15 March 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Are Ball Hogs ruining your meetings?

Sports economist Dave Berri’s recent post Ball Hogs and Long Meetings, makes the connection between basketball players who are incentivized to take as many shots as they can (ball hogs) and people who make meetings a difficult and frustrating experience (dominant, non-stop talkers). You know, the people who do the most talking, sounding authoritative, even though they may not be contributing anything more relevant, correct or insightful then their fellow meeting attendants. Citing a study on the dynamics of meetings, Berri states:

“Dominant individuals behaved in ways that made them appear competent,” the researchers write, “above and beyond their actual competence.” Troublingly, group members seemed only too willing to follow these underqualified bosses.


Think about what this study says about meetings. If I want you to think I am competent, I need to talk.


Relating this back to basketball “Given the dominance of scoring, players who want to be considered “stars” have a clear incentive. To be a star you need to take as many shots as you can get away with.

The above has bad implications for conducting effective meetings doesn’t it?

There are important contributors, including quiet creatives, who are being talked over or sidelined every day in meetings and conference calls. If you are one of these people, you get this. If you facilitate and lead meetings, you know many people like this.

While there is no slam-dunk solution (pun intended), there are ways to create an environment where people can contribute to the insights being developed in a conversation, decide on the best ideas and move forward with clarity.

Many of our clients at Edistorm are collecting insights prior to having a meeting. This is an asynchronous activity where each individual can contribute their ideas into the mix. Additionally, after a meeting, when the details of a discussion have had time to percolate, participants can share their additional insights as they have them.

During meetings where teams are actively discussing ideas, a synchronous activity, people can also post ideas into the storm as the live meeting is going, without having to battle for the ball. This levels the playing field. Participants don’t have to fight for air time, feign authority and can still have their ideas included in the conversation.

Dotmocracy (voting) and filtering in Edistorm allows the most important ideas to be recognized. A victory for the quiet contributor, as their ideas may be highly resonant, competent and compelling, but go unrecognized when they fail to gain airtime in a traditional meeting. Edistorm users can post ideas and make their contribution quietly. Which is how some people like it.

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