Contrary to popular advice meetings with long attendee lists are valuable.

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Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

When a consortium starts to work on a complex and ambitious consortium project, everyone is usually okay and aware of all that is going on.

As the project unfolds the complexity increases, and it becomes hard to follow all the elements unless you have been attending every meeting across the whole project.

Advice paratroopers

One repeated frustration is when someone who has not been that involved comes along and has some ideas and input or questions why you decided to do something the way you did.

The implication is that you had not thought through the issue well enough and that you should have included this person.

The reality is the group that decided at that time did consider the issues, and at that time made a decision.

If those that tend to provide paratrooper advice had been at the meetings, you would not have this issue.

Combatting paratrooper advice is one reason why I don't think conference calls with lots of attendees are not as bad as the sound.

A few will talk, the others will listen and be afforded the opportunity to talk. The listeners gain awareness of what is happening.

There is an incredible amount of know-how exchanged when you have good dialogue in a consortium meeting. It is the know how you cannot find in a paper, a book or any other source.

You can learn a lot about solving problems.

The point is you do not have to be actively contributing to benefit from a meeting.

Situational awareness > small team efficiency

This is something the U.S. Military has learned in the War on Terror.

In his book, the Team of Teams Stanely McChrystal describes how there is a weekly conference call of about 2.000 people across multiple different agencies that are involved in the war on terror.

What they have realised is that situational awareness often leads to synergies and the ability to act more rapidly.

Situational awareness in consortia

Situational awareness is vital for complex consortium projects.

It helps to avoid the frustrations of seemingly random advice by those minimally involved. Perhaps most importantly, it helps you to tap into the expertise of a broader array of experts. 

Large meetings, however, do mean that you have to focus on how the meeting is being structured, facilitated, and communicated.

Scott Wagers

"The Consortium Whisperer" Physician and researcher who has spent the last 12 years engaged in developing biomedical R&D consortia, as well as designing and supporting the delivery of consortium based projects.

No matter who you are, you can, and you should innovate through consortia. They are the only way to make a big difference to the future of medicine. Want to find out how? Get in touch.