by Hailey Cooperrider
The unmeeting framework will help you run collaborative working sessions in which your team produces work together, in addition to discussing and planning the work, as well as sharing knowledge and tools with each other.
The name, "unmeeting", takes its inspiration from the open space "unconference" format, where attendees are asked to move beyond passive participation and to instead create content and agenda themselves. Unmeetings are thus contrasted with traditional office meetings in which the work is discussed and planned together, but attendees go back to their desks to deliver the work separately.
Unmeetings work best when they are strung together in a series over a period of time, allowing the group to cultivate their shared practice, as well as accrue meaningful and substantial outcomes - which typically take more than one session to generate momentum and impact.
Unmeetings are the pulse of your project, what you make is the blood, and those who are attend are the heart.
When you start, it may feel a bit bumpy, trying to find a balance between planning the work and just doing the work. It's better to communicate more than less, and make sure that everyone is clear on what is going on. Unmeetings often start slow, and then finish off with a burst of productivity.
Key unmeeting principles:
- Commit to the process, and trust the process, while looking for opportunities to improve it
- Focus on producing a tangible co-created output, e.g. a strategy, blog post, or prototype
- Be present, both mentally and physically, with an open mind, or, get out (of the way)
Stages of an unmeeting:
While each unmeeting group should establish its own process, the following stages provide a guideline for process design
- Establishment of shared understanding regarding the premise for the session, as well as key ideas, terms, concepts, methods, expectations, etc. [Methods: brainstorming, discussing first principles, hearts and elephants]
- Encouraging and supporting the emergence of shared vision and inspiration, [Methods: whiteboarding points of consensus and divergence, discussion of individual expectations and interests]
- Co-creating a shared plan and or outcome [Methods: using collaborative media (eg Google Doc) for collaborative drafting; using sticky notes to compile group content; using physical materials to collaboratively prototype a product or process]