Moving beyond meeting mania

I just read an article about Justin Kan of Justin.tv – the rather annoying guy who used to live stream his life 24/7 a couple of years ago. It turned out to be a pretty successful publicity stunt and now Justin.tv is scrapping it out in the same space as uStream and Livestream.

The article is pretty interesting and all of a sudden I’m reading stuff about startup life again with more than a passing interest!

One of the things that I find fascinating about these companies that spring up is that they can create their own culture without any history weighing them down. This seems especially true of the companies that evolve straight out of college – before they take on any other organisations work habits.

The place I think this really can be seen is the meeting culture (or rather lack of it) at startups. I’ve written before about my struggles with meeting mania and I liked this paragraph where he is talking about a weekly meeting with his 25 plus staff.

We have an all-staff meeting every Monday. We all talk about what projects we’re working on. As the company has grown, the meeting has gone from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, so we ask people to make their presentations engaging. People can comment and ask questions. There’s a lot of joking around. Sometimes, people will start getting into a discussion, and I’ll have to say, “Hey, guys, let’s do this afterward,” but I think it’s good for people to give and receive feedback. At the end, Mike, my co-founder and our CEO, gives everyone a quiz based on his notes from the meeting. It’s just a fun thing, to test yourself and see if you’re paying attention. Sometimes, I’ll get five out of five answers right; other times, I might get two out of five.

I love the idea of a quiz at the end🙂 That would certainly keep people awake – I can think of all sorts of ways to add a gaming layer to that with monthly prizes etc as well! I also like the idea that if conversations branch off someone makes the decision to stop them and move them to another time and place – nothing derails meetings as often as ‘meeting creep’.

I also really liked this idea about keeping meetings small and I totally agree with what he is saying.

I try to keep the meetings small, especially when we’re doing product design. If you have eight people in the design meeting, it doesn’t work. Everybody has an opinion. Everyone wants to weigh in on what the font should look like. The end product becomes the average of eight opinions. You don’t get excellent work, just average.

There was another line that made me think of another blogpost I’d read a while back;

Lunch gets delivered to the office every day at noon.

At School of Everything they have a daily communal lunch which they all chip in for and take turns buying/washing up etc (a nice, bonding idea anyway that would probably only happen in a startup environment) but they point out;

We have incredibly few internal meetings because we can just chat over things at lunch and it also gives us the chance to meet people we’d like to work with in a friendly way rather than in a formal meeting.

I doubt anyone will ever find the perfect balance between meetings and work but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying🙂