Meetings are a dying breed of face-to-face engagement that have taken on more angst, agony and abuse in recent years than even the lowly cubicle.
“There’s nothing more toxic to productivity than a meeting,” Jason Fried argues, author of the best-selling book, Rework, “They break your work day into small, incoherent pieces that disrupt your natural workflow. They often contain at least one moron that inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense… The goal is to avoid meetings. Every minute you avoid spending in a meeting is a minute you can get real work done instead.”
Did you get that? It is painstakingly difficult to form everyone around the table for a discussion. More than that, it’s unproductive. It’s time-consuming. It’s inefficient. Your co-workers are morons. Feelings could get hurt. Souls misunderstood. We should avoid each other at all costs. Don’t talk. Crouch and hide behind a monitor, like you learned to drop and roll for a fire.
Fried argues if you absolutely must hold a meeting, you should set up a timer and invite as few people as possible. Which really describes an industrial factory full of machines, not a cadre of smart people in a pioneering workplace, does it not?
More and more, solutions toward a better workplace include making sure we’re as far apart from each other as possible. Escapism is cloaked in flexible schedules, location-independence, and working from a coffee shop to the point of being revered; it’s okay that most people could never see another person and still do their job effectively.
We intentionally court the label of recluse as status symbol; evading a meeting is hip and progressive. Conversation is out.
A good deal of this obsession can be credited to our educational pedigree, where the American obsession with rote learning and standardized testing has married that old and outdated hag of work, the industrial model. Their child is the monstrosity of a workplace that we have today. Such systems, the trappings of knowledge and innovation, have actually killed creativity to the detriment of the current and future economy, and of course, our spirits.
We’re running away and far away in the wrong direction. Away from each other and towards nothing at all more grand, preferring the safety and fortitude of our screens more than the uncertainty and uncontrollability of real-life interactions.
Creativity once required a lone artist with his canvas or an eccentric inventor toiling away in his garage. But the new economy will increasingly require us to work together, to learn through the discovery of dialogue, the challenge of ideas and the experience of being in the same room – after all, the subtleties of a person’s mannerisms just don’t come through in a smiley face emoticon.
So maybe you could start a new kind of work revolution. One that doesn’t push away from each other but attracts us closer. Get up and talk. You know, within a physical distance that doesn’t require the use of email, text or gchat. Throw out your timer. Fight over something. Be interesting. Interrupt someone’s work.
Reach out and touch someone.
Work is the constant sifting and winnowing of how we make sense of the world. And real work can’t be done solely inside of a screen.