Why Satan should chair your meetings

James Surowiecki in 1843 Magazine:

We used to make things. Now we have meetings. On any given weekday some 50m meetings are held in American workplaces alone. The average executive now spends 23 hours in them each week, a figure that has more than doubled since the 1960s. The number of meetings proliferated in the 1980s as Western economies moved away from manufacturing towards “knowledge” industries that seemed to require a lot of talking. And while covid-19 may have shut down the office (at least temporarily), it magnified the importance of meetings, which now take place on our laptops. During the pandemic we’ve spent more time in them than we ever did in person.

Despite their centrality to modern life, few of us have a good word to say about meetings. Surveys suggest we consider at least half the ones we attend to be ineffective – the same bores drone on, the people with something useful to say don’t speak and nothing of importance gets decided. In many office cultures, a meeting is a byword for a tedious, time-wasting exercise.

Frustration with meetings has fuelled a mini-industry in management books – “How to Hold Successful Meetings”, “Meeting Design” and “Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable” – dedicated to solving what one author labels “the most painful problem in business”.

More here.