Group Meetings…some questions at the end

The first work meeting in a new place is always a crap shoot. You don’t really know what to expect and what is expected of you.

In Academia, and by that I mean science academia, the group meeting is sacred. Basically every group has one no matter how big or how small. The two groups I belonged to in graduate school had over 30 people but very different styles of group meeting.

One had main group meetings one evening a week where general topics were discussed, one quarter it was overviews of the group’s work for new students, then practice talks for the research proposal we did in the 4th year, then practice talks for qualifying exams done in the 2nd year, and then special topic talks in the summer. Then we also had subgroup meetings where in my super-subgroup we met during lunch one day a week and someone gave a PowerPoint presentation about what they were currently working on.

In the other group we basically had the same kind of group meeting as the subgroup meeting in the first group, once a week in the middle of the afternoon.

The longer I was in graduate school the less often some of these group meetings were useful and the more inconvenient some of the times became. Since both of my bosses traveled often and we had group meetings even when they didn’t attend there was often a huge descrepency between attitudes at different group meetings. I began to think about what kind of group meetings would be useful for me, what if I was the boss what would I want then?

My new group is only 4 people including me and my professor. This morning we had our first group meeting since I arrived in Sweden. We had a discussion about people’s upcoming travel schedules for the holidays, upcoming seminars that would be useful, allocation of group resources, when we should meet next, an new open position in the group, and then one of the graduate student’s summarized his 4 projects on the board. We discussed what the overarching goals were, what he was seeing so far, and where he was struggling. This group meeting was much more useful for me….now I wonder how you could implement something similar for a larger group of people.

I think one way would be to have one kind of group meeting where people give prepared talks on a single story in their research (like with PowerPoint) to practice this skill and then other meetings that are more about problem solving and group dynamics/scheduling. What kind of meetings are most useful to your personal work? and if you are a manager what kind are most useful to the running of the group?

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