How to flip meetings with Google Apps

New tools enable new ways to work but also may require us to abandon familiar practices. Andy Wolber explains.

Flipped meetings

Greg Green, principal of Clintondale High School, challenges conventional behavior with unconventional thinking. He encourages teachers to "flip" the classroom: to create videos for students to watch outside of class, so that teachers may assist students as they work on projects in class. That's "flipped" from the conventional classroom where a teacher lectures, students listen, and work occurs outside of school.

New tools make the flipped classroom possible. In a broad sense, videos are the new textbook. For example, a teacher might record a lecture with a screen-capture tool or illustrate a lesson by drawing on a tablet. Teachers may need to learn those skills — video capture and annotation — while also abandoning familiar in-class lectures. That can be a challenge. Green clearly thinks that the flipped model increases both the time students spend with their teacher and student learning.

Your organization might benefit from a challenge to conventional behavior, as well.

Imagine, for example, a meeting. You walk into a conference room and sit in a chair. You pick up a printed agenda. The second agenda item includes the words "status update." Another agenda item suggests that you'll discuss lunch orders. You expect to receive the minutes by email the next day. Normal, right?

Let's rethink that meeting.

If you use Google Apps, several tools are just a click — or a tap — away. Here are a few ideas you might borrow from the flipped classroom to flip your meetings with Google Apps.

1. Share your thoughts

Create and share meeting materials before your meeting. Create a Google Doc to identify key issues and identify potential — and, more importantly, recommended — actions. You could also model an issue in a Google Sheet or explain a new product or program with a sequence of images and words in Google Slides or a YouTube video. Share your ideas with meeting participants before the meeting, and allow people sufficient time to see the information and respond to it thoughtfully.

Routine reports and status updates should move outside of meetings, too. Instead, ask people to post a brief message to a private Google+ Community or track project status details in a shared Google Sheet. Use people's time to discuss possible actions or solve a problem, not to rotely report.

2. Invite active participants

In a flipped classroom, a teacher provides a project that requires each student to engage with class content. Contrast that with a traditional lecture format, where a student might be passively present, but disengaged. In a flipped classroom, students act while the teacher — and possibly other students — assist.

Review your Google Calendar invitation list and invite only active participants to your meeting. Document key decisions and share those with other people as needed. Passive participants have no place in a flipped meeting.

3. Rethink where activity occurs

With a flipped classroom, a teacher's lecture moves outside the classroom and into a student's hand, with a video or document that may be viewed on almost any device.

Move your meeting from a physical place to an online space. Instead of meeting in a conference room, meet in a Google+ Hangout. That way, up to 15 people may participate from any location and almost any device. (Remember: no passive participants! If you have more than 15 people, you likely have passive participants. Rethink the number of people you place on committees or governing boards.)

Gather data outside of your meeting. Create and share a private Google+ poll with your team to gauge opinions on an individual issue. Gather responses to multiple questions with a Google Form.

4. Show and share action

Make progress visible to participants. In the same way that students complete a project to demonstrate learning, meeting participants should see shared decisions and actions.

Clearly identify the actions to be taken as a result of the meeting. At the very least, list the actions in a shared Google Doc or Sheet. Alternatively, create and share your task list with Google Keep — or whatever project management system your organization uses (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Use Google Keep to share a task list with other people.

The flipped meeting

Our meeting looks different when flipped. You join the meeting Hangout, with the agenda open in a Google Doc, on your laptop. You already added notes to the document — and responded to the Poll to indicate your lunch preference. During the meeting, you talk briefly and add side comments in chat. When the meeting's done, the meeting leader shares a Google Keep note with you that lists action items.

A flipped meeting changes where — and how — people share ideas, make decisions, and identify actions. New tools make flipped meetings possible. Yet the tools themselves won't change traditional behaviors. We need people willing to learn new skills and rethink familiar practices to transform how organizations work.

Have you dropped "status update" meetings in your organization — or do routine reports remain part of your work life? Why? How have you decided to change how your team works as a result of tools such as Google Apps? Share your thoughts and experience in the discussion thread below.

About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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