Meetings are so often a drag. Despite good intentions, they often fail to produce results, to involve everyone, cost more time than planned, miss important aspects etc. Roles can help here. Roles entitle people in Meetings to speak up – not for themselves, but for their roles.

 Useful for…

  • Improving Meeting quality
  • Ensuring that those elements important to a meeting
  • Getting people to think in ways that they are not common with


  • Determine roles to be used in Meeting
  • Example Roles:
    • Facilitator – takes care that  everyone is being involved and actively sharing their view
    • Optimist – supplies opportunities to do things better, to enlarge the utility of the solution
    • Creative Visionary – comes up with a long-term ideal state to work towards
    • Factfinder – ensures that all facts are gathered and put in front of the group
    • Emotional Medium – seeks to find out how each group members feels about the situation or a solution
    • Time Keeper – watches that the meeting closes on time and each section of the meeting has just about the right timing. May postpone issues to other meetings
    • Action Keeper – ensures that actions are kept (for example on a flip chart) with the action being stated clearly, with a responsible and a date
    • Pilot – takes care that the purpose of the meeting is crisply stated and the discussion remains on target.  May postpone issues to other meetings
    • Devils Advocate: Points out things that may go wrong. Always takes a pessimistic, but still constructive view. Seeks to find risks and triggers the group to come up with safeguards and mitigations
  • A lightweight role set-up is Facilitator, Time Keeper, and Action Keeper. Those roles are easy to understand and immediately effective
  • Create a card deck with the roles (and a short explanation) you want to use
  • This deck should be on the table in the meeting room

How it is done

  1. At the start of a meeting, each member draws a card from the deck, on a first come, first served basis
  2. If the group is not familiar with the roles: Explain shortly
  3. During the Meeting
    1. Every Role Keeper is expected to speak up, in the duty of his role
    2. A useful formal wording for the intervention from a role point of view is “In my role as (e.g. Action Keeper) I understand the tasks to be X and it is to be done by Y until 1st of June”
    3. This formal wording is optional, it is not required. Just intervene.
  4. Return the cards at the end of the meeting to their usual place

Why it works

Meeting rules are hard to apply consistently. By defining roles, putting them on cards, they are remembered and people feel obligated to play their role, thereby enforcing good meeting standards. More importantly, it gets people out of the usual way of thinking. It activates new thinking and lets people engage.


  • Cards are not drawn but can
    • be chosen (on a first served basis)
    • assigned by anyone to someone else
    • be randomly assigned (e.g. roll a die)
  • Invent other thinking hats, for example, The Optimist, The Coordinator, The Pessimist or any other role you deem useful e.g. Supply Officer – fresh air and beverages…


Innovation Management, Edward de Bono, The 6 Thinking Hats method

Useful Links

The six thinking hats method

The Books of Edward de Bono, for example, Lateral Thinking: A Text Book for Creativity

Fun fact

Edward de Bono, born 1933, published some of the most original works in the fields of creativity techniques. He was often ridiculed, but his methods passed the test of time and a now widely accepted.