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Office Meetings Got You Down Lately? Try "Plussing"

If you watched the vice presidential debate last night, then you saw Vice President Joe Biden talk while Congressman Paul Ryan drank water.

But let's leave the post-game analysis to journalists surfing Twitter for the news because we have other things to talk about today, like how to keep office meetings from becoming substantive-free character attacks!

Whether it's a presidential debate or a weekly staff meeting, we've all participated in discussions that turn negative without adding very much to the discussion. Everyone leaves the conference room confused and more than a little bit nonplussed. Well, Xerox and Pixar have found a way to make departmental meetings productive AND positive though a conversational technique called "plussing." Here's how it works, according to Lifehacker:

At Pixar, the animators have developed a technique that helps keep the fighting productive and intellectual. They call it "plussing." As people criticise the work under review, that criticism must always contain a new idea or a suggestion for strengthening the original idea — it must contain a "plus." Without plussing, their morning crit sessions can get pretty negative and emotionally draining. With plussing, the same meetings are imbued with a positive tone and a direct connection between criticism and newer or better ideas for their work. The meetings still feel like a fight, but they feel like the healthy, respectful fights that keep couples, creative teams, and ideas growing and changing for the better.

So you can criticize, but you'd damn well better follow up your criticism with something new -- whether it's an alternative solution, another angle, a better idea, a substantive approach, a concrete answer.

Does plussing work? The folks using it seem to think so, and apparently Pixar has been "plussing" for years now. Maybe that's a plus? So that's how we end up with Finding Nemo instead of Mulan II! It all makes sense now.

The next time someone complains in a staff meeting that the office copier is too slow, you can remind him or her that there was a time when copiers made seven copies per minute. Yes, that's right: Seven copies per minute. See? Let's look on the bright, non-sexist side here, people! We've come a long way, baby.

Perhaps we should make "plussing" a requirement of future presidential debates, which, come to think of it, can be sort of like staff meetings? At the very least, making staff meetings more productive and positive might result in employees taking fewer "sick days" on meeting days because they're sick and tired of all the negativity. Not to be overly-critical or anything.

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