NPR Hybrid Work Discussion Part II: One way to boost innovation? Invite everyone to the meeting.

Hybrid Collaboration and Innovation
10 Minute Read
September 27, 2021

Had enough meetings? Had enough video meetings? If hybrid and remote work stick around as may be the case, Keith Ferrazzi, chairman and founder of the consultancy Ferrazzi Greenlight, wants the meetings to be shorter, not as often and much more productive.

Ferrazzi has issued a new white paper in which he argues there’s no need to rush back to the office en masse. He also makes the case that business leaders have a unique opportunity to revamp their collaboration processes by carrying hybrid and remote work tools into the post-pandemic era.

Ferrazzi, who’s also author of “Never Eat Alone” and, more recently, “Leading Without Authority,” spoke to “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio about this. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Keith Ferrazzi: We should never think of the idea generators just being the people who are sitting around us in the workplace. There’s no reason why we can’t reach out in a remote world and include dozens, hundreds even, thousands even, of people involved in ideation and innovation. We can be crazy and radical in terms of who we have involved in decision-making — even clients and customers and people outside of the organization, vendors. We can be unbounded if we truly use the remote tools well to “team out.”

David Brancaccio: I want to understand this better — are you talking about inviting some outsiders to the meeting? How do you actually do this in practice?

Ferrazzi: Very simply, yes. Let’s start with who we invite to the meeting. We could take a one-hour meeting that used to be 15 people [and] break it into four different 15-minute meetings where different people are invited at different points of time to get their input. Push a button, go into breakout rooms, open a Google Doc, and then, all of a sudden, these individuals are giving their input where they never were able to before.

You could host an all-hands town hall of the entire company and push a button, send thousands of people into breakout rooms of three, have them open up documents and have them share with each other where they see growth opportunities for the coming year. You can take two weeks [to] analyze all that information, and then come back to them and tell them how appreciative you are of fundamental new growth opportunities and business opportunities. All of these things can be found by truly crowdsourcing insights.

Brancaccio: Before we go, I want to ask you this: You spent all this time during the pandemic year interviewing thousands of executives on this topic of the future of work. Was there any time for introspection during 2020 from business leaders? People were just desperate to keep the doors open.

Ferrazzi: I think at the beginning, there really was not. And my greatest concern is that we have an opportunity to utilize what we’ve learned as a great inflection point. Pause and ask yourself: What did we learn? Where could we take this remote and virtual work environment? Where could we take it to the next level? What do I want to hold on to from what I experienced as we go forward to work? And I think that’s the great opportunity.

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