Friday, November 19, 2010

Unproductive Meetings? There Should Be an App For That

"In this world nothing is certain except death and taxes" - Benjamin Franklin

Old Ben was pretty close, but he forgot one crucial element: meetings. We all attend them, we often loath them, we often wonder in hindsight if they were actually worth the time. I'm not trying to say that meetings can't be useful, just that they often aren't, at least in my experience. In fact the more time I spend around the boardroom table, the more I think that there must be a better way to manage meetings within the organization.

Why do we need to rethink meetings?

I can't say for certain if this phenomenon is universal or simply ubiquitous across my own experience, but people tend to think of meetings as just another part of their job; few think of meetings in terms of their costs to either them personally or their organization, happily meandering through directionless meetings.

How do we need to rethink meetings?

Meetings, even internal meetings, aren't free. There is always a cost associated with meeting. Why not build an app that could show participants what the true cost is? Here's a rough outline:
  • Meetings could be created by the person setting the agenda.
  • Info can be attached to the invitation
  • Attendees would check in to the meeting when they accept the meeting
  • Their salaries are automatically drawn out of their enterprise employment records (but not divulged to others in the room)
  • The convener starts the meeting and projects a running tally of the cost of the meeting as it is being conducted kind of like a taxi meter
  • Next to the cost of the meeting is the deliverable cost (e.g. say the meeting is to decide how to allocate a 25k contract)
  • Each participants mobile device can concurrently display their own dollar tally as well as a percentage of the total meeting cost.
  • The app would also give each participant ongoing cumulative data on how much of their own salary they have eaten up in meetings.
  • This data could also be used by the organization as a catalyst for better information sharing (to circumvent or improve the culture of meetings)
  • All in all the app is designed to shift thinking around the costs of meetings and inform better decision-making when it comes to meetings.

What can we do to rethink meetings?

This app is just a sketch on a whiteboard, but if you are interested in helping me build it, let me know. I'd love to get this one out the door.

Oh an yes I know that it probably will never make money, may actually contradict the science of motivation, but I can think of no other more immediate way to show people that (for hypothetical example) spending 150k in salary dollars determining how to best allocate an under 25k contract may not make sense.

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