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Meeting called to order

Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 29 May 2015

I’ve sat through some pretty inane meetings – which someone captured perfectly in a Facebook post depicting a blue ribbon inscribed with, “I survived another meeting that should have been an email.” Nearly 34,000 people “liked” this post.

Yup, one of them was me, and I would have “liked” it another 5,000 times if that option had been available.

A recent Huffington Post article by Emily Peck stated walking meetings can be better than sitting meetings. Who’s not in favor of that? If you can’t handle the meeting in an email, at least make it a walking meeting.

LinkedIn’s vice president of engineering, Igor Perisic, was quoted in the article as saying that at sit-down meetings, “you feel like you’re at the principal’s office.”

Ditto that – meetings remind me of the principal’s office. You (or me) on one side of the desk and the person with authority (or criticism) on the other side.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a bank loan officer, a doctor, a peer, the tractor parts counter salesman, an employee evaluation or a spouse delivering a honey-do list, it still feels like the short end of a power play.

But a walking meeting … yes. Last year, the American Psychological Association published a study by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz about the effects of walking on the creativity process.

Their participants sat inside, walked on a treadmill inside, walked outside or were rolled outside in a wheelchair. Guess who won the creativity assessment? Those who walked outside – they produced “the most novel and highest-quality analogies.”

But hold on there, you say? As farmers, you already do that – walk outside? Yes, I see your point. But who attends your meetings other than you? Your solo meetings walking through the head rows probably go something like this:

“Dadgummit, I told that boy to tighten the belt on that baler. If he had done what I told him to he would have seen it needed replacing and it wouldn’t have split. He never listens. Geez, can that pickup be parked any further away?”

See what I mean? That’s not a meeting, and it’s not very original either because it’s not the first time that belt has broken. But put two people on the same walk through the field head rows and now we have a meeting. (We also have two people mad at that “dadgum boy,” but I’m sure that issue will be first on the agenda.)

I thought I’d test the merits of this claim when irrigating the pasture with my husband.

I start, “Hey, I have an idea.” Loosely translated, this means the meeting is called to order.

Silence.

“Did you want me to just go ahead and tell you?”

Silence.

“Right, then. So what if we split these two pastures with some hot wire and rotated the cows through just ahead of the watering schedule?”

Silence.

“You’ll help me put up the hot wire, right?”

Silence.

“And you’ll pay for the hot wire, right?” Creatively speaking, I’m on a roll.

Silence.

“Great. Then why don’t you pick up the stuff this week; we’ll work on it Saturday.”

And that, my friends, is my idea of a successful walking meeting.

I think we could also count pickup-tailgate meetings, meetings in the zip-tie aisle of the farm supply store, and meetings where both participants are in the shop wielding grease guns.

Yes, a lot of creativity happens in the shop with a grease gun in hand. We should study that. I’ll put it on the next agenda. FG

Lynn Jaynes
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