Meetings

After experiencing a lot of bureaucracy when I was younger, I promised myself that if I ever ran a company, I would never have meetings.

Now obviously this is unrealistic, but I think it illustrated some awareness of the uselessness of certain types of meetings. There are great meetings: you bring in a group of people who really click together and immediately start crafting a strategy or fixing a large systemic problem. It’s a way to bring together participatory involvement.

And then there are bad meetings: the arbitrary weekly meetings that are held at a bad time (i.e. Monday morning, first thing), don’t get anything done, and mainly recap what different teams have been doing (i.e. this is why we’re behind on our deliverables).

The Army loves meetings whether they are weekly update meetings, morning/afternoon/evening formations, weekly barracks cleaning meetings, chew-your-ass meetings, whatever.

I have a weekly meeting with my fellow Yahoo! fellows, which is quite good because each meeting we end up pushing our methodologies and frameworks further, thanks to the senior fellow who is doing an excellent job. I also meet weekly with my partner on a development consultancy project in which we discuss strategy and reaching the next milestone.

Anyway, this is all beside the point of this post. I’ve found through my recent research that Twitter and Facebook’s News Feed are built perfectly for reducing the our most useless meetings’ impetus: explaining why the project is behind.

These tools promote lifestreaming or passive sharing, where each person gives microupdates on what he’s doing, and other people can tune in to what he’s doing instead of having to waste the time of asking. Certainly conversation is good for catching up, but within a workplace, it may be that you do not know what many other departments outside yours are doing.

With lifestreaming within the organization, you could get “just published” updates on a great report on mobile penetration released from the R&D department, even if you work in the product design department. This information flow promotes internal innovation and knowing what the other hand is doing.

I think what’s coming is the maturation of these tools from something that even my friends scoff at as being completely useless and narcissistic towards something that increases innovation and collaboration and organizational identity.

And that means better-prepared, more interesting meetings. And not the complete lack of meetings that I’d originally envisioned!