Wednesday, October 20, 2004

I meet therefore I am

Most of my day's are spent in meetings. This is particularily ironic because, I'm not a meeting type person. I don't like to get together and discuss things in groups or committees. I firmly believe that any great idea tossed up before a group for discussion is like unleashing a cute little baby seal on the ice in front of a bunch of crazed hunters with clubs. You can bet it's not going to be a pretty sight once they are through.

I suppose it would be different if you were in a group of people with similar intellectual capacity, common backgrounds and fairly reasonable attention spans. But this is rarely the case when you get more than two people together to hold a meeting. If you are lucky, someone will have prepared an agenda. This comes in handy, because once you've danced around each agenda item and blathered around them without resolution, you can at least put a little check mark next to it when the person facilitating the meeting says, "Let's come back to this item next week." This usually means that this is a "regular" or "ongoing" or "standing" meeting. And the first thing that is on the agenda of a standing meeting is "old business." So basically an ongoing meeting is like being stuck in Goundhog's Day (the Bill Murray movie...google it if you don't get the reference...I can only feed you so much information here).

The worst part about meetings are opinions. As I have pointed out in my diatribe on Epinions.com, the world is full of opinions and assholes and assholes with opinions. And meetings are like opinion conventions. And personally, I hate being asked my opinion, especially in a meeting. "What do you think about that, Tim," they ask. No one ever seems comfortable when I respond, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." This is especially true if the opinion was spouted by a person at a higher pay grade than mine. Generally a person with a higher pay grade states opinions with more conviction than the other people at the table.

Meetings are often held to arrive at consensus. To some people, arriving at consensus is like achieving Nirvana (not the group). To me, arriving at consensus is admitting defeat and accepting mediocracy. Because arriving at consensus requires allowing everyone's opinion to shape the outcome of the consensus. To steal from an old saying, an elephant is a mouse built by committee and consensus.

Truly great things are not created by committees or consensus. Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind without attending a creative writing class and having 15 other writers give her their opinion on how to improve on what went on to be a Pulizer Prize winning novel. It was her first and only novel (I know this because I visited the Margaret Mitchell house on my recent trip to Atlanta).

Michelangelo didn't rely on consensus to paint the Sistine Chapel (though the Pope did try to give him a few pointers here and there while he was painting it). When the apple fell on Newton's head, he didn't pull together a group of people to talk about it. He derived his theory about gravity on his own.

Oh, I know you are going to start pointing out great things created by groups. A single person didn't build the great pyramids. Though I imagine it was the consensus of the Pharaoh that made it happen. But this does make another point about consensus. The "committee" built the pyramids, but the Pharaoh got to be buried in it.

When it comes down to it, I guess I really don't like meetings because I'm not a team player. But then again, there is no Tim in Team.


1 comment:

Lili said...

The only thing worse than regular meetings, are group projects, which is pretty much a regular meeting, but you're expect to produce something with these morons.

Teamwork sucks. I'm so glad I don't have a real job.