I really dislike meetings. I’m not sure why, but the very word ‘meeting’ makes me feel like i'm putting on a corporate straightjacket and entering the business world of the 1980’s. I really love working with people. So, i’ve come to the conclusion that, really, perhaps all we need to do, to abolish meetings, is simply to ban the word from usage. Meeting is a tedious word. It is laden with officious, bureaucratic meaning and formal overtones that simply don't have a place the collaborative and rapidly-changing environments we work in today. The word is woefully inadequate to describe the different functions and styles of people getting together to ‘work’ together on something.
There are masterclasses on how to ‘run successful meetings’, ‘get the most of of meetings’ but this old school, formalized, one-size-fits-all gathering seems to have little to do with a rapidly evolving open style of working. To borrow another 80’s era cliche - the Eskimo-Aleut languages, so we are led to believe, have many words, or contexts, for snow. In the milder climates, we perhaps only need one, or maybe a handful to describe these subtle gradients of weather and how they impact our lives. But in every organization i’ve worked in, i’ve found that ‘meetings’ suffer from this inadequacy in terms of generalization - and there is no getting away from them. I simply wish they were more descriptive.
If you open up your work calendar, you are likely to see blocks of various kinds of meetings, one on one, team updates, interviews, strategic long term, short term, mid-term. All kinds and gradients of interactions with team members, or clients, or service providers, which each require you to wear a different hat, or adjust your behaviour according to the situation.
What if, in order to help the participants in these events be more excited, and even more engaged in these varied gatherings, the word 'meeting' was abolished, and replaced instead with something more fun, more nuanced, more inspirational?
A couple of alternative names i’ve been using and having fun with…
Session (Borrowed from the musical meaning, whereby musicians get together to Jam on ideas together)
When I have someone sit down at my desk and we work together on something, often for a half-hour, or an hour or maybe two, this feels session-like. Especially if it is something we are likely to repeat (iterative) many times until the project is complete. This kind of work can be creative idea sessions, or more especially a process of iteration where one person is ‘driving’ the computer and tools, while the other is providing feedback and offering ideas. This can be working on sound or art assets directly, or it can be looking together at schedules and spreadsheets (A planning ‘session’).
Hootenanny (Scottish word meaning celebration or party)
Because I work in game development, larger gatherings need to feel fun, and often be propelled by a sense of achievement, celebration and constructive, inclusive problem solving. I think the word for this kind of ‘meet’ is an excellent one for setting the tone for either a larger departmental or team meet.
Some other ideas (suggested by Damian Kastbauer and Randy Coppinger)
Confab (informal private discussion)
Hang, Happening or Rave (feels pretty informal, not sure exactly how i'd apply it, but it would be a fun thing to have in the calendar!)
Powow or BigTime (different offices, teams or developer conference and/or celebration)
Parley (focussed discussion between two or more groups, programmers and designers for example)
Rally (Team wide, off-site, strategic)
Update / Gathering / Bulletin (regular large-scale team updates)
This hack might just be a small part of a larger strategy in your organization to redefine the 'meeting'. The desired effect here is one of eliminating unnecessary ‘meetings’ by keeping them descriptive, functional, and specific to the activity required. The secondary goal, is to simply take that boring, jaded, business-like association of people in suits sitting around a conference table playing politics, and re-invent the contexts and meanings of co-ordinated and organized (or uncoordinated and deliberately unorganized) people-centric events.
I’d love to hear any other ideas for expanding the vocabulary of human interaction in the workplace.
Thanks to Damian Kastbauer and Randy Coppinger for their ideas on re-naming these gatherings.