I am the program administrator for the Regional CEO Roundtables in San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria and while the meetings are confidential I thought I would share an experience from them. For those that do not know what a CEO Roundtable is, it is a group of 10-12 CEOs that get together monthly to discuss business and personal issues that CEO’s share. Some consider it a support group and others refer to as therapy either way it a great way to build your skills and personal network. It is a bartering of time between the members and the value comes from the relationships, skills, and perspectives, shared in a group of peers.
This month we experimented with the meeting format. The normal meeting has been a roundtable discussion that starts with updates from all the members that morphs into a conversion. This month we started with a topic and let the conversation evolve from that.
The issue discussed was the concept of one-right-answer. My proposal to the group was that there is no one right answer at the CEO level. As a society and organizationally we suffer from the pursuit of one right answer and we really need to fix that. Schools have institutionalized the concept of one-right answer, most standard business training has this at its core, and Professional Certifications are the poster child for this issue. I proposed that one right answer was the source of some of the dumb things that happen in organizations. With one right answer all other answers are wrong and when situations vary this removes common sense from the answer.
In the first group the discussion quickly evolved from one right answer to policy issues that have a source in this problem. The group discussed the upcoming changes with the marijuana law and the lack of testing options for employers. The group had lots of fun with the topic and it took the conversations into lots of policy areas and all of them had one-right answer that just did not fit all the time. There were lots of examples of right answers that were wrong with circumstance that were not considered at the time the answer was developed.
The second group went in entirely different directions with more discussion about how business groups dissect problem areas. This lead to a conversation about levers and bands as concepts to discuss the issues. In my own business, we use a similar approach although we call bands strings and levers are factors or issues. Interesting in this group the discussion drifted in to several of the key factors with a special emphasis on safety. It was interesting hear the balance between safety and cost and how savings can sometimes be a negative.
Just to prove that every group has its own personality the next group took this apart in an entirely different way. As the discussion drifted from the one right answer to a specific this group went to the recent United Airlines problem. It is always interesting when highly talented people take a complex problem apart how the dissection is done. Most in the meeting agreed that the United Airlines staff probably followed the one-right answer even when it was clearly not the right answer for that situation.
The last group for the month started in the same place but evolved into a discussion on pricing and ultimately into Amazon business practices. It was a very dynamic conversation with lots of good insights shared between the members.
The format experiment created interesting meetings with a strong exchange of perspectives. I did notice that most groups finished the topic with time to spare resulting in a gap in the dynamics of the meeting. In the next month, we will test a hybrid between the two meeting formats so we still get updates.