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3 Key Strategies from Google and Amazon for Simplifying and Streamlining Meetings

3 Key Strategies from Google and Amazon for Simplifying and Streamlining Meetings

Why do more and more people hate meetings?

It’s because in most cases, leaders dominate the conversation and don’t listen to their employees’ thoughts. Additionally, meetings can drag on for hours with no tangible results. So, why does this happen?

Meetings are one of the most disliked things in the workplace, and for good reason. Most meetings are ineffective, with leaders dominating the conversation and employees unable to express their opinions. To improve meeting efficiency, companies like Google and Amazon have implemented strategies like “psychological safety” and the “30-minute golden silence.”

However, before implementing such strategies, it is essential to establish an effective management system that allows employees to voice their concerns.

Here are three team management and meeting techniques to help you double your work efficiency:

Your AI-powered meeting assistant – Huddles

Smarter agenda , valuable conclusions

01 – Google’s “Psychological Safety”: To establish prestige, learn to listen to different suggestions

Google once conducted a study to find out why some teams outperformed others. The study found that psychological safety was the most important factor for success, and this result has since been widely cited.

The report stated, “Psychological safety is the most effective dynamic mechanism we have discovered so far, and it affects almost all important dimensions we observe in employees. Teams with higher psychological safety are better able to harness the power of different ideas within the team, create more revenue, are less likely to leave Google, and are twice as likely to be rated as efficient employees by executives compared to other team members.”

Ironically, most work environments lack psychological safety.

A study of the retail and manufacturing industries found that employees who frequently propose new ideas and express concerns are much less likely to receive a raise or promotion.

Similar punishments are more pronounced for women, as publicly expressing opinions is considered to violate gender characteristics. This situation is even more serious for employees who belong to both ethnic minorities and women, which psychologists call the “double jeopardy.”

Psychologist Charan Nemeth wrote, “We are afraid of being laughed at or rejected for raising objections, so we hesitate, bow our heads, and remain silent. However, not expressing our views will surely bring consequences.”

As a result, the new generation of leaders is increasingly adopting a prestige leadership style.

This set of methods played a crucial role in reversing the confrontational situation between General Stanley McChrystal and the “Al Qaeda” organization, as well as in helping Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revitalize the company.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern once said shortly after taking office: “Exercising empathy is not simple, it requires you to have enough prestige and power.”

Respect cannot be forced by ordering it. It comes from a spontaneous desire.

Satya Nadella said: “Leaders always dislike consulting others, especially those so-called dissenters, for fear that it will undermine their authority.

But they are all wrong, because for most people, if you give them the opportunity to contribute, they will be more motivated. This will increase the team’s enthusiasm, enhance creativity, and ultimately enhance the potential of the entire organization.”

Jon Maner once said: “Prestige or domination leadership styles have specific usage times and scenarios, and smart leaders know how to switch between the two. For example, when executing a specific plan, domination is most important.

However, when making a new strategy, predicting the future, or looking for innovation points, you need to listen to different opinions. If you still play aloof at this time, the result will definitely be disastrous.”

02-Amazon’s 30-minute ‘Golden Silence’: Establishing Your Own Logical Framework before Listening to Opinions

In addition to creating a culture of psychological safety, “high-precision” organizations have begun to introduce specific mechanisms to ensure communication, the most famous of which is Amazon’s “Golden Silence”.

For over a decade, this technology giant’s meetings have started with everyone in silence, rather than the usual PowerPoint presentations or small talk.

During this quiet 30 minutes, team members usually read a 6-page memo that summarizes all the main agendas in a narrative form.

There are many benefits to doing this.

First, it means that the proposer has already gone through a deep thinking process about their proposal.

As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, “Why is it harder to write a great memo than a 20-page PowerPoint? Because the narrative structure of a good memo forces better thought and better understanding of what’s more important than what.”

Moreover, the sentence structure of the memo is complete, with a topic sentence, verbs, and nouns, rather than just a simple summary.

However, the reason why this meeting technique is so effective is deeper:

It allows people to form their own logical framework before listening to everyone’s opinions.

That is, participants are not allowed to discuss with each other before being given enough time and space to form their own ideas, perspectives, and logical thinking by analyzing the pros and cons of the proposal.

This way, different viewpoints of different people are not easily buried.

Huddles can see each attendee’s thoughts directly, to see if they support this idea or not.

Finally, when the discussion really begins, Amazon also arranges for the most senior member to speak last, which is another technique to protect diversity of thought.

These small techniques mentioned above were described by Brad Porter, Amazon’s Vice President, as one of the important strategic advantages of this world-class company in a post on LinkedIn.

He said, “I don’t think it’s revealing any secrets to share this meeting process, but if I told you that it’s these kinds of innovative practices that make Amazon run faster, scale bigger, and make better decisions, then I may have revealed too much.”

03-Protect diversity and allow the expression of different ideas

There is a technique called “mind writing” that, like brainstorming, aims to generate creative ideas. However, instead of having everyone speak out loud, team members are asked to write their ideas on cards and then stick them on a wall for others to vote on.

“This way, everyone has the opportunity to contribute,” explained Lee Thompson of the Kellogg School of Management. “Through this method, you can harvest the output of every brain, rather than just hearing from one or two people.”

Thompson believes that the key principle of mind writing is that no one can reveal their identity in their proposals.

For example, a marketing director cannot mention their affiliated clients on the card. “This is extremely important,” Thompson emphasized.

“Through thorough anonymous proposals, you can isolate the ideas themselves from the people who propose them, thereby establishing an evaluation system based solely on the quality of proposals. People are voting for the quality of proposals, not for the qualifications of proposers, without having to please anyone. This creates a new dynamic mechanism.”

After voting on these ideas, attendees are divided into groups of four to “move on to the next stage” – summarizing ideas or inspiring new ones. “Through this iterative cycle, mind writing becomes an interactive team meeting that everyone can participate in,” Thompson said.

Combining mind writing with brainstorming can stimulate more than twice as many new ideas and, through independent review mechanisms, generate higher quality proposals. Why is this so? The reason is simple: mind writing breaks free from the “shackles” of a dominant system and truly unleashes cognitive diversity.

Ray Dalio used the same method to create one of the world’s most successful hedge fund companies, Bridgewater Associates.

It is said that the fund operates based on more than 200 behavioral guidelines, but the main theme is simply: allowing the expression of different ideas. Dalio described this mechanism as “extreme transparency.”

In this culture, people are not afraid to express their ideas and even see it as their responsibility. As Dalio said in an interview, “The greatest tragedy of mankind is the inability to have the ability to think and oppose, and thus lose the truth.”

Another company did it this way: they asked every invited attendee to submit a page of personal views as a “ticket” to attend. At the time, these papers would be mixed up, distributed to the audience, and randomly read out. This is another way to separate ideas from those who express them.

These small tricks may seem different on the surface, but the core element is the same: protecting cognitive diversity from authoritarian control.

04-Closing Remarks

The biggest difference between working alone and working as a team is that one person only has one brain, while a team has several. As the saying goes, three heads are better than one.

How can we preserve the right of team members to speak up, stimulate their desire to express themselves, and build a diverse team that can win battles?

When it comes to holding meetings, even if it is anonymous, we must ensure equality for everyone and listen to more voices in order to pool our collective wisdom, enhance the team’s combat effectiveness, and achieve unexpected results.

Finally, to every manager: prestige comes from the power of persuasion, not the oppression of power. This is the most important quality of a leader.


Author: Matthew Syed

Well-known management consultant and columnist for The Times. He has published several best-selling books in the field of business management consulting, including “Black Box Thinking” and “The Illusion of Talent”.

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