Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

 

A meeting is like waving to your neighbors.

It's a social ritual with little being achieved and so much of nothing being communicated.

The difference, however, is that waving to your neighbors costs you nothing (other than a little self-worth). Meetings, however, can be very costly.

So the Harvard Business Review decided to help you see how costly. It created a calculator -- this is Harvard, they're very modern up there -- so that you can see how much all the unproductive chatter is costing.

I suggest you do it while you're in the meeting. That might be the most productive thing you could do there.

The minute you have the figure, rush to your CFO, watch them smile like a newly-elected politician and see just how favorably your next pay raise will be viewed.

Anyway, back to the calculator. All you do is put in the duration of the meeting and the number of employees.

Next comes the more tricky part. You also have to put in how much they all earn.

If you're the boss, you'll know. But if you're just an aspiring functionary, you'll have to estimate.

Still, you'll likely be able to come close to the real cost, especially as employees love to talk about how much they earn. Especially when either inebriated, in New York, or inebriated in New York.

I tried it by inserting six people and a three-hour meeting. The salaries I estimated across a range between $40,000 and $120,000.

The cost of the meeting was $945.

You might argue -- especially if you love meetings -- that the clever people at Harvard didn't create a calculator for discovering the productive value of a meeting.

What if you created a strategy in the meeting that ultimately earned your company millions of dollars?

What if you used the meeting to embarrass and ultimately oust one of your rivals? This would have been remarkably productive for you, if not for the company.

And what if being in a meeting prevented one of your less able employees from doing something catastrophic such as sending out the wrong order, or sitting on Facebook?

In these days of ever bigger data, we're desperate to put a number on anything and everything.

Technology encourages us to believe that everything can be rationalized.

But how do you calculate the value of two employees finally seeing eye-to-eye in a meeting and then going off and collaborating on a major and fruitful project?

And how do you calculate fending off a monstrous faux-pas that you only hear about in a meeting?

Some companies believe they can cut out meetings altogether. Perhaps it works for them.

For you, though, meetings might be the only time you can look certain people in the face and discern their feelings and intentions.

No calculator can help you with that.

Calculations are easy. Humans are difficult.