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.
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.