Why do we go to meetings?

Meetings, especially in large organisations, are often looked on with a level of disdain. People have a lot of work to get done and often see that time spent in meetings is wasted. Although this can be the case it is also worth reflecting on why we hold meetings in the first place.

Meetings are fundamentally about eliciting information flows. As knowledge workers in organisations we are tasked with making good decisions and those decisions are fundamentally a result of our personal knowledge base (what we ‘know’). Our personal knowledge base is subsequently a result of the information that we have access to and our intellectual ability to make sense of this information. Finally our personal knowledge base is a result of both the information that we find and the information that we get from others.

Meetings are one of the richest ways of us to share information with others and also for tapping into the knowledge base of others. Yet for many the only knowledge technology that they have at their disposal in a meeting environment is piece of paper…and their brain. They use their paper and pen for recording what was relevant and they use their brain as the indexing device to ‘remember’ the high level ideas of the meeting for future reference.

Unfortunately for many knowledge workers the quantity of information that we are provided in such situations can be overwhelming and the traditional paper and brain combination is now struggling to keep up. Combine this with research that was recently presented in New Scientist that our brains are actually a very poor remembrance device and it clear that if we wish to make good business decisions and deliver value to our clients that we need to come up with a better way.

I believe that this is the fundamental role that mobile technology, especially tablet devices, plays in delivering value to organisations. By replacing the paper and pen as our recording device and the brain as our indexing device we can both store higher quality and quantities of information and recall exactly what we need when we need it.

What’s more, by making this shift you are freeing up your brain to do what it is inherently good at, making meaning out of the information that it has available to it. For this reason I believe that there will be a big shift in how we view this type of technology over the next five years. Not only will they be increasingly prevalent in meeting rooms and board rooms, if you are a knowledge worker it may even be considered unprofessional to NOT be using some form of tablet or ‘decision support device’. After all, if meetings are about eliciting information flows, dont you want to be sure that you are getting the best possible information and knowledge from the people that you are sharing with?