Depending on our relationship to uncertainty, we prefer imposed or improvised agendas in the utility conversations we call meetings.

People with low tolerance for uncertainty prefer preset, enforced agendas. A timed agenda is even better because it makes predictability that much more possible.

The agenda lovers’ narrative is that all manner of meeting ills emanate from the lack of tightly managed agendas. Their experience has been dominated by bad, unstructured meetings squandered by banter, awkward and tense rather than productive utility conversations.

People who view uncertainty as a space of possibilities rather than risks like meetings with the agile flexibility of emerging agendas. In emerging agendas, anyone can invite a new or continuing conversation.

We can start formal or informal meetings asking who wants to start or continue a conversation. We can ask who wants to contribute to any and decide together for the time we have, which ones it makes sense to have. We take any unfinished conversation beyond the meeting.

In some cases, it makes sense to have multiple concurrent conversations because not everyone want or needs to be in all of them. This practice optimizes the quality of conversations because in high quality conversations, there are more turns taken per hour. The worst scenario is a table or room full of people disengaged in listening to others talk.

People who value uncertainty believe that the serendipity of unstructured water cooler, hallway and happy hour conversations can be at least if not more productive and connecting than imposed agenda conversations.

Preset agendas form conversational boundaries. They define what people should feel invited and not invited to talk or inquire. Conversations with emerging agendas make everyone feel invited to engage.

With the ever-growing field of communication and collaboration applications, any number of inclusive and productive conversations can begin and complete in real time.

Connecting conversations don't have imposed agendas because they don't have intentional boundaries. We are free to talk about whatever we feel would be most productive and connecting. Everyone feels heard, understood, valued and engaged.

As more people learn how to have connecting conversations, mutual interest makes for the best conversations possible, without presumptive agendas. Nothing in connecting conversations is presumptive. Everyone is a conversation inviter. No one dominates what we all engage in together.

One of the indicators that people are getting better at connecting conversations is that when they do suggest or invite agendas, they shape them as questions rather than topics. This naturally and immediately sets the tone for a more connecting space.

... From the upcoming "The Art Of Conversations"