Meetings are important building blocks of an organisation. Its attendees are a often a good representation of the structure of the company and a place where the interaction is more or less formalized to exchange views and opinions and come to decision that shape and move the organisation. It also is a most abused instrument, forgoing all its potential beauty.
Most meetings are conducted around a table, have some sort of agenda and results in a set of decisions and actions. It is a rather predictable format, aimed to avoid anything exiting happening. The meetings are conducted according fixed time intervals and agendas, rarely adjusting to the dynamics of the environment. Rythm and structure can help, but for most meetings they are incredible standard, missing any organistion specifics. Meeting skills are aimed to reduce open exchange of thought or explosions of creativity and to increase the predictability of the outcome. You get the picture: the top brass in their board meetings rubber-stamping in highly choreographed processes pre-cooked decisions. And that behaviour trickles down the hierarchy rather smoothly.
This bleak picture is luckily augmented with the off-site meetings in inspirational locations. Nice locations look great, but when you take a closer look, these retreats have many things in common and are not that surprising and inspirational, behind a very styled, quasi creativity enhancing environment. The off-site meeting predictability is often as big as the meeting room predictability. And in the event the off-site gathering proofs to be successful, the old habits remain unchanged when returning back at the working place and a lot of the great experiences are not incorporated in the daily meeting practices.
And with these sad observations one would nearly forget the potential of meetings as the building blocks for a great organisations. Meetings can be regarded as instruments to experiment with, as objects that can be designed, prototyped, enhanced and discarded. You use meetings as forms of interaction that mimic the values of an organisation, that shape the organisation in innovative ways. Meetings can be a proxy of the whole organisation. The word meeting can have a completed overhauled meaning and don’t have to resemble what is currently seen as boring and a waste of energy.
People working collectively on creative productions seldom use a table in meeting rooms. They practice on stage, they talk around their prototypes, they sketch collectively with dance, their voice or their pencils and brushes. They exchange information and take decision in way that helps their goals and is very directly linked to what they actually do. Imagine a board improvising like a jazz combo (only some kind of recorder is needed to effectively reproduce the proceeds of such a meeting), think a team that tries way to improve their way of working like a group of dancers working on their show. Envision strategy consultants that work like architects or designers, working on and talking about sketches and prototypes and discarding innumerable alternatives.
An important and practical attribute of a beautiful organisation is the well formed meeting. Thinking about the meaning of a meeting, designing and trying new forms of meeting, staging unfamiliar manners of exchange and decision making, opens up new ways of get together. New kinds of meetings that are exiting and rewarding. Innovative forms that fit and contribute to the success of the organisation.