Thomas Sowell said, “People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.” I laugh, because I get it. Like you, I’ve been the victim of life-sucking meetings. Remember the scene in the original Star Wars movie where the walls are closing in on Solo and Luke, being crushed a near certainty – meetings have been like that. Yet, I disagree with Sowell.
The contrast is given by Patrick Lencioni, “The majority of meetings should be discussion that lead to decisions.” I like progress and goals reached. So do Geeks (I am one).
Over the years, I have found 5 components of meetings that bring out the best in your Geeks.
Cross-functional meetings bring out the best in Geeks for your company. With key areas of a company represented, Geeks are able to get a comprehensive picture of whatis happening in the company and how they affect it. Even more, Geeks are natural problem-solvers, and once they understand what other functions are trying to accomplish, they often bring a perspective no one else has.
Always open a meeting by clearly stating the problem. This is different than a clearly stated purpose. Old school held meetings with a purpose that might be “for each division to understand what the other is doing.” Though that might comprise a part of the meeting, it is not compelling. A clearly stated problem may be, “How do we reduce cost overruns across the board by increasing efficiency in each department?” That leads to discussion that both inform what departments are doing and will have a technological solution to it.
Geeks often bring a perspective no one else has…
Once a problem is clearly stated, get to it. Geeks don’t need a lot of preamble.
If we believe that an efficient meeting is free of tangents, we overlook the value of spontaneous creativity. Though tangents still need to be managed, seemingly off-point discussions can lead to valuable input. Geeks, especially, know how to process vast amounts of input and connect dots that are seemingly unrelated.
When you next observe a tangent conversation, watch to see if your Geeks are mentally processing what they are hearing, and feel free to ask them what their thoughts are “on what you are hearing or on the problem we proposed.”
Meetings become lively when a thesis is put forward and challenge is invited. Antithesis leads to synthesis. Geeks value what is right, and mental challenge is the venue in which right applications are discovered and made.
Geeks, especially, know how to process vast amounts of input and connect dots that are seemingly unrelated…
The contrast, of course, is a poorly constructed opinion. “What do you think” is a poor question. “Who has given this some thought” is a better question. Geeks have little tolerance for opinions without basis; too much of their work depends on embarking on the right trail in the first place.
Geeks are truthful and seek to be impactful. Meetings must embody both: Facts and honest insight given; opportunity to make a difference real. Geeks are already used to collaboration. Geeks have tribes, and tribes interact, because each is dependent on the other. If they walk into a cross-functional meeting that isn’t after truth and impact, they will judge the rest of the company to be illusive and want nothing more than to stick within their tribal practices that actually gets things done.
Comedian Dave Barry said, “If you had to identify in one word, the reason the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”
You have an opportunity to turn that quote on its head: The reason your company will achieve full potential is that you learned how to bring all the part into a whole, meetings being the engine that drives the cohesion.
In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart issued one of the most heralded quotes in Court history, when he stated he would not attempt to further define obscenity, and said, “But I know it when I see it.”
I feel that way about defining Geeks. Definitions vary and stereotypes abound: smart, egocentric, socially awkward, victim prone, strong-headed – basically the TV show Big Bang Theory.
People feel as if they cannot define a Geek (and how they are different from a Nerd), but we know them when we see them. Or do we?
Before I share some traits to keep in mind, and best practices for managing Geeks, we must remember a vital aspect of the Geek tribe: they are people, which means they share the same common personality traits as those outside their tribe. Whatever personality test you prefer, they score on them too. Geeks aren’t like vampires who cannot be photographed; they fall into the same certain psychological snapshots as any. However, they often function differently than other smart, creative, ego-driven people and professions. I would know, because I am one. Here are some things to keep in mind.
A long, long time ago, when The Internet Design Firm existed (Scott Smeester’s 1990s startup), consulting firms used to get into LONG and BIG contracts, for HUGE amounts of work. They used to generate big ‘ol requirements, and create phases in the project to make sure there was no scope creep! Changes?! Pfftt!
In 2002, Mr. Peter Provost, now of the Microsoft Corporation, paradigm shifted me into 2016, which is why I’m here now. He told me that the way we were doing it was bass ackwards. He said we should be doing smaller projects, with shorter timespans between deliverables, with the ability of the client to make changes (oh, God!). No more huge commitments! He told us this was the “Agile Development Process” and it was meant to keep software developers and clients from butting heads.
So that’s how we do business now, with our clients and with our vendors. It allows us (all) to iterate. It allows us to succeed in more projects.
** The picture of the two college guys is merely coincidental. That is not me and Peter Provost, but those types of things did happen in the vicinity of Peter. Those two cats are SO party’n! Courtesy of Sun International South Africa.