Stupid meetings…

From MSNBC (and via Dan’s blog) comes this story, “Meetings make us dumber, study shows.” It’s kind of an interesting story, I guess. Dan makes a point about meetings and writing peer review groups, but my first thought was about the meetings I go to in my life as a happy academic type. Three quick thoughts on all that:

  • One of the things that really surprised me when I first started down the tenure-track was how much of my job didn’t really have much to do with teaching or scholarship. Lots and lots and lots of meetings, and an hour here and an hour there really starts to add up fast.
  • In my role as the Interim WPA and the coordinator of our writing program, I go to even more meetings this year. And if I’ve learned anything about my year in this duel administrative role (and I have certainly learned a lot) it is that I do not want to become a full-time administrator and spend even more time attending meetings.
  • Having said all that, most of the meetings that I go to aren’t really “brain storming” sessions. Mostly, I think most of my meetings are about following procedures and policies, about “governance” of the faculty role in the department, etc., etc. I mean, sure, there is some brainstorming about things, but at most of those meetings, people throw around some ideas and then they go off and think about those ideas for a while, and then they come back to vote on them.

One thought on “Stupid meetings…”

  1. I think there can be two types of outcomes, good and bad. An example of a good outcome is a brainstorming meeting led by a skilled facilitator who elicits ideas from participants and works with the participants to obtain a solution. I think this happens rarely. Usually an unskilled leader presents the problem or task at hand, and individual participants propose solutions or approaches or not depending on their sense of empowerment. Those who particpate engage in a a multicornered debate. Rank and perceived status determine the outcome of the debate. The leader may adopt the consensus solution if one emerges, select one of the proposed solutions, dictate their own solution, or end the meeting without a solution. Participants who are inhibited and do not speak and those whose ideas are not accepted will feel they have wasted their time. Those whose ideas are accepted will feel the have not wasted their time. The leader may feel one way or the other depending on whether he/she ends up with a solution. Mostly I waste my time at meetings held to develop solutions to problems, and I think the same is true of other participants. I end up with better ideas when I work alone. I don’t feel that meetings to report status or receive direction are a waste of time.

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