work” will have to get done during late night and early morning shifts.
Meetings are powerful opportunities to ignite, collaborate, and harness the collective talents of a team. They should be used for problem solving and dialog supporting give and take on important issues – and not for updates. This is especially true if- and when – an organization faces complex challenges requiring collaborative conversations to solve. If participants’ opinions and perspectives go unheard, innovative solutions may never be born.
Taking a page from the Khan Academy’s notebook, here are steps to flipping your next meeting for the benefit of all involved:
- Send update videos and mandatory pre-reads to participants before the meeting, so you can use in-person time for conversation. Be explicit on what you want the participants to do ahead of time.
- Before calling your next brainstorm, give out thought-producing homework assignments, and tee up the questions you want to discuss in advance.
- Begin to set cultural norms about involvement, participation and ownership over time well spent. Consider giving recognition and targeted feedback to acknowledge smart design of interactivity and experiential elements in meetings.
- Create the conditions for human interaction by choosing a location with natural light, movable furniture, surfaces for writing and brainstorming, and minimal distractions.
- Leave plenty of white space in the meeting for team-based, discovery-oriented activities and reflection. Resist the temptation to overstuff with just “one more announcement.”
“Flipping the meeting” does more than save time – it adds incalculable value in the form of engagement, new learnings, and collaborative conversations with the power of knowing that our most precious resource – our time – was used thoughtfully and meaningfully for our most important work.