Disruptors Target Meetings


This Just In

Business event organisers can take a lesson from the way that today’s most entrepreneurial business leaders conduct internal meetings.

Some workplace advice from disruptor and business Jedi master Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX) materialised last month. In an email Musk sent to employees, he wrote, “Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”

Is there any value in his advice?

And what about the similarly alternative business meetings advice coming from other Silicon Valley bigwigs? Amazon founder Jeff Bezos banned  PowerPoint presentations  in favour of  six-page memos that everyone reads in silence at the beginning of a meeting. And don’t forget his two-pizza rule: Never have a meeting in which you couldn’t feed the whole group with two pizzas. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg reportedly streamlined meetings by asking managers to explain the point of a meeting: to make a decision or to have a discussion. Google’s Larry Page put it more bluntly. To improve efficiency, he told employees to  run meetings more like a hungry startup instead of a 30,000-person company, saying that no meeting should take place unless a decision-maker is in the room.

Clearly, this advice is directed at internal business meetings and not at large corporate gatherings, but the sentiment could have broader appeal. The next generation of business leaders will have been inspired by this band of offbeat billionaires and their drive for greater productivity from internal meetings.

While the superstar business leaders are confirming the importance of meetings by putting in place strategies that enhance their effectiveness, their view comes with a warning: If meetings fail to add value, thereby making attendees less productive in their aftermath, then they become a waste of time.

What can be done? Taking a cue from Musk, people responsible for organising meetings of any kind should tell their staff: “As meetings organisers, it is not OK to host meetings people want to walk out early from.”

The Zuckerbergs of this world can be appeased by including another directive: “Ensure there is always a clear purpose to the meeting that everyone attending knows.”

Paraphrasing Bezos, mangers should tell staff that  “meeting attendees should be fully briefed on what will be discussed and the expected outcomes, before the meeting starts.”

And to reflect Page’s position, meeting planners should be urged to “use creativity in thought and action. Continually innovate to find new ways to encourage the participation of all attendees.”

For many, there will be nothing new in such directives;    creating relevant, valuable, and effective meetings is an everyday effort. However, there’s no harm in stopping, taking check, and ensuring everyone understands the importance of what they do.

Richard Jeb is a U.K.-based writer.

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