Making everyone participate

In group discussions or design meetings it is tough to get everyone’s participation. The people in the group will have different experience levels, context & expertise which  puts shy people on the back-foot, as people always assume that someone will know better than them. Bystander effect also kicks in as soon as the number of people in the meeting increases beyond three and the ambiguity of the problem discussed increases.

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We can address participation issues by considering these

Make the environment safe

Many people are shy and they fear judgement, if the environment encourages participation with commonly agreed rules like ‘no question is a bad question’ or ‘every input is valuable’ and people see it actively getting practiced will ease the burden on shy people. This works for small groups of 3-4 people, thinking aloud also begins to happen

Pass talking token around round-robin and time box talking time per person

There are people who love to talk and there is no starting trouble for them to talk, they will easily mask the hesitant ones in every discussion. An easy way to break this unfair advantage is to have a facilitator and a talking token passed round-robin for participation.

Make everyone write their ideas and opinions down 

Some people may easily get biased when they hear other’s opinion. It is due to the need to belong to a group and not sound different. If in a brainstorming session participants are given a quiet time and write down their thoughts, chances are high that people may put down what they think without rephrasing or rewording.

We can prevent bystander effect or people zoning out when we have someone playing the moderator role watching for signs and also time box discussions, thereby making meetings very productive and outcome based.