Unproductive meetings are absolutely the norm out there, so the important thing is why are we meeting, do we need to be meeting, is there some other format that would help us achieve what we’re trying to achieve here?

For me it has always been about checking in at the end of the meeting every couple months: "Hey, is this time useful for everybody? We just spent an hour and a half talking about X, is that a good use of your time?"  If everybody in the room says "no," well then you know that you probably have a meeting that is probably not that useful.  If everybody says "yes" then you know that maybe you are doing something that is useful for the company.  

The most important thing in meetings is to make a decision.  If we’re going to have all these people together in a room we ought to be making some concrete positive progress for the company rather than everybody just sitting around saying their opinion or wondering which way we’re going to go or ending up with differing opinions.

I love to run a meeting with a topic.  I just love to run a debate, a nice democratic debate: "Hey great, Sally thinks this, who agrees? Bob, you agree that’s fantastic. Dave how about you? Dave you disagree, well Sally what do you think about Dave disagreeing with you?"

Generating that conflict is important in meetings.  If there is no drama in a meeting it has no purpose for being because if all we’re doing is sitting there and listening to a list of facts or hearing everybody recite what their thoughts are, that is not useful to us or to the company to actually achieve anything. 

A great meeting has drama because there is something at stake because something is important and it’s being decided here right now.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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