Culture & Competency

If Meetings Don't Work, Are Conversations the Answer?

Tony talks about the dysfunctional nature of many meetings in organizations, and proposes that the answer is to have “conversations” instead.

The best way to energize thinking is to hold conversations rather than meetings. In our personal lives, we are used to talking openly with one another, but most organizations have failed to capitalize on the power of conversation in a business setting. So how does a conversation differ from a meeting?

A conversation is informal. As the great German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer said, you only have a conversation when you don’t know the outcome at the beginning. Think about a conversation you have with a friend over a cup of coffee. It flows from one topic to another; ideas spark spontaneously. A conversation is alive and interesting, and sometimes even a little dangerous.

In some cases, yes, a “conversation” as Tony defined it would work better. But in others, good meeting protocol – having an agenda, inviting people who need to attend and can do something about it, ending with clear action and accountability – “meetings” would work just fine. Tony does recognize this – per his last paragraph:

Of course, I am not arguing that an organization should throw out all of its agenda-driven process meetings and replace them with conversations. But by holding more conversations and fewer meetings, you will find that people begin to solve your company’s wickedest problems faster, and in a richer way. And instead of complaining about being bored to death, people will talk about how much fun they’ve had.

The problem in my view is mis-use of meetings, not meetings per se.

Read more: Hold Conversations, Not Meetings … and make sure you review the comments too.

Categories: Culture & Competency