Circles are a big part of our world, from the sphere we stand on to the doughnuts we devour. Research has shown that circles have a positive impact on mood and attitude, two good reasons to incorporate the shape into more meetings, where building cooperation is often a goal.
Although scientists don’t know exactly why circles appeal to us, they theorize that several subconscious factors are probably at play. For one, circles echo the shape of the human face, so they remind us of those we care about. Circles also lack sharp edges and angles, which we associate with danger.
Circles have always been integral to gatherings. Great leaders, from the fabled King Arthur to the ambassadors of the United Nations, meet in circles. Our ancestors huddled around fires to keep warm and talk about the next day’s search for food; today, after we debate our organization’s future at roundtables, we adjourn to sit around campfires and share stories, toast marshmallows and have a drink.
In recognition of the power of circles, here are ways to add them to your next meeting.
Choose round over rectangular.
If you’ve ever sat at a long banquet table, you realize the limits it imposes. At a round dining table, not only is it easier to share the salt, but it’s also much simpler to carry on a conversation, as all diners face center and can see everyone at the table. In terms of business discussions, a study at a Canadian university a few years ago showed that round tables invite collaboration, unlike rectangular tables, which promote controlling and self-centered behaviors. Perhaps meeting venues should throw out all those traditional long boardroom tables. Another good reason to use rounds? They take up less space and make it easier for people to get in and out of their chairs.
Circle ’round the treats.
Wouldn’t it be fun to have a morning or afternoon break with round foods as the focus? Think whole-grain bagels, cake doughnuts, spinach quiche or pecan pancakes for breakfast. Or go for an afternoon break of pepperoni pizza, Italian meatballs or buffalo chicken sliders, scoops of local strawberry ice cream or homemade chocolate chip cookies, apple pies or chocolate layer cake. Add a healthful element with round fruits: oranges or grapefruit in the morning; blueberries, grapes and slices of kiwi in the afternoon.
Meeting in a circle encourages equality.
Called wisdom circles, learning circles, study circles, Lean-In circles and quality circles, this meeting style has been used by groups from Native American tribes to Japanese automakers and educators. Seated in circles, participants talk about a shared concern or issue and aim for ideas, solutions or actions. The circle removes hierarchy and encourages everyone to participate, organizational behavior experts say. Some organizations use the learning circle model widely in their conferences, finding that it promotes engagement, empowerment and action. Companies that use the meeting style find that it flattens layers of management so that frontline workers feel comfortable speaking out even as company leaders join in the circle.
Put a new spin on team building.
Team-building exercises often involve circles and round objects. The book “The Top 50 Team Building Exercises Employees Love to Play” offers several well-rounded team-building ideas. Penny For Your Thoughts, for example, is a conversation generator. Collect pennies in a jar, making sure they are from a range of years but that no penny is older than your youngest participant. Each person picks a penny and talks about something memorable or meaningful that happened to them that year. With Earth Ball, small groups predict how many times they can hit a beach ball or balloon before it touches the ground, without any team member hitting it twice in a row. This is tougher than it sounds, so groups stop after a few tries and collaborate on strategies to reach the goals they set.
Look to the skies with a celestial exploration.
Few things are more miraculous than a night sky filled with the moon and the pinpoint circles of light that are distant stars. Hotels with rooftop venues realize the appeal, and some incorporate astronomy experts to add celestial insight. Best known for this in the United States is the Maui Hyatt Regency, with its own telescope on a ninth-floor rooftop. Two Arizona resorts, Westward Look in Tucson and Enchantment in Sedona, take advantage of their locations in International Dark Sky Communities and invite guests to peer more closely at the sky through their on-site telescopes. In Durham, North Carolina, the Durham Hotel late last year hosted a sky-watching series in association with the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center on its rooftop venue.