Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How to herd genius

I was sitting with Thought Leader and culture expert Michael Henderson the other day and we were discussing the challenges with herding genius.

Clever people are a challenge to manage when you put them together in a room. They often have off topic ideas and randomly exciting suggestions. This is great when you are in a wide reaching think tank, but not so productive if you actually want to advance a project or conversation.

Next time you find yourself in a meeting and feeling like it's a talk fest and not going where it should, try asking the question; 'What question are we answering now?' or even 'What are the questions we need to focus on today?'

The question I asked myself in writing this blog post was, 'How do I turn talk fests into productive meetings?'

Herd genius by focusing the brain power in the room on an issue.



  1. Next time you find yourself in a 'talk-fest' try hi-jacking the meeting. Have an agenda prepared that will achieve something useful and, when it becomes apparent that the person who scheduled the meeting is not directing it to achieve anything circulate your agenda, asign talk time to individuals who support your aims, then lead the discussion.
    Of course, you must then retain control by issuing minutes and tracking actions so people are held accountable.
    Geniuses (and everyone else) love to feel that they are useful so give them something useful to do and then support them in getting it done.
    Works (almost) every time!

  2. An option I practice with relative success, is to energetically step back from the meeting - relax focus, deepen breath, roll shoulders - and step into your own intuition, into your heart space...

    Assess what it is that you personally want from the meeting, powerfully choose this (mentally), then take the obvious actions required. More often than not, the obvious thing to do is really listen/receive what is being said.

    Listen for the moment to speak powerfully then take action!

  3. Julie's idea is very good.

    When I was a manager in a biotech firm we had biweekly meetings. My attention span is 45min - 1hr in a meeting, so I had to keep them sharp and focused otherwise I would go mad.

    Saw an online add once about herding cats. This is what focusing a highly talented team is like!

    Couple practical pointers:

    1) Run through what going to discuss at the start and ask for additions then. Nobody reads the meeting agenda, let alone a bunch of dyslexic genius. This lets them know what we are going to disucss

    2) If people start drilling down to deep in the material, or engaging in robust debate (aka duking it out). Say this is a great conversation, needs to happen Bob and Jim can you continue this after the meeting

    3) Wrap up and move to next point. I would try as soon as possible to go for the close. So what we have decided is that Bex and Jill are going to try tweeking the thingymigig. Is that correct? This kept everyone focused on getting through the agenda.

    Then like Julie said get some minutes out - with clear names and tasks so everyone remembers what they should do. Always review the todo list at the next meeting. Being held to account by your peer group is a motervation for these people.