Start your Meetings with Silent Reading of Shared Documents; Paper Documents! – A Brilliant Practice from Jeff Bezos


The best, most successful organizations have really good, really useful and productive leadership team meetings.  But…  what to do in those meetings?

Here is one problem.  A team gets together to meet.  The team members need to “know stuff” before they start the meeting.  So, they are sent something to read.  But, some put it off, and end up “faking it” more than genuinely “reading it.”  In other words, they walk into this important meeting not very well prepared.

And, problem #2, they all walk in with their minds going a thousand different directions.  So, they do not start on the same page.  Getting genuine focus is very difficult.

What to do?

Schedule time at the beginning of the meeting, for everyone present to read, in silence, the same document, on paper, with pen in hand, at the same time, before you start your discussion.

Read this again slowly – a phrase at a time:

Schedule time at the beginning of the meeting,
for everyone present to read,
in silence,
the same document,
on paper,
with pen in hand,
at the same time,
before you start your discussion.

JeffBezosCEO_LG_jpg_280x280_crop_q95-1
Jeff Bezos – with a smart idea on how to begin, and focus, a meeting…

I read this from Arianna Hugfington in Bezos, Heraclitus and the Hybrid Future of Journalism, about Jeff Bezos (the CEO of Amazon, new owner of The Washington Post):

Jeff Bezos has famously banned PowerPoint presentations in meetings of his senior “S-Team” at Amazon. Instead, those with presentations to make write six-page memos. Meetings open with 30 or so minutes of silence in which people read and digest the memos, called “narratives.” Then the discussion begins.

And here’s a little more about this practice, from Adam Lashinsky’s Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: The ultimate disrupter:

(Yes, the e-ink purveyor prefers paper. Ironic, no?) They scribble notes in the margins while the authors of the memos wait for Bezos and his minions to finish reading.
Amazon executives call these documents “narratives,” and even Bezos realizes that for the uninitiated — and fans of the PowerPoint presentation — the process is a bit odd. “For new employees, it’s a strange initial experience,” he tells Fortune. “They’re just not accustomed to sitting silently in a room and doing study hall with a bunch of executives.” Bezos says the act of communal reading guarantees the group’s undivided attention. Writing a memo is an even more important skill to master. “Full sentences are harder to write,” he says. “They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.”

Silence – to read together, documents carefully and very well written – to focus the “group mind.”  This sounds like an idea that is pretty close to the brilliant idea of the era.

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