Culture Design

Designing Stand-Ups for Creative Problem Solving

Rethinking Meetings for Product Management by Robert Trahan

When a team is small, the daily stand-up meeting can be a great start to the day, getting everyone on the same page, fostering real communication, and opening up opportunities to share value and collaborate. But as the team grows in size, the usual stand-up meeting can lose its human touch and become more of a routine. Have you noticed this shift in your stand-ups?

I think we can all agree that having meaningless meetings every morning just for the sake of having a meeting can suck the life out of a team. The problem that product managers face is how to make meeting truly useful when a team size gets bigger than a few people.

Ed Catmull, in his book Creativity, Inc, says, “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. But if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they will either fix it or come up with something better.” I love this observation because it shows that the quality of a team is more important than the quality of an idea. If we want to have a great team that can work together and solve problems creatively, we need stand-up meetings that support that kind of interaction. How can we do that?

“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. But if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they will either fix it or come up with something better.”

The Typical Stand-up

A lot of teams use the same three questions for their daily stand-ups: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? Are there any impediments to your work? This is supposed to help everyone stay on track, but it can also make the meetings boring and unhelpful. Sometimes the answers are so predictable that the only person who gets something out of it is the manager who thinks he's keeping an eye on the team's progress. But what about the rest of the team? Don't they deserve a chance to share and learn from each other's experiences?

Asynchronous Updates and Focused Meetings

Here is a potential solution in a two-pronged approach: asynchronous updates coupled with focused, interactive stand-up meetings.

  1. Asynchronous Updates: Before the meeting, team members could submit their updates through a form. This can include what they worked on, their plans for the day, and any blockers. Forms could also include a likert scale of how they are feeling about their work. These forms could then be shared with the entire team, allowing everyone to read them at their own pace and prepare for the meeting. 

    Here is an example form.

  2. Focused, Interactive Stand-Ups: With the status updates taken care of, the stand-up meeting can now focus on more valuable activities:

    • Brainstorming: Try assigning someone from the team to share a problem they are currently facing and have the group try to solve the issue for them on the call or in the meeting. Make sure to time box the activity, these types of activities can get out of hand.

    • Problem-Solving: Were there any blockers that were reported in the form that indicate a pattern that needs to be solved at a deeper level? This would be something the manager needs to discern and attempt to solve. Perhaps they could even identify it and ask the team how they think it could best be solved.

    • Feedback and Collaboration: Encourage open discussion and brainstorming on project challenges and don’t think that being the Manager means having to know the answer to all the questions. Collaboration thrives when everyone feels equal. 

Creative Problem-Solving

This new format opens the door to benefiting from the collective creativity of the team. Group problem-solving in a supportive environment encourages diverse perspectives and innovative solutions. It’s not just about identifying problems but creatively engaging with them as a team. In the end everyone benefits, new and seasoned team members all the way to managers.

Benefits of the New Approach

  • Efficiency: Saves time by eliminating repetitive status reports.

  • Engagement: Encourages active participation and idea-sharing.

  • Alignment: Keeps everyone informed and focused on common goals.

  • Flexibility: Allows team members to contribute when they are most productive.

  • Education: Serves as a means of continued education as team member collaboration creates a sharing of domain knowledge.


Daily stand-ups can be more than just a routine check-in. They can be an opportunity for product managers to inspire, motivate and learn from their team. By changing the way you run these meetings, you can make them more interactive, efficient and fun. You can also encourage your team to share their insights, challenges and solutions, which can help you achieve your project goals faster and better. Why not give it a shot and see how it goes? You might find that your team is more engaged and energized after a stand-up that celebrates their achievements and creativity.

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