Harnessing the power of an anti-agenda standing appointment.
Bullpens were a creative experiment that turned into a hallmark of our process. Many of our meetings included a long “bullpen” period. The time was intentionally unstructured and without any agenda, leading to many “multi-threaded” discussions happening in parallel.
When done in person, the format for bullpens was quite simple. At YouTube we held bullpen in our largest room (called
). Our rule was that everyone comes to the meeting and must stay. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, you can work, but you’re expected to hang around in case any unexpected topics come up. Regularly, we would see discussions spontaneously construct between a product lead from one area, an engineering lead from another, a lawyer who was left out of an original conversation, and a marketer who was unaware a launch was taking place. Many of these discussions would have naturally become ad-hoc meetings, and instead got handled in a timely manner. It also led to a much tighter leadership team since the list of interested parties in a topic was often different than might have been originally imagined.
In a distributed world, the format for bullpen is trickier.
Some teams handle it with finding virtual spaces that adapted, like Spatial and Gather Town.
Others use a technique borrowed from un-conferences where people sign up for discussion topics and gradually split off. But the same principles exist. The format is optimized for emergent topics.
To try out the Zoom-based version below,
copy this doc
. Then add your Zoom links, and ask your team to contribute discussion topics.