Above All, Messy
Derek Thompson | Factoids | Meetings Suck
Quote of the Moment
Like the future of everything else, the future of work will be, above all, messy.
| Derek Thompson
China now spends more money importing semiconductors than oil. | Ezra Klein, The Problem With Everything-Bagel Liberalism
Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time. | Randall Beck, Jim Harter, Why Great Managers Are So Rare
The percentage of non-union professionals who want to form a union in their workplace increased to 65 percent in 2022. Additionally, 63 percent of those who would support a union at work said they would talk to their coworkers about forming a union in the next year. | Katie Barrows, National Survey Finds More Professionals Want a Union
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Perhaps meetings are like the line about democracy attributed to Churchill:
Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.
So, by extension, meetings are the worst form of group interaction — except for all the others that have been tried.
But I don’t really buy that. Perhaps there are other ways to coordinate and cooperate while avoiding meetings. In one research study, the depth of the problem with meetings was quantified:
We surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking. 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.
The foundational problem — from my perspective — is that time is rivalrous: you can’t be in a meeting, and doing something else at the same time. You can’t be in meeting A while in meeting B. You can’t be doing your own deep work while bored out of your mind in some meeting. You can’t be taking a walk, or mind wandering while sitting in a meeting. And neither can all those other people in the meeting with you.
Ashley Whillans, Dave Feldman, and Damian Wisniewski looked into The Psychology Behind Meeting Overload. I want to share some of their observations.
Fear of Missing Out — People worry that if they don’t attend some meeting they might not learn something important, or they worry they will be considered a less than “ideal worker” (as Karl Marx called it). Get over it.
Selfish Urgency — People (especially senior managers) have a tendency to schedule meetings whenever convenient for them, without necessarily considering others’ time poverty. Remaining (or becoming) cognizant of the costs in time, aggravation, and loss of momentum is the cure here.
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