Coherence – The Laser vs the Lightbulb


Meetings have a bad reputation. The stereotype of meetings as unproductive, neglected and soul-crushingly dull is very prevalent at all levels of business. Regrettably, the stereotype is often true!

But meetings don’t have to be unpleasant. If done properly, they can actually be one of the most effective resources a senior team has at their disposal. If properly run, a meeting can be engaging, highly productive, and save countless hours of wasted time. It might sound impossible, but it’s true.

In this multi-part series, I will outline some of the processes and ideas I have found make truly effective meetings. This week’s article focusses on the issue of coherence.

What is coherence?

‘Coherence’ is a word thrown around a lot with virtually no context or meaning given to it. It has become something of a buzzword cliche, but real coherence in meetings is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, due to overuse (and sometimes outright misuse) few people really have a good sense of what it is.

Coherence, it its most basic sense, is what your organisation is focussed on. As an analogy, consider a laser bean and a lightbulb. The lightbulb throws energy in every direction, illuminating everything by a relatively small amount. It has it’s uses, but can hardly be described as awe-inspiring.

Now consider a laser: a dazzling beam of light which, with the right power, can punch through walls. It would take a very big lightbulb to accomplish something like that.

The critical difference is that a laser emits light coherently. Without wishing to diverge into a physics lecture, the coherent light of a laser is all focussed in the same way.

Coherence in your meetings

The laser is a perfect analogy for the power that coherence can bring to meetings. I have found most organisations are not coherent (although many believe they are) and it is one of the first things to look for if you want to improve your meetings.

When coherence is truly present, no matter who you ask or how you ask it, you will get a consistent message about what your organisation is focussed on. Every member of your team should know what you are aiming at, why you are aiming at it, and how you are going to hit it.

The difference that this simple alignment makes is astounding. Developing coherence doesn’t even involve a lot of time or effort – you do not need a three week management course to gain a sense of where you are going!

Once your team develops a strong sense of coherence, you transform from the lightbulb to the laser and you have a real effective platform on which your meeting processes can be continuously improved.

Coherence into Vision

Your next meeting

The next time you are in a meeting (or dreading attending one), take note of whether or not you have a sense of coherence.

Is everyone in the meeting focussed on the same objective? Are you all aiming at the same target? Are you focussed only on what matters? If the answer is no, chances are that developing coherence could vastly improve your feelings towards the meeting.

If, as a team, you focus on what is truly important for the business you will become fare more dangerous and dazzling than even the brightest lightbulb.