I have a confession to make.

I used to spend most of my days in meetings.

Back in my corporate days, I attended about 4,000 of them (I'm serious) because there were multiple meetings each day, sometimes as many as 10 or 12 in 30-minute increments. Add in a few weekend and evening meetings over ten years and you start to get the idea. I was suffocating at the hands of a podium and and lighting.

Since then, I've held thousands of meetings with public relations folks, entrepreneurs, world famous scientists, and even the second guy to walk on the moon.

For the past 14 years, I've spent countless hours meeting with people and learning about startups, new apps, and new products. In some cases, my definition of a "meeting" has changed from people sitting upright around a table while one person speaks to an ad-hoc discussion that has led to some amazing discoveries.

I'm not against meetings.

But here's what I don't miss.

I used to spend some of my time attending status meetings, the kind that involve a Word hand-out or a Powerpoint presentation (remember those apps?) and a product manager droning on for about 44 minutes as everyone doodles or checks their phone. Few people paid attention. Ironically, these meetings still take place all over the world and no one seems to notice we are all wasting away into an abyss of mindless repetition. It's sad.

Here's my plan. Go find a few people right now at your company and see if anyone really wants to continue having status meetings. I'm not exactly encouraging an insurrection, but I'm kind of encouraging an insurrection. OK, maybe I'm suggesting an insurrection in a polite and business-friendly way. Status meetings still exist mostly because it is a requirement someone has to make everyone discusses a project.

I just attended one a few weeks ago where an app developer let me see how they usually take place. People were trying really hard to track with the speaker, but you could tell they all wished they were somewhere else. They were obviously waiting for lunch.

With collaborative tools, cloud storage services, and video conferencing so widely available for any company of any size, you have to wonder why these meetings are even required anymore. The information can be relayed more effectively through other means. Ad-hoc meetings stimulate creative thinking anyway, and unplanned discussions about a project work just fine. Status meetings don't work. Maybe they never did.

My favorite meeting ever took place at Frog, the well-known design company, over two days. That's right-it was a 16 hour meeting. I was never bored. People popped in to say hello, we had food delivered, and incredibly smart people shared ideas about future products. It was the exact opposite of a status meeting: free-form, open to ideas, no one dominated the discussion, people shuddered at the idea of a slideshow or a paper handout. It involved people discussing ideas in a room. If that can somehow replace status meetings, I'm all for it. In fact, go ahead and handle all of the necessary documentation for a project, share your slides, then invite everyone to a conference room for coffee and a lively discussion. Let me know how it all pans out.

Published on: Jun 12, 2015
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