I ran across this video about where good ideas come from (thanks, BoingBoing!), and it just makes so much sense. Good ideas generally don't happen all at once, but begin as a hunch that incubates for a while, then bumps into another hunch that completes the idea, or transform it into something that works. Go ahead, watch the video (it's only four minutes long):
Key quote: "Our ability to reach out and exchange ideas, and to borrow other people's hunches and combine them with ours to create something new, [has been the] primary engine of creativity and innovation over the past 600 or 700 years." Also, "Chance favors the connected mind." Now he's of course talking about the Internet, but that doesn't mean meetings aren't still one of the best ways to provide that connection. Especially meetings that are designed specifically to provide lots of opportunities to let hunches collide (and wouldn't that be a fun thing to see on a meeting's marketing materials instead of the usual "networking opportunities"?).
This plays into an idea Jeff Hurt wrote about recently: flip-thinking your meeting. Jeff says: "What if conference organizers and event professionals flipped the standard lecture presentation? What if the lecture was put online for people to view before the conference? People could then attend the session onsite and participate with the presenter and others in activities that helped them solidify concepts and ideas. They could engage in roundtable discussions with one another on what did and didn’t work."
While all meetings models encourage some level of collaboration and idea-sharing, seems to me the flip model would maximize the chances of bumping into just the nugget you need to complete an idea/concept/product/new thing that will completely change the world.
And it makes me wonder what strange fragment of a great idea I have incubating, and when and how I'll find the other pieces I need to complete it...