Better meetings: Thoughtful question first, No-Rehash Rule

Meetings are a total joke, scourge, and waste of time at most organizations. That video above gets it right in a humorous way. (Watch it; it’s short and worth your entertainment value.) I’ve written about meetings a few times, notably about my confusion on several topics:

Again: a scourge. But some companies kind of get it. Here’s a few.

This is from a newish article on Fast Company; here’s a few key sections and thoughts:

At chat software provider LivePerson, leaders decided that meetings were a good opportunity for staff members to get to know each other better. Using a technique called “connection before content,” the leader poses a question at the start of a meeting designed to get people out of their comfort zones. For example, “What are your doubts about something you’re working on?” The exercise has been so effective that the company shared the idea with its customers.

Like this. Here’s why: first off, meetings often follow a completely bullshit, rote format of “small talk” leading to “organizer pulls people together” leading to “generic discussion” leading to “someone opposes or throws out a comment just to be heard” leading to “circular discussion” leading to “OMG we’re short on time” leading to “hasty wrap-up and unclear deliverables.” That about nail it? If you open differently, you get people thinking differently, and that might lead to better outcomes. Plus, you can put a lot of questions around the context of failure, and we need to discuss failure more openly at work.

No-Rehash Rule

Brivo, a security management software provider, keeps meetings on point with its “No Rehash” rule. Employees signal to others that a topic has already been addressed by raising the “No Rehash” Ping-Pong paddle.

“I started noticing that we kept making many of the same decisions over and over again,” says president and CEO Steve Van Till, who instituted the rule by giving “No Rehash” paddles to everyone in the company. “It’s a visual reminder, but more importantly it empowers everyone in the company to call out counterproductive rehashing whenever and wherever they see it. The big time savings is that no one has to justify invoking the rule itself, and the meeting can proceed with earlier decisions intact.”

Like this. People oftentimes say the exact same shit left, right, and center in a meeting — or say the same thing the last person said with different words, just so that the highest-ranking person in the room knows they’re there and contributing. If you rehash content, you get flagged for it — and visually! Plus, it saves time.

The staff at Tripping.com, the search engine for vacation rentals, sets a stopwatch for 30 minutes at the beginning of each meeting to maximize everyone’s time. If the meeting goes longer, the person who called the meeting must throw $5 in the team beer jar.

Like this. First off — beer jar. Group happy hours! Bonding! The power of friends at work! Second off: time is more valuable than money when you come right down to it, and most organizations make it so that your time isn’t your own. This allows you to change that, and get a few pints on Friday to boot.

Beer Fund At Work

True to their culture, employees at mobile game publisher Genera Games hold their meetings on the basketball court, shooting hoops and playing a quick game.

“We try to keep our meeting focused and fun,” says Daniel Entrenas, Genera’s indie labs manager. “By getting the blood flowing, we also allow ourselves to think outside the box and get more creative with our ideas.”

I always feel like people have better ideas when their brain is in a different context and their blood is flowing and they’re feeling good, as opposed to sitting on their ass with a pen in their ear or whatever. I’ve had some of my deepest thoughts ever in my life shooting hoops by myself. (Honestly.) Obviously this wouldn’t work at every company based on the logistics of where they’re located, but … if you have a similar opportunity, chase it.


Ted Bauer


  1. Cool post. All those companies seem to have one thing in common, owners/CEOs that don’t have their heads rammed up their asses. Meetings suck and are a waste of time due to corporate cultures, I feel, and corporate culture is the direct result of how a company is managed from the top down. If the corporate culture is chaos, which it is at most places, then meetings are chaos. There’s got to be a leader there willing to not only control the meeting, but allow others to call the leader on his/her BS when it surfaces. The vast majority of companies NEVER allow the latter, slightly more have the former. Most are just in a form of controlled chaos.

  2. I completely agree that meetings, as they are generally in typical workplaces, are a huge waste…but I don’t agree with much of the video posted, for example. The speaker is mocking technology, not necessarily the meeting itself. Of course you will have stragglers come into a meeting, but that doesn’t mean the meeting’s results are bad. I actually don’t understand how that’s not just seen as par for the course, like “yeah, you might have to wait in a line to eat dinner because there are other people in the world who like to eat too.”

    Meetings are a reflection of the people participating (or not). The people who are reliable and get things done are usually on time and prepared, or have respectfully declined beforehand. The people who are fuck-ups and who don’t know what they’re doing usually are the ones joining late, not contributing, etc.

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