You’ve probably heard this advice about meetings before: Set an agenda and stick to it. But if the purpose of your meeting is to solve a complex challenge, this advice couldn’t be more wrong.

Complex problems — like how to grow a company faster, or realize the benefits of a merger, or comply with new regulations — are often multifaceted and entangled, and to solve them you can’t dictate what the group will discuss. After all, how do people talk about something that is an amorphous mess? Plus, a preset agenda will bias the outcome and undermine the group’s ownership over the process. And you can’t possibly know ahead of time the topics the group needs to discuss to figure out the solution.

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