We love to grumble about meetings, meetings getting in the way of our work. Of course; we don’t really dislike meetings and that’s why we arrange as many of them as we do. It’s nice sometimes to take one’s mind off one’s work and go and sit in a room and free ride on what everyone else is saying. It’s nice too because we’re social animals and, frankly, it can be a bit lonely sitting at a desk; it’s nice to be with other people.
But no, I think meetings are derided far more than they deserve, and the reason people deride meetings is because they fail to understand the important point about them. It’s not the direct information that you get at the meeting that matters, and if you judge it on the direct information of course meetings are not always going to seem very important, they’ll seem like a waste of time. The direct information is probably minuscule compared to the time that one spends at meetings. No, it’s the indirect information that you get at the meeting that matters.
We’ve evolved as a species to process the world in all sorts of ways, and we’re making judgements all the time, and these judgements are not incidental, they’re absolutely vital to the way we behave and the way we act and the decisions that we make. You’re making judgements about the person who gives you a presentation. You’re not listening to what he’s saying, you’re making a judgement about whether he’s confident, or whether he’s competent. You’re making judgement about whether she’s up and going to be promoted, or whether she’s down and is going to be out of a job next week.
This is the kind of information that we can’t help ourselves making and yet on which the human brain thrives. It’s because we’ve evolved that way that we keep organising meetings, and we’ll always keep organising meetings and why we’ll prefer face to face meetings than telephone conversations and perhaps even video conferences, although they’re obviously much better than the telephone.
So don’t deride meetings, enjoy them and appreciate what you learn and the way, the subliminal way, in which you process and use that information. That’s my view. You can join the debate with the Open University.