If your daily routine is not chockablock with meetings yet, eventually it may be. Meetings are indispensable to the functioning of any organization or institution. Like them, hate them, you can’t escape them. But are all the attendees equally attentive? Are all presentations engaging? Are all meetings effective? American author and humorist, Dave Barry, once said, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and will never achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.”

Essentially, meetings are organized for sharing and exchanging information. Often, however, there is hardly any sharing from the introverts while the extroverts keep talking–sometimes echoing others’ points. Many meetings require attendees to read some document before coming into the meeting and hold a discussion based on it. A lot of the attendees come to meetings without completing their reading. They then make guesses about what the document might have contained and put in their recommendations. This leads to a waste of time, hinders knowledge sharing and the introverts end up hating meetings even more.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO and president of Amazon, came up with a solution to this. He introduced ‘Silent Meetings’. In a silent meeting, there’s a ‘table read’ or a memo that everyone reads silently, makes comments on them and then, after a specified time period, discuss their points. This guarantees that everyone has read and understood the document and everyone has had a chance to make their comments. It saves time and ensures that everyone is in sync with each other.

The concept of silent meetings has also been implemented by Alyssa Henry of Square, a payments company. Henry, who’s the general manager, has all the points of discussion on a Google Sheet. The meeting attendees type in their comments and try and resolve them on the sheet. If there are some points that beg clarification or cannot be resolved online, that’s when people talk. In a silent meeting, Henry says, “…it’s not the loudest voice heard or the most politically adept… but the most right.”
I firmly believe that silent meetings are the way forward. I’ve always had a lot to say at meetings but I’m hardly able to. It’s often because the same people are talking and when I try and put a point across, I get cut off mid-sentence and that takes my train of thought to a different direction. While everyone is encouraged to speak up, a lot of attendees are so busy asserting their presence that they often forget that what they’re saying is repetitive or isn’t adding value to the discussion.

Given the global success of Amazon, I believe that silent meetings should be given a shot. Get all different points of view on record, in one Google document, no repetition, no digression–just effective discussion with minimal talking.

I’m suggesting that the next meeting at Harappa should be a silent meeting. More on what happened in that next week!

Srijeet Mukherjee is a Fulbright Scholar and has taught at the University of Montana. A curriculum specialist at Harappa Education, he loves languages and has edited bilingual dictionaries. He likes to cook and plays the uke.


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