Busy meetings

Are meetings a modern day addiction?

I asked my daughter, a recent First class honours graduate in Psychology to give me her views about meetings.  She found several parallels with substance abuse. Read on…

Guest Post by Laura Randall-Smith https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/laura-randall-smith/b7/21b/21b

Addicted to meetings

We are currently living in a global meeting epidemic. The obsession with meetings infiltrates companies at every level.  Calling a group discussion is now the universal solution to every fathomable business problem. Eleven million meetings are held daily in the US alone, but is this huge number justified by measurable positive outcomes, such as inspired employees, increased productivity and new found strategic vision? The evidence would suggest not..

  • Over 50% of the time in meetings is considered a waste
  •  Individually, 31 hours per month (or 4 working days) are wasted on unproductive meetings
  • CEOs only spend 15% of time working alone due to being held up in meetings 85% of their working time

These statistics suggest that in contrast to common practice, meetings are not a reliable problem solving tool.  They are just a bad habit. In today’s work-driven world, formal group discussions have become a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult decisions in a high-risk global market. The meeting protocol cultivates a risk aversive attitude within companies, overrides independent thinking and blocks initiative. So why do we continue to default to the conference room?

My answer.  As a culture, we are addicted to meetings. 

Defining ‘addiction’

Addiction is a problematic pattern of behaviour, manifested by at least two characteristic symptoms within a 12-month period, for example:

  • The meeting is taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended
  • Unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the meeting
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the meeting
  • Craving, or a strong desire for the meeting
  • Recurrent meetings resulting in a failure to fulfil major role obligations
  • Continued meetings despite persistent social/interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the meetings
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of the meetings
  • A need for markedly increased amounts of the meeting are needed to achieve the desired effect
Meeting Addiction Funnel

Meeting Addiction Funnel








If any of the above rang true for you, it might interest you to know that this was taken from the official diagnosis for substance addiction – with ‘the substance’ replaced by ‘the meeting’  The corporate world’s romance with meetings is one of the most recent forms of behaviours speculated to be a psychological addiction. It is no longer radical to entertain this idea; if scientists can prove that people who watch too much TV, gamble and overeat have the same brain changes as heroin users (they have) then it is not a big stretch to extend this to excessive behaviours within the working world. Similar to other addictions, calling meetings is often based on impulsive tendencies and continues despite negative outcomes.

Steps to breaking your meeting addiction:

  1. Set some proper goals and evaluate success by measurable growth and business achievements rather than activity.  This is a core principle for high performing teams.
  2. Stop going to non-essential meetings.  Try this.  If you were ill would the meeting have to be rescheduled?
  3. Get hyper-productive and shorten the default meeting time.  For small groups, try meeting for just 15 minutes.
  4. Don’t have a meeting!  Perhaps it could be solved with a phone call or online collaboration using Skype.  See the post Three ways you’re losing the benefits of online collaboration

If more drastic measures are required to kick your unproductive meeting habits, The Different Place is here for you.   If your meetings lack organisation and discipline and you leave them wondering what just happened; or your personal productivity needs a coaching boost, then get in touch!  Imagine what it would be like to get back those four days a month!




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