Maybe it’s just me, but I have a real love-hate relationship with meetings. I like our morning status meetings. Like the department meetings depicted on numerous cop shows (most notably “Hill Street Blues” – “Be safe out there.”) they seem to set the tone for the day, help our group prioritize our projects and get a better sense of the big picture as well as let us joke around a bit before getting down to business. I have to admit, though, that I’m really not sure if the team feels they’re necessary.
I also like meetings that have a clear purpose, a set agenda, a good leader and smart people in attendance. The problem is (and here’s where the hate part comes in) most meetings are not at all like that. At best, discussions at typical meetings meander around from one unrelated topic to the next allowing attendees to puff up their egos and spout off about some inane workstream or supposed strategic initiative they’re involved in. Everyone leaves without a sense of purpose. What a colossal waste of time.
In the past, I used to look around the room expecting to see others starting to crack under the pressure of extreme boredom and disgust but, to my utter amazement and disbelief, they seemed to be enjoying the meeting! I eventually realized that, for many of them, the meetings were where they justified their existence, not being as lucky as I was to get to actually produce something tangible or actionable.
I mentally checked out of the worst meetings. A favorite pastime for me was to imagine what everyone in the room must have looked like when they were 3 years old and then replace them in the meeting with their younger selves. Another sanity saving trick was to substitute movie heroes in their best scenes with me. Hey – everyone wants 15 minutes of fame.
In the end, though, I realized that, as a designer whose primary responsibility is to enhance communication and innovate, I had better participate in ways that would improve the meetings. Designers are good at organizing information and prioritizing tasks (we have to do it every day in our jobs) and I’ve now been using those skills in the meetings I attend with mixed results. It beats donning my Ironman suit and dispensing with Mickey Rourke…well most of the time.