Chill Off-Topic Ideas

I was facilitating a public input meeting and a lady in the front row kept bringing up off topic statements and questions. It wasn’t until I asked her to write her ideas and questions on post its, put them on the parking lot flip and promised we would address them before the meeting was over, that she was willing to participate in the discussion of the subject at hand.

In a business meeting a man frequently interrupted the person who was speaking at that time. When I asked him for the reason he was interrupting, he said,” I’m afraid I’m going to forget the point I want to make.” I asked him to write his idea down on a post it, put it on the parking lot flip and promised we would address it before the meeting was over.

I kept my promise. Before we closed the meeting we reviewed the items in the parking lot. We handled the ones that could be addressed in the time we had left; assigned the ideas and questions to the appropriate people in the room to research, follow up and report back at the next meeting. Keeping my promise to give the items on the post its the attention that was needed was very important, not only for that meeting. It assured participants that off topic ideas at future meetings will be well received and addressed. This freed people up to give their full attention to the items on the agenda because they had seen that off topic ideas are welcome, treated with respect and addressed.

Over the years I have refined the process. The biggest change came after I had assessed a candidate for certification. He used a refrigerator instead of a parking lot because he wanted to keep the ideas fresh.

I asked myself where do I want my group’s ideas—baking in the sun in the back forty somewhere or in the refrigerator staying fresh and crisp? I never used a parking lot again!

One thought on “Chill Off-Topic Ideas

  1. Marie Piet

    I like the idea of keeping the ideas “fresh and crisp” and addressed during the planned time near the end of the meeting. There is little worse than feeling that your ideas were discarded. Thanks.


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