According to Occupational Digest, up to a third of meetings are unproductive. This is a startling statistic, compounded by the revelation that up to $37 billion is lost to unproductive meetings. Another study has revealed that up to 15 per cent of an organisation’s collective time is taken up by meeting attendance, yet executives consider well over half of all meetings to be a failure. So read on to discover why meetings are so unproductive.
#1 You Have too Many Meetings
Given that a third of meetings are unproductive, it could be argued that fewer meetings should take place.
#2 Your Meetings Lack Structure and Direction
For structure, an excellent approach is the PALM approach, courtesy of communications consultant Andy Bounds. There is also plenty of evidence for making use of a facilitator at every meeting to plan and guide progress towards objectives.
#3 People Will not Express Their True Emotions
The term from psychology, used to describe this phenomenon, is ‘surface acting’,(Interested? You can read about it here), which was discussed in a 2013 paper by Shanock et al., (published in the Journal of Business and Psychology). The researchers found a link between surface acting and “negative outcomes”. For example, getting less from meetings than otherwise would be the case if participants were not focused on hiding their true feelings, and reducing the attention put towards the goals of the meeting.
#4 People will ‘jump on the bandwagon’
The ‘bandwagon effect’ is a ‘cognitive bias’ that refers to the tendency of people to think or act in certain ways because that is what others are doing. Groupthink is a related phenomenon, also found within groups of people, and relates to the tendency for people to want to conform. Both phenomena mask the true views and opinions of people, leading to less satisfying outcomes, hampering creativity and independent thinking.
#5 Expertise is Attributed to “loudmouths”
According to a study from the University of Utah and Idaho State University, reported in the Wall Street Journal, a common problem within teams is that of identifying true experts from those who have particular characteristics, for example the loudest voice in the room. According to the study, the teams that take the time to differentiate true experts from those who are simply loud mouths were the most effective.
#6 People Tend to Prefer Inaction to Action
It’s something psychologists refer to as the ‘omission bias’, a tendency for people will err on the side of inaction rather than action. It’s why a common complaint about meetings is that they exist purely to discuss subsequent meetings; that they are a ‘time sink’. You can learn more about the omission bias in this article by Psychology Today.
According to a study by Visual.ly in collaboration with Fuse, reported in Inc., multitasking is a major contributor to unproductive meetings. More than nine out of ten respondents admitted to multitasking during meetings.
Meetings are an important vehicle for people to collaborate over important issues, overcome challenges and drive outcomes. By making use of the above research backed insights to improve your meetings, they can serve their purpose better, not least save organisations time and money.