About 18 months ago I visited a multinational company specialising in networking equipment. There I sat , marvelling at some of the most state of the art communications systems on the planet:
- HD Video seamlessly linking multiple sites , one in a different country.
- Phones with tablets attached to them enabling employees to collaborate and problem solve in a shared digital space via touchscreen.
- A huge video conferencing centre that tracked to whoever was talking (like the ones in movies when they have to speak to the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)
But despite the availability of all this amazing technology – the CEO told us that employees still insisted on going to physical meetings.
Why? Perhaps , like zombies drawn to an abandoned shopping centre, they obeyed some kind of instinct, a memory of what they used to do. They felt compelled to travel for miles to sit around a table and go through a 20 item agenda and talk about stuff. And then complain they didn’t have enough time to do their jobs.
Feeling the need to shock them out of their habit – he had a brilliant idea. He wouldn’t ban meetings. He just stopped paying for travel expenses. They could still travel. They could have as many meetings as they liked. But they didn’t get paid.
Meetings stopped overnight. And everyone started using the technology.
I’m a big fan of No.4:
If you’re not getting anything out of the meeting, leave
But my favourite is this:
Do we really need to meet?
Today we have technologies available to us to exchange views and collaborate in different and more effective ways.
Last week I did a presentation via webinar to two organisations – one in Brisbane, one in Melbourne. At midnight. In my pyjamas ( I’m not posting a picture by the way – there is no Instagram filter yet invented to make THAT look good.)
It was just as effective as a meeting – probably more so.
On the same evening I also did the following:
- Arranged a guest blog with Tim Smith – a thought leader on Generation Y and Generation Z ( read his post here)
- Had a twitter conversation with Shirley Ayres – a thought leader in Digital and Social Care
- Crossed (friendly) swords with Kate Hughes – a thought leader in Communications and Marketing – who had done a neat dissection of one of my posts on her blog (read it here)
The interesting thing is this:
I’ve never met any of them.
That’s understandable with Tim – as he’s based in Texas. But Shirley and Kate both live in the UK. In fact, Kate and I have worked in offices that are barely 4 miles apart for the past 2 years. But our paths have never crossed.
Online and social technology means they can influence me and shape what I do – without having to meet in real life. I’m sure we will meet , and I believe online relationships can be enhanced by physical connections.
But we need to lose the snobbishness that suggests online is less “real”. That looking into someones eyes over Skype is less authentic than looking into someone eyes over a PowerPoint presentation.
Next week you will be invited to a lot of meetings and will probably accept them without thinking – it’s our habit.
Or we can stop. Read those rules. Try a Google+ hangout. Or try any of the online collaborative tools that are available.
And do something more interesting with the time we saved.