A great read: Where Good Ideas Come From
I just downloaded the book from Audible (love this) and started listening to it this week, and I can now say it’s incredible. One of the more fascinating parts I’ve listened to so far is an study that was done of science labs in order to determine how innovation occurs. The researchers followed around scientists in the lab, coding their actions, questions and comments. They then tried to figure out where and how scientists made their breakthroughs. Surprisingly, they found the overwhelming number of
Well, that brings me to something in the book that bummed me out. You cite a study that observed science labs and found the breakthroughs happened more often during staff meetings than at the microscope. I hate meetings.
It’s funny that you say that, because I hate meetings too. I love those stretches where I’ve just been a writer — when I haven’t been doing Internet start-ups — where I pretty much eliminate meetings from my life. But there are different kinds of meetings. What the research found was that it was the weekly status update meeting that was so generative. It was when everybody would get together and tell stories about what they were working on and the problems they were having in their particular work. That’s very different from the meeting where you’re getting together to discuss the annual budget. When it’s a sharing and improvisational meeting, where you’re riffing off other people’s ideas, that actually can be productive.
But a number of studies have found that meetings are a staggering waste of people’s time when they’re not done well. So you can keep your dislike of meetings.
Hmm…sounds a whole lot like whiteboarding discussions, no? Now why don’t I push things to the next level and start giving students group assessments that will allow them to achieve greater insights through collaboration?
I managed to track down the original study that reports the findings from following molecular biologists around (pdf). I’m going to try to read through this later.