What is meta?

The term ‘meta’ is used when something refers to itself or, as Wikipedia explains, it is a concept which is an abstraction behind another concept, used to complete or add to the latter. For instance meta-thinking is thinking about thinking, and meta-processes are processes which control processes.

But please don’t get lost in this. ‘Thinking about thinking’ may seem strange and alien – but it is exactly what you are doing at this moment – you are currently thinking about thinking. And thinking about thinking gives us the opportunity to improve that thinking.
‘Meta’ is about lifting ourselves up out of being involved in ‘what is going on’ so that we can more objectively observe and reflect on ‘what is going on’. From this position we can see what is productive and what is not, and we can consider what changes may be introduced to make it more productive. We can introduce these from the ‘meta’ level, and observe their impact on the process, and make further observations and adjustments until we have the level of productivity we need.
Much of the inefficiency and frustration that we experience in meetings arises because nobody is thinking about the meta – everybody is so engrossed in the content, that we are not having the ‘meta-meeting’ where we discuss for a minute or two how the meeting is working and how we can fix it.
Meta is a vitally important concept in improving meeting effectiveness, and until we ‘get a good handle on it’ we will struggle to make sustainable improvements to our meeting performance.

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