Take Note, Take Action: The Innovator’s Guide to Meeting Notes

Savvy companies use meeting notes to foster transparency and innovation. Here’s how.

The Meetingnotes Team
April 2, 2024

Meetings and meeting notes have gained a bad rap in recent years.

How many meetings have you attended this week? Where are the meeting takeaways now? How many people who weren’t in the room know what transpired?

I bet these are some tough questions with less-than-ideal answers.

But there’s a new way of doing things. Forward-thinking organizations are tapping into the immense potential of meeting notes to transform their cultures, customer-centricity, and velocity.

Is your company leveraging all it can from this overlooked process?

Business has evolved. Why shouldn’t your meeting notes?

Historically, meeting notes have always been a burden, taken solely for accountability and compliance. On top of this, the meetings themselves have become notorious for being time-wasters.

But today, meeting notes are the secret weapon of many cutting-edge companies.

They’re unassuming and usually not the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘innovation’. In truth, you’d be surprised by how much innovation they actually inspire.

Internally, nothing cultivates transparency, builds trust, and connects the dots to allow your team to be more effective.

Externally, meetings and their notes are the best avenues to develop and maintain customer relationships and facilitate a customer-centric culture. But most businesses aren’t even coming close to these results, which is surprising when you consider the huge cost associated with meetings. Basically, they’re leaving significant value on the table.

So, how can you make the most of your meeting notes? It’s all a matter of perspective. How you record them, recall insights, and act on your notes cascades throughout the company and helps set the tone for your culture.

You are what you capture (or, Meeting Notes 101)

Before we get to that change in perspective, the way your organization handles meeting notes is critical to consider. Take a second to examine your current approach.

Trusting in the template at Facebook

Meeting note templates are not just a form for note-taking. View your template as a framework for maximizing the value of meeting inputs and outputs. A great template keeps your team on track, avoids the fluff, and captures what’s necessary to move initiatives forward.

Facebook is a huge fan of structuring their meeting notes with templates. Before meetings take place there, CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the meeting organizer decide if the meeting is about a decision or a discussion, with a different template used for each. COO Sheryl Sandberg then uses a list to ensure all bases are covered, crossing off each item as the meeting progresses.

The ‘who, what, and where’ of meeting notes at Google

Do you designate someone as the note-taker for each meeting? Don’t underestimate the importance of this role. By holding a meeting, you’re making an investment often worth thousands of dollars. You wouldn’t have a $50,000 wedding and not pay for a great photographer, right? Having a designated note-taker goes a long way toward making your meeting effective and leading to positive action. Google knows this. That’s why they have one for every meeting.

They also understand that where you take your meeting notes has a huge impact on results. Are you taking the notes in a clearly visible and collaborative space?

Most note-taking approaches employ stand-alone documents or digital notebooks that make it hard to share, action, and recall notes by a contact, company or project. This creates a huge disconnect between your team, mission, and workflow tools.


Accountability drives action at Apple

Are you recording who’s responsible for what? Before ending any meeting, Apple notes which team members are accountable for which actions. These members are then responsible for pushing this initiative forward and reporting back on progress made.

Take this one step further by utilizing a platform that allows you to link your meeting notes to the team workflow. For example, instead of writing up to-do lists, try creating Jira issues, Trello cards, Jira Service Desk tickets, and sharing relevant material with your team via chat right from your meeting! Accountability drives action. And doing this can help accelerate the whole process.

Now, onto that change in perspective!

Open up your meeting notes to cultivate creativity and transparency

How transparent is your meeting culture? It’s an important question, one that often determines a business’ success these days. One of the easiest ways you can create an open culture of innovation is by sharing your meeting notes. Think of them as a channel to align your team on customer knowledge, decisions, issues, and opportunities.

It’s akin to software development, which has flourished in recent years because of its open-source community sharing code. Many companies are still wedded to older notions of “need-to-know”, giving progressive companies that embrace an open culture an easy competitive advantage.

For these reasons, you should rethink how you share meeting insights across your team and who really ‘needs to know’. View meeting notes as the source code behind your company operations. Restricting access to these insights leads to the development of knowledge silos, so savvy companies now leverage meeting notes to flatten the organization and open the dialogue on current objectives. This encourages cross-pollination, which spurs disruptive thinking. There’s a reason why cross-disciplinary teams seem to have innovation on tap!

Remember, value and inspiration often come from giving other teammates context to what they’re working on. An added bonus is you can often reduce the number of meeting attendees!

Use tech to power your business’s unique approach to meetings

Your organization is an ecosystem of the technological platforms and tools it employs. Maybe you use Slack for chat, Jira for project management, and Confluence as a knowledge base. To get things done, you’re relying on how well information transfers between these paradigms, and as a result, through your different departments.

But if your meeting notes are separated from your tools, your system is fragmented, reducing your team’s effectiveness. Your meeting notes are the glue between your decisions and workflow. Solidifying this bond streamlines your meeting insights into action.

With meeting notes becoming an underlying force for the most successful organizations, there are purpose-designed products to make meeting insights shareable and directly actionable.

Transform how you take notes to improve how you take action

These aren’t the usual “top 5 tips” you’d usually find in articles discussing this topic. Much like meeting notes, the recommendations here are subtle but extremely powerful. They have a profound potential to change your company culture for the better.

By using your notes to open a dialogue with your whole team and streamline your decisions to action, you’ll reap unprecedented benefits for your business, employees, and customers.

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