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Is Too Much Collaboration a Bad Thing?

I listened to a very interesting TED radio hour yesterday as I was driving.  It is called “Is Too Much Collaboration a Bad Thing?”  The link to the segment is above.  This segment involved Jason Fried.  I found the segment very interesting, and I thought it was on target.  I think collaboration can be a good thing, but like anything, too much of it is just that, too much.  I did find it interesting that Mr. Fried essentially equated meetings with collaboration.  I think the two are different, but that’s a minor point frankly.  Meetings are terrible.  I fall in line with the idea that meetings are usually way too long, unfocused, and excuses to not do work.  Most people have a small part to play in a meeting then sit there bored out of their mind just waiting for the meeting to be over so they can get back to work.  Work doesn’t happen in meetings.  Decisions can happen in meetings, but often they can happen in other ways too.  Now that I’ve ripped on meetings, let me say there are times when meetings are useful.

I remember reading a book by James Carville, a political guy who ran Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign.  Leave his politics aside, that doesn’t matter for the purpose of this post.  The guy is a campaign genius though and I have great respect for that.  He knows how to run campaigns and do messaging for campaigns.  There’s something to learn from that even if you don’t like his politics.  At any rate, I remember reading in one of his books that he said that he believed that no meeting should ever go longer than 10 minutes.  10 minutes.  I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

Here’s a guy running a presidential campaign.  It’s a nationwide organization.  And he never let a meeting go past 10 minutes.  Hmmm.  And we have small organizations that can’t get out of a meeting in under two hours.  Something’s wrong with that picture.

Collaboration can be good.  It can be too much.  Meetings can be good or too much.  But just like anything, they are tools.  The point is to keep the main point in mind and in focus.  Will a meeting at this juncture assist the organization if accomplishing its goal/mission/purpose/etc.?  Or are we doing a meeting because we don’t what to do next?  How can we collaborate effectively so people can get stuff done without interrupting them?  How can we think outside of the box?  What is the easiest answer?  What’s holding us back from doing it?  Is it a good reason?

Questions are usually pretty good at helping to bring things to light.  Enjoy.  The TED talk is about eight minutes.