Why emails and meetings are good

People in a meeting

I’m tired with arguments that email is a productivity destroyer, and meetings are a waste of time. Or that they somehow prevent you from doing your “real work”.

Emails and meetings are actually where the majority of your most important work will be done.

Sure, we have all attended meetings we didn’t really need to be in. But unless there is something seriously wrong with your organisation, most meetings are a valuable part of getting things done.

When someone says, “I don’t want to attend another meeting”, what they’re really saying is:

  • I don’t want to hear anyone else’s opinion.
  • I don’t want to be confronted with new information.
  • I think I’m smart enough to know what to do without anyone else’s input.

Here’s the reality. People almost always overestimate how much they know about a situation. So much so that Daniel Kahneman describes it as “the most significant of the cognitive biases”. So even the smartest person who thinks they know exactly what they need to do all by themselves, doesn’t actually know anything like enough.

I’m deeply suspicious of people who think they know the answers all by themselves. It means they are either lying or deluded — or both.

We learn more by speaking to each other. Meetings are where a deeper, shared understanding can be built. They are our opportunity to learn more about our business, our stakeholders, and our customers. It’s how we make our work better, and not just a masturbatory personal project.

Sure, if you want your job just to involve sitting at a computer all day coding away at whatever you’ve decided you should be coding, meetings will be an almighty inconvenience. But if your work is to have impact and meaning, meetings are vital.

2 comments

  1. One good meeting, followed up with an emailed summary of the key discussed outcomes, can easily save the onslaught of a trail of like 20 emails.
    Oh, are you remembering that upcoming meeting on the 16th Feb Duncan? Have to say, I really think that is one you ought to be involved in. Albeit, your productivity may be affected.

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