Although new ideas lead to creative solutions, they can be a challenge when they interrupt or distract the work on an issue.
Approach 1: Question the relationship to topic
When new ideas seem inappropriate, say:
"That's an interesting point (or question). And how does it relate to our topic?"
"Excuse me. We started talking about our budget and now we seem to be discussing payroll administration. Is this what we want to work on?"
"We seem to be working on a new issue. I'm sure this is important, and I wonder what you want to work on with the time we have left?"
These statements greet the ideas with compliments and requests for clarification. This recognizes that the other person could believe the idea relates to the topic, which it may.
Approach 2: Place in the Idea Bin
Use an Idea Bin to manage unrelated ideas. This powerful tool is a blank chart page posted on the wall with the title: Idea Bin. Some groups call it an Issue Bin or Parking Lot. The scribe writes new ideas on this chart page or the participants write their ideas on Post-it(™) Notes that they place on the page.
Direct new ideas to the Idea Bin by saying:
"That's a great idea. Could you put it in the Idea Bin?"
When you plan the agenda, leave time at the end of the meeting to check the Idea Bin. You will find that many of the new ideas were resolved during the meeting. If possible, deal with the remaining ideas that have merit or place them on future agendas.
Use these techniques to bring your meeting back to the issue on your agenda.
This is the third of a seven part article on Managing Monsters in Meetings.
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IAF Certified Professional Facilitator and author Steve Kaye works with leaders who want to hold effective meeting. His innovative workshops have informed and inspired people nationwide. His facilitation produces results that people will support. Sign up for his free newsletter at http://www.stevekaye.com. Call 714 -528-1300 or visit his web site for over 100 pages of valuable ideas.